In Defense of Censorship

"There are moments when people love crime," said Alyosha thoughtfully.
"Yes, yes! You have uttered my thought; they love crime,everyone loves crime, they love it always, not at some 'moments.' You know, it's as though people have made an agreement to lie about it and have lied about it ever since. They all declare that they hate evil, but secretly they all love it."
"And are you still reading nasty books?"
"Yes, I am. Mamma reads them and hides them under her pillow and I steal them."

Sometimes people dont enjoy hearing blindingly obvious truth. Statements such as, "men and women are different", "some people do bad things", "humans are more important than cholera", "ideas are important", and so on and so forth, seem to get their hackles raised. They argue against self evidence from so many viewpoints of modernism and postmordernism, poststructuralism, existentialism, eastern mysticism, words that have been squeezed and stretched and aesthetically mutilated until they are completely worn out and don't even resemble what they were supposed to resemble, kind of like Michael Jackson's nose. And then they all bemoan how confusing everything is, and lapse into a comfortable solipsism and forget it all watching Seinfeld.

One of these truths that I have started to realize, in spite of the plastic surgeons, is that books can matter. Books don't exist in a vacuum, independent of author or the environment in which they were created, and books can change people. Now if books are indeed important, and have the power to change people, why is it not a logical second step to say some books can change people for the better and some books change people for the worse? At this point we adopt a patronizing tone, start rambling about the Bill of Rights and having discernment and whatnot and then circle back to our great country's inherent libertarian principles, and maybe throw something in about how much better written pornography is than television, and then waxing eloquent about how great an exception public broadcasting and al-jazeera are.

I can't help but feel like we are all Lise' mother from the above quotation, (And if you have read Brothers Karamazov, you would understand this imputation better) saying, "Well, there might be impressionable minds out there who were going to come unhinged or imbalanced or whathaveyou on their own, but that isn't the book's fault, and at any rate, we are mature enough to deal with the subject matter," when really we are just silly old fools who are at our best left completely unaffected by really dangerous works thanks to our own dullness, and at our worst we find them under the pillows of other old fools and find ourselves clever enough to be susceptible.

I don't have a good solution, I just thought I'd point out a problem.


Anonymous said...

What you say is all very well and good, however, rather than parse any of your points, I think I'd rather lapse into a comfortable solipsism and forget it all watching Seinfeld.

Anonymous said...

This blog is like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart except you have to read it and it's not funny.