Censored In America Essays

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees every American citizen the freedom of speech, which means a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas. The freedom of speech is an integral American value—one of the pillars on which American society was built. However, the right to express one’s thoughts without constraint can be controversial; expressing hatred, for example, is also allowed. The main issue here is to guarantee others’ safety and make sure a person expressing hatred would not go further than expressing his or her position without committing illegal acts. Censorship is meant to regulate such controversies; on the other hand, censorship can be compared to a poisonous gas: it can turn against the attacker if the wind changes (ACLU). 

The first recorded case of censorship in the United States occurred in 1734-1735, when a New York-based newspaper printer John Peter Zenger, who was accused of slandering the governor of New York (Zenger published a seditious libel criticizing the authorities) and was taken into custody. Zenger was defended in court by Andrew Hamilton, who proclaimed in his famous speech “Truth cannot be Libel.” This court case was historic in terms of empowering the freedom of press by the Constitution, even though there were numerous attempts to limit it—such as John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts adopted in 1798, or the Sedition Act of 1917 (Censorship in America).

Today, the U.S. media finds itself in an ambivalent situation. It is shielded from revealing their sources, as it is protected by the First Amendment, and Obama’s administration even offered a federal shielding law for journalists. Besides, digital media sources and the Internet are more difficult to control, monitor, and censor. On the other hand, media ownership, combined with financial issues, traditional institutions trying to stay afloat and prevent the appearance of undesired information and political partisanship, as well as the government’s attempt to reveal whistleblowers, negatively affect the freedom of speech (Index on Censorship).

As for the quality of content being published online and in printed media, censorship is mostly applied to materials that match such criteria as obscenity, provocations, pornography, religiously or culturally sensitive issues, calls for violence, and certain other problematic topics, such as racial discrimination.

At the same time, it seems censorship is not limited only by these fields. Copyright legislature and surveillance pose one of the biggest threats for a free distribution of information over the Internet. As for surveillance in general, Google Transparency reports testify the United States takes first place in the world for the numbers of requests for users’ personal data; the number of court orders for content removal is also among the highest in the world (after Brazil). Considering that media companies in the United States tend to comply with governmental requests regarding users’ personal data, Americans tend to self-censor their electronic communications to avoid possible legislative issues (Index on Censorship).

The situation with the freedom of speech in the United States is controversial. Though it is guaranteed by the First Amendment as a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas, there are topics that are being monitored and censored, such as pornography, obscenity, religiously and culturally sensitive problems, calls for violence, and several others. American journalists are usually protected by state laws, which guarantee them their ability to work. At the same time, the American government is known to request telecommunication companies for users’ personal data, which results into Americans self-censoring their electronic communications. Copyright legislation is also considered to be a threat to the free distribution of information in media.

References

“United States: Free Expression Constrained by Cultural and Political Factors.” Index on Censorship. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2014. <http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/08/united-states-free-expression-constrained-by-cultural-and-political-factors/>.

“Censorship.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/censorship>.

“History of Censorship in The U.S.A.” Censorship in America. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <http://www.censorshipinamerica.com/p/history-of-censorship-in-usa.html>.

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What Happened To Our Rights?
Censorship in America today has gotten way out of hand. There always seems to be some holier than thou group speaking out as if they were representing the majority of Americans. These groups want to censor just about anything and everything we do. When it comes to watching television, reading a book or magazine, listening to music, or buying products, people should be able to make these decisions for themselves. Where do we draw the line with censorship? After all we are Americans and we do have rights. Although censorship is needed with issues concerning children, majority of censorship is an infringement of our rights because what one person may find offensive and obscene does not necessarily represent all people and adults should have the right to make their own choices.
The word censorship probably would not exist today if all people agreed upon all things. This however is not possible for we are all unique individuals and have our own likes and dislikes. For instance, a person who enjoys pornographic material has the right to read or view this material if he or she enjoys this type of material. On the other hand people who feel pornographic material is obscene or offensive and do not care to partake in it do not have to view or read this type of material. This material is not being forced upon anyone. Why take away something a person enjoys if it is not hurting anyone else? What people do in the privacy of their own home is their own business. Who’s to say what a person likes or enjoys is wrong because another person does not agree. Playboy and Penthouse magazines are read and enjoyed by many Americans today; however, many people find these magazines offensive and obscene and others find these magazines to be an excellent source of reading for sexual entertainment. Years ago people tried to ban this type of magazine, now these magazines are in great demand and are available on shelves all around the world. The big question is who is right and who is wrong? Neither, because people have their own opinions, likes, and dislikes. After all this is America and we the people have rights as stated in the first amendment of the constitution.
Adults should have the freedom to make their own choices in their everyday life. Whether the person’s choices are good or bad is irrelevant.

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As the old saying goes, “to each his own.” Censorship takes away a person’s individual rights to make his or her own choices. No individual or law should be able to control a person’s decisions in his or her private life. For years the American Medical Association has proven that smoking and drinking can cause numerous health problems, yet millions of Americans continue to drink and smoke everyday. This is a personal choice people are faced with everyday and no matter what decision they make they should not be ridiculed. Whether something is good or bad for a person, we as individuals have the right to make our own choices. Censoring what we buy, what we watch on television, what music we listen to, and what books or magazines we read strips us of our individual character and personality that make us unique individuals.
Censorship is an issue that will continue to be debated for many years to come. Americans will continue to fight for their rights and there will always be groups of people who seem to think they know what is best for the majority. Yes there are issues in this country where censorship is needed; however, adults should be able to decide for themselves what is best for them as individuals. There should be a fine line between what should and should not be censored. Too much time is being wasted on trying to censor ridiculous things in our lives. These fanatical groups who try to censor everything in our lives need to find more important issues to argue. Instead of wasting valuable time on our personal lives, they could be working on their own lives! The purpose for censorship is to protect children not to invade the personal lives of people.



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