Censorship is a means whereby the information people receive is limited, either wholly or in part by another individual or a group or individuals. Censorship has occurred in varying forms for centuries and happens within all aspects of society; Parents and teachers censor what children see and read, the government censor the information available to the public and everybody, whether realise it or not partake in self-censorship. It is argued that there are many reasons for censorship but the two that are most agreed upon are; firstly to protect vulnerable adults and children, this occurs mostly within the media and entertainment industry by making sure films and games have age restrictions, and secondly to control people’s behaviours and to sway their thoughts towards one indirectly dictated opinion; This is the motive that is felt is behind the majority of the government’s actions and equally some actions within religion. If people have limited information than the freedom to formulate and individual opinion is withheld. Most people feel that censorship is immoral and the public have a right to the truth and should be allowed to formulate and fully informed opinion regardless of consequences. Censorship in the case of what children witness is widely disputed.
Most believe that it is a necessity to protect children from violent games as they believe it affects children’s perception of acceptable behaviour and disrupts children’s development. Craig Anderson and Karen E. Dill (2000) published two sets of results of a psychological study carried out on college students; this was to test the correlation between the levels of violence witness in games and levels of aggression. The first results found that those students who played video games exhibiting high levels of physical aggression throughout primary and senior school had exhibited more violent tendencies than those who did not and the second findings revealed that the larger amount of hours that a students spent playing video game directly affected academic grades. Society dictates that parents have the responsibility to censor what games and films their children and their friends are exposed to within the home environment. Unfortunately many parents take a relaxed approach and will allow their children to play age restricted games regardless of the age restrictions put in place.
In 2004, 14 years old Stephan Pakeerah was murdered by a 17 year old Warren Leblanc who had armed himself with a knife and a claw hammer with the intention of robbing the young teenager. He was said to have been infatuated with the game Manhunt and the murder of Stephan resembled the way the game was composed.(BBC news 2004) it has been argued since then that children should not be in the position to be able to lay blame on a video game as a reason for their law breaking actions; many agree that the protection of the young and vulnerable takes president over what leisure activities adults feel they should have the freedom to peruse and that yet stricter rules need to be implemented to ensure children do not become victims of a world they have limited understanding of and consequences they are still too innocent to comprehend. Some suggest, that if the moral guidance that religious beliefs offer where considered when agreeing on which games were to be released, then majority of games would be less violent and offer a better example of problem resolution. The Catholic religion was once said to be one of the strictest religions for directly dictating what is deemed appropriate, it is manifested in the form of censorship and they have fought tirelessly to maintain that ability.
Today’s societies arguably have more freedom of opinion than generations previous as ideas and concepts have evolved and fear has begun to diminish. With the introduction of more new age ideas and a less dictatorship approach former banned texts and films have come to be within public view. Between the 1930’s and the 1960’s America suffered some of the harshest censorship of films by the Catholic faith as they monopolised all stages of censoring from the production code that determined what was appropriate right through to the final stages where the Catholic Legion of Decency would complete a final review. (Black 1998) Some suggest that this emphasises the extent of the Vatican’s fear of the church’s demise and in turn, the reason for such rigid control over the film industry. Some believed that film was the quickest and most accessible way for the young and innocent to be corrupted and that banning such films was a way of protecting vulnerable people. It was widely understood that films containing substance abuse, alcohol abuse or acts of a sexual nature would be the catalyst for people to adopt the similar behaviours and society would become unmanageable.
Many writers and producers would attempt to use film as a way expressing unauthorised opinions or a variety of political views; this would often be at the expense of the government or the church and would be prevented from being filmed, if it passed the permission stage it would either be in danger of being halted part way through or would not make it to screening. For some people, if they were to witness anything outside of the church’s own teachings it would be seen as a way of attempting to draw people away from religion and encouraging them to abandon their faith. A number of people of non- Catholic faith who found themselves also caught in the catholic censorship net have since suggested that if they had more trust in their fellow Catholics then they would be pleasantly surprised. Due to their deep rooted faith, they would willingly self-censor, causing their commitment to appear even sturdier as they then have truly exhibited the extent of their faith and also their understanding of what they have been taught. People have suggested that if parliament applied the same trust to the general population then they may not feel they would need to use censorship as means of control either. One of the many vices used to maintain control over information that is available to the public are gagging orders.
Gagging orders can be issued to anyone from a newspaper publisher to a member of parliament, to a multi-million pound company Managing Director. If it is agreed that the information they possess has the potential to destroy, then steps will be taken to censor the information. If one is issued, then the details for which the order was issued are not permitted to be discussed under any circumstances. This is enforced by the fear that if any significant facts were discussed then that individual would be incarcerated. It would have further implications on the individual also; it is designed to make people consider very carefully and contemplate what they would be in line to lose. It has been said that until the creation of the world wide web, many gagging orders had been successful. In recent years however it is being implied that gagging orders are beginning to have an adverse effect and are widely seen as an infringement on our rights to freedom of knowledge. This year for the first time, it has been suggested that gagging orders are no longer sufficient enough to maintain the suppression of information and “An influential group of UK lawmakers has called on Google to introduce an algorithm to remove search links found to be in breach of privacy – or face legislation to force it to do so.”(BBC news 2012)
As the internet is open for anyone who may wish to promote ideas and thoughts that the government deem inappropriate, it has been questioned whether the issue of ‘breech of privacy’ is to mask the governments’ attempt to apply the suggested algorithm to any search link. As the media in all its’ types already conforms to government guidelines and appear to take a stand in regards to political parties and who they support, it could be assumed that the additional control over internet search engines would be the final control measure to maintain a dictated united opinion. Although there seems to be much outrage regarding censorship and its’ limits, society appears to function better when they are blissfully unaware and ignorant to more penetrating problems within parliament. More freedom has been allowed to the public over recent centuries and although Censorship for the means of controlling a population gives a limited group of people ultimate power, it appears that it is in the publics’ best interest.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm Anderson, C. A. and Dill, K. E. 2000. Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. USA Black, G. 1998. The Catholic crusade against the movies, 1940 – 1975. University of Cambridge: USA.