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Sample Essay on Censorship

Censorship: true governmental power?

❶Art can communicate in ways that other media cannot. Contrary to the censor's wishes, labels have served to increase interest in controversial ideas.


Music as Literature and Art

For some opponents, music censorship is not the solution. Instead, it should be literacy. They say that controversies are sometimes helpful because they can challenge individuals. If music is censored, they believe the challenge will be depleted.

For them, the answer is to educate the people who listen to music about its message, particularly the children. Kids should be taught to understand what they are hearing, reading and seeing. This way, they will be given the chance to be critical of these things and be able to apply them in their lives.

It keeps children from the truth. For some who oppose music censorship, they say they do not agree with hiding reality from people, especially children. By censoring music, they think it keeps the children from learning the truth about life.

For them, some lyrics of the songs are harsh realities which should be accepted and overcome. If these real situations mentioned in songs are kept from listeners, they will not be able to practice certain skills in life like coping with challenges in life. It is a violation of the First Amendment. People oppose to music censorship say that this practice is a clear violation of the First Amendment which is about freedom of self-expression and speech.

If censorship is made into law, it prevents artists from expressing themselves and conveying what message they want to get through to their listeners.

They also point out that if censorship is meant to protect children from exposure from derogatory lyrics, they will not be prepared for things that happen outside of their homes. From their point of view, they regard censorship as a hindrance from doing so. They also added that children should be encouraged to express themselves and if there will be censorship in any form, be it music or poetry, these kids will not be able to learn self-expression since it is presented as something that needs to be censored.

It gives an impression that people are not mature and responsible enough. Critics of music censorship say that people have the right to listen to the kind of songs they want.

Also, they are the ones responsible to stop listening to songs they find too offensive or violent. They also believe that any individual above 18 years of age is mature enough to know what music to appreciate or not.

And for children, parents should be the ones to monitor and keep their kids safe. They should take time to know what their sons and daughters listen to and read. Moreover, children will be learning about sex, violence and drugs from other means and at certain points of their lives. This is why for critics, music censorship is unnecessary. Whether music censorship is necessary or not will always be an issue with contentions from different groups.

Perhaps it is a matter left for the public to decide. Although there are songs which have inappropriate lyrics, there are also some which speak of the truth whether politically and socially. Music censorship can be a positive thing if only it is done with limitations. Moreover, some artists and record companies already censor themselves. At the end of the day, the buying public is the one which decides if a song is worth listening to or not. A claim in either direction would require an independent study.

None of these music-related claims have been popularly accepted, largely due to the difficulty in providing tangible proof. Instances of Satanism have been attributed to drug abuse rather than music Epstein Congressional subcommittee hearings of trying to associate rock music with juvenile delinquency were unsuccessful, as were the "Buckley report" on rock music and drug abuse and the senate hearings on obscenity in popular music Epstein The Commission on Obscenity and Pornography C.

Indeed, no such statement could be made about any kind of nonerotic material Oboler An extensive study encompassing psychology, physiology, behavioral studies, sociology, and music would have to be done to prove a form of music is capable of causing harm. The researchers would have to be trained not only in research methods but in all these fields and the music involved. A willing, impartial musicologist proficient in the music of subcultures might be a rare find. Given these reasons it is clear why, to my knowledge, such a study has not been performed.

The effects of music are still debatable. Where music is subject to vague interpretations and may alienate people according to subculture, lyrics are a more concrete form of expression. Lyrics are words that are sung or spoken with musical accompaniment, or sung without accompaniment. Lyrics embody the sentiment the writer is trying to convey in a ridged manner, with less free interpretation and more definitive meaning than in music alone. Only knowledge of the language is needed to understand the words, if not the ideas also, and therefore to construct a sensible, believable dialog on their value or non-value.

In , the Meese Commission on Pornography "recommended that spoken words not be challenged for obscenity" Holland , and the C. Because of this conflict, lyrical content is the subject that this author will address. Musicians are often cited for using obscene language, ideas, and imagery in their lyrics. What is labeled obscene is usually a documentation of real people and real events expressed through language suited to the report.

It has been said that,. Admittedly, lyrics can be shocking, but they describe the reality of our lives in our world. Frank Zappa, a musician of strong influence on early rock music, noted that. Explicit sex, violence, pain, suffering, and unusual human acts are characteristics of the human drama. Lyrical content is now censored when relating to " Sexual acts, in particular, are commonly accepted in our society, but the language that denotes these acts is not.

Perhaps it is the actual acts that the censors wish to curb, especially in youth, and by censoring the symbols for sex - language - they hope to censor the reality of sex. The logic is that without knowledge, there will be no corresponding action. But this logic is backwards, for it is the action that comes first, which is then symbolized through language.

Regarding the censorship of the symbols, this author agrees with Goethe's view:. Sex, violence, and substance abuse are certainly real factors of society. If a musician cannot relate explicit information on these topics without being censored, then he or she may feel the need to hold something back. The next logical conclusion is that by withholding explicit information the musician would be sacrificing accuracy.

An inaccurate piece of art may still have aesthetic value, but may not contain the message that the musician wanted to express and that the listener may have needed to hear. It is a popular opinion within the artistic sphere that "[Musicians] should be able to sing about drugs and the gang culture and teenage sexuality and a whole list of issues that need to be sung about Holland How can we learn from our history if we do not know the whole story and the lessons learned from it?

We need to know what issues face us now and suggestions for dealing with them. We need to foresee issues of the future that must be addressed in the present. A dialogue on our societal issues in poetic but inaccurate terms will do us no good when trying to cope in the real world.

Gorky summed up the association of art and reality:. The same reasons for censoring views on sex, violence and substance abuse are the same reasons these views should be heard: John Stuart Mill asserted that the truth is most likely to emerge from a conflict of opinions.

A censored opinion, whether true or false, sidesteps conflict and secures our distance in the truth. In a court case involving censorship of the band Dead Kennedys, Barry Lynn, the Legislative counsel to the national American Civil Liberties Union, revealed the symbiotic relationship of controversy and censorship:.

The same segment of the population that censorship usually aims to protect is the same segment controversial music is intended for: Often these controversial issues are new to or directly affect young people. There is little recognition by parents and particularly by censors of the way music is used by young people in America.

The attitudes and ideas embodied in lyrics may act as a catalyst for change from childhood to adulthood. Censors only focus on the aspects they consider to be offensive. David Riesman sees the cause of this as a lack of structure:. Youth has no universal link with itself; instead of ideas traveling from the youth to their peers, they travel from musician to youth.

Youth therefore need to be educated and informed in some way, and music is a strong link to their lifestyle. Studies have shown that the average teenager listens to rock music about four hours a day Mann Popular music can inspire a radical mentality, it is a "major political weapon" urging youth to improve their world Rodnitzky Henry Thoreau labeled music "the arch-reformer. Rapper Ice Cube works from the assumption that "Rap music is a form of education" Cole Often it is a moral education that lyricists offer, one that is not always taught in school.

A study said, "Their songs constitute a radical influence, but, more importantly, they supply examples of conscience and principle to a society which has increasingly been unable to provide its youth with credible examples of either conscience or principle" Rodnitzky After their original album cover was censored, the rock group Jane's Addiction released another cover with only Article 1 of the Bill of Rights on it, and inside was a message addressed to "the Mosquitoes":.

Principles are not only offered by "offensive" artists, Establishment organizations also try to contribute their share of wisdom. The national collegiate group Campus Crusade for Christ has sponsored a touring folk-rock group Rodnitzky , and in the s Christian groups have gained popularity, among them the heavy metal group Stryper and the rapper M.

The 10, Maniacs, a rock group, has breached the subject of domestic violence. The list goes on. Often explicit language is needed when describing valid opinions and important observations about our world through one of the few means of communication attended to by young people.

The Center is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to educate parents about media messages. Although they object to some music lyrics, they have not tried to have them removed from recordings. In order to help parents monitor the content of music their children listen to, the PMRC supports " Ignoring this agreement, 22 states were still proposing legislation to label albums at the beginning of After persistent lobbying failed to head off legislation, the RIAA agreed to adopt a standard label for use by all member companies and to apply them more consistently than in the past.

This action caused 13 states to drop their proposals and quelled the PMRC, who had complained that some albums were slipping through the system. In April of a large retail music chain, WaxWorks, announced it would no longer stock albums bearing warning stickers Verna Other retail stores and some music distributors have adopted the same policy.

Their action effectively limited access to materials because of the warning sticker, which was designed to resolve objections to explicit language without censorship. In the Midwest, where WaxWorks and Wal-Mart, another company with a similar policy, are the only major music retailers, access to some albums was essentially cut.

Instead, WaxWorks has instituted a new policy of examining the content themselves and making a decision whether or not to stock an album, although warning stickers, by informing without censoring, should have made such policies unnecessary. An instance of censorship is clearly present here in light of the fact that over stores, including WaxWorks, already restrict certain albums to an "to-buy" section Goldberg The refusal to stock other albums restricts access by all music buyers, regardless of age.

WaxWorks has decided not to stock the album based on content. These policies are not instituted for business reasons. An album released by a major record company that sells , units is considered firmly profitable for the record company and for the distributor. Record Bar, a chain of stores, does not stock any 2 Live Crew Albums. Griffin and 2 Live Crew are even more popular than N. Censorship of a very popular artist is obviously not done for business reasons; such recordings can be quite profitable.

These actions can be abridged with the term market-censorship. The dissemination of ideas of the artist is restricted in the marketplace because some persons think these ideas may be harmful. Labels have failed in their goal of educating parents without censoring.

Increasing the difficulty of obtaining erotic materials, harassing and punishing pornographers and purveyors of pornography, setting minimum age limits for the purchase of these materials, and so on, may have the unwanted effect of increasing interest in the materials, rendering them more desirable, and producing a greater impact on the recipients, than if none of these measures were utilized Broch When a piece of literature or art is censored, people have a natural curiosity in the offensive material.

The relationship is of direct proportions, first recorded by the historian Tacitus under the rule of Emperor Nero: With the advent of the press, books were more easily distributed, and by then the authority of the censor changed hands from the Romans to the Roman Catholic Church, which published and still does a list of forbidden books. This list naturally encouraged the Tacitean Principle:. Today the censor is in the form of the PMRC and their warning stickers will obviously have the same effect.

The President of Giant Records noted that one group, Too Much Joy, has given consent their album to be labeled for marketing reasons Flanagan Although the RIAA disagrees with such usage, some artists have even used the label to their advantage. The comedian George Carlin peers over an oversized parental advisory logo on his album cover and uses the warning as a title. A rap compilation album issued by Priority Records uses a blown-up version of the label as cover art and replaces the word "lyrics" with "rap" Rosen Representatives from the record companies readily admit the logo can be a useful marketing ploy.

Another factor of the Tacitean Principle is the publicity often associated with controversial art. Reports in the media of explicit recordings have sent buyers to independent record stores, where sales of stickered product have increased compared to sales of non-stickered product.

Sales have also increased faster than at chain stores where stickered product is not available Haring Teenagers, who often display a tendency towards rebellion, are a perfect breading ground for the Tacitean Principle. Any substance or activity labeled as a characteristic of a cult or a subculture by disapproving parents is sure to attract attention from youth. Gross pointed out how this phenomena relates to heavy metal:. Warning labels have failed to produce a singular result of educating parents.

Labels have also increased interest in explicit materials in the merely curious and therefore spread the influence of these materials. The companies that release this music to the public are also involved in censorship. Today the primary producers of popular music are record companies. To spread your message to the masses, you need the help of a record company to record, manufacture, and distribute your work.

Although it may appear that the record companies are in control, this is not always the case. Record companies face a conflict because of pressure from outside parties. Companies weigh the risk of controversy that may damage the image of the entire company against the potential profit of a few albums, and the albums have been losing. What consumers buy is a piece of vinyl, tape, or aluminum, what they pay for is the sounds and ideas recorded therein.

Record companies do not deal in goods or services, they essentially deal in ideas, musical and otherwise. By censoring the artist, they censor their own product, even though this censorship may subtract from the quality of the product. It has been shown above that this is not done for profit. On contracting artists, Buziak says, " A committee has been established at MCA Records to review music for potentially objectionable lyrics.

Throughout history, events such as the Inquisition and the Star Chamber were essentially censorships whose purpose was to eliminate dissenting opinions by establishing and enforcing one "correct" opinion. Some special-interest groups consist of the extremists within a majority, and of themselves, more often than not, constitute a minority. This minority may not accurately represent the views of the majority.

Today, special-interest groups, by lobbying lawmakers and by picketing, have made record companies uncomfortable about their products.

The Center is trying to bar the album from being sold because they feel it expresses ideas contrary to their cause. Ice Cube raps that his former manager, a "white Jew," should be shot. In general, his may not be a socially desirable opinion, but believing and expressing such an opinion is a legal and allowable act.

Again, the majority of people may think Satanism is a harmful practice, but Satanists are simply enjoying the same First Amendment right to freedom of religion that Catholics enjoy. In fact, Justice William O.

Douglas wrote a decision which stated, " One record company, Geffen Records, realizes the impact of this concept. President David Geffen states,. Special-interest groups advance their own cause by trampling other causes, without regard to Constitutionality. The hard boots of the courts will not fit their feet, rather, they ironically use language to stand on. These people may not know anything of or have ever experienced Satanism, but because this person says it is something evil they take him on his word because it is his word.

He can use his power to negatively redefine words. Author Sue Curry Jansen describes this as the phenomenon of power-knowledge and points out the importance of correct, consistent language:. Jansen explains that without power, an individual has no means of gaining experience.

One needs experience in order to become knowledgeable, and knowledge is vital to assuming even an introductory level of power. The censor halts this circular motion by limiting one's knowledge. Brian Turner, President of Priority Records, recognizes this power struggle and uses the Tacitean Principle in his defense:.

If the unpowerful have an opinion that is important to them they must guard the definitions of their ideas which others may wish to suppress. In this light, branches of the government can be considered special interest-groups also. This threat was made without the backing of law or precedent. Although the FCC is a federal power, it is not an elected body and is not answerable to Congress, so in theory the amount of power it exercises is indeterminate. Since , the FCC has established restrictions on language that can be broadcast.

The FCC defines indecency as. The offensive lyrics read: Further enforcement of this law will restrict the dissemination of ideas on any subject even remotely sexual for fear of being economically penalized.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation F. Priority released a song by the rap group N. The letter, written by F. I believe my views reflect the opinion of the entire law enforcement community" Pareles Although the letter contains no specific threat, one need only remember the F. Statements on free expression such as the F. This is an important concept when dealing with the press because the press not only acts as a medium of expression, it may also act as the check on government.

By criticizing the ruling party, the press in our case, music recordings can inspire change and improvement. By censoring the press, the government the FCC and the F. Oboler extends this application from the way the government rules to the way the people rule:. Throughout this essay are reasons against the effectiveness of censorship and reasons why censorship should not be tolerated. They are condensed below. Art is important to us. Art lets us see the world in new ways, and gives us pleasure.

It is a unique language in which we can say things that cannot be said otherwise, regardless of quality.

Music lyrics are of value because they are an artform and because they comment on reality. The specific issues that popular music comments on are of particular value to youth, the age group whose access is most restricted.

For an artist, the sharing of artwork is a matter of pride and self-worth; it is an individual's contribution to civilization. It is also one's profession, a vital mean of self-support. The labeling of music albums has had undesirable effects. In some cases it has limited access to materials not only to minors, but also to adults.

Contrary to the censor's wishes, labels have served to increase interest in controversial ideas. Record companies, whose assistance is vital to a writer of popular music, enforce artistic and market-censorship out of fear for their economic welfare. Special-interest groups generate this fear through intimidation. The definition of what is obscene or profane is determined by the majority and is used to suppress the views of the minority.

The watchdogs from the majority are often extremists, themselves a minority that may not accurately express the views of the majority. This minority consists of special-interest groups that assert their own notions of morality to confine other's right to freedom of expression. By limiting an individual's expression, the knowledge which is necessary to overcome such oppression is not disseminated. These groups use this method to guard their own power and to paralyze the power of others.

The actions which these suppressed ideas denote may be the censor's actual target. Censorship is contrary to the political philosophy on which the United States was founded. The Bill of Rights ensures an individual's right to free expression.

The use of this freedom to criticize the ruling party agrees with the Constitutional conviction that there must be checks on government. A democracy assigns the individual the task of choosing the most appropriate manner of life. Censorship restricts these choices, and is therefore in conflict with democracy. It is now clear that censorship is unacceptable to American individuals and to America as a nation.

What should also be made clear is that censorship doesn't work, even if the intentions are noble and accepted. The censor's effort is ultimately futile, defeated by three factors: History has shown that the desire for freedom has won, and is winning, many battles against oppressors. Religion and government have been severely weakened in their power to censor.

Even in the past when these forces were powerful they did not completely crush ideas, they just delayed their flowering. The words of Jesus, Galileo, and Darwin have escaped initial condemnation, and there is no reason why contemporary words will not do likewise, given time.

The desire to hear and express these words has led to modern liberal nations such as the United States. The desire to express oneself is a deeply rooted characteristic of the human persona.

The example cited from Verdi's La Traviata demonstrates that morality is not what it used to be. Time serves to erode moral standards regardless of the censor's efforts. There have been censors since Aristotle with the power to torture and to kill, but controversial ideas have emerged anyway, along with their respective influence on our lives. The Tacitean Principle ultimately overcomes the censor because the censor unknowingly encourages it.

The harder the censor works the brighter the Principle will shine, illuminating the offensive material for all to see. A more acute censor would quietly suppress a work, but fortunately in our society it is rarely possible to quietly overcome legal constraints and artistic spirit.

Allowing an artwork to fall into obscurity by itself would be more effective censorship than drawing attention to it through controversy. Independently of the censor, we must decide for ourselves whether or not music lyrics are beneficial to us.

There is no proof that they are harmful, so it would be wrong to censor them. Then again, they may be harmful and we are simply ignorant to this fact. In this case, as is shown above, censorship would not be the solution. History has shown that censors do not change the course of music, music itself does. Great artists and their ideas influence other artists.

Bob Dylan pioneered the protest song.

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