Tuesday, October 16, 2007
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Book burning Bleep censor Content-control software Corporate censorship Under fascist regimes Pixelization Political censorship Postal censorship Prior restraint In religion Self-censorship Tape delay Whitewashing Censorship is defined as the removal and/or withholding of information from the public by a controlling group or body.
Typically censorship is done by governments, religious groups or the mass media, although other forms of censorship exist. The withholding of official secrets, commercial secrets, intellectual property, and privileged lawyer-client communication is not usually described as censorship when it remains within reasonable bounds. Because of this, the term "censorship" often carries with it a sense of untoward, inappropriate or repressive secrecy.
Censorship is closely related to the concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. When overused, it is often associated with human rights abuse, dictatorship, and repression.
The term "censorship" is often used as a pejorative term to signify a belief that a group controlling certain information is using this control improperly or for its own benefit, or preventing others from accessing information that should be made readily accessible (often so that conclusions drawn can be verified).
Aspects of censorship
The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored. There are five main types:
Moral censorship is the means by which any material that contains what the censor deems to be of questionable morality is removed. The censoring body disapproves of what it deems to be the values behind the material and limits access to it. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale. In another example, graphic violence resulted in the censorship of the 1932 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" movie entitled "Scarface" originally completed in 1930.
Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage, which is the process of gleaning military information. Additionally, military censorship may involve a restriction on information or media coverage that can be released to the public such as in Iraq, where the U.S. government restricts the photographing or filming of dead soldiers or their caskets and its subsequent broadcast in the U.S. This is done to avoid public reaction similar to that which occurred during the Vietnam War or the Iran Hostage Crisis. This is also considered acceptable by even democratic governments as necessary for the preservation of national security.
Political censorship occurs when governments are holding back secret information from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to revolt. Democracies do not officially approve of political censorship but often endorse it privately. Any dissent against the government is thought to be a "weakness" for the enemy to exploit. Campaign tactics are also often kept secret: see the Watergate scandal.
Religious censorship is the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less dominant ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their faith.
Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light. Privately owned corporations in the business of reporting the news also sometimes refuse to distribute information due to the potential loss of advertiser revenue or shareholder value which adverse publicity may bring. See Media Bias. By subject matter and agenda
In wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy. Typically it involves keeping times or locations secret, or delaying the release of information (e.g., an operational objective) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. The moral issues here are often seen as somewhat different, as release of tactical information usually presents a greater risk of casualties among one's own forces and could possibly lead to loss of the overall conflict. During World War I letters written by British soldiers would have to go through censorship. This consisted of officers going through letters with a black marker and crossing out anything which might compromise operational secrecy before the letter was sent. The World War II catchphrase "Loose lips sink ships" was used as a common justification to exercise official wartime censorship and encourage individual restraint when sharing potentially sensitive information.
A well-known example of sanitization policies comes from the USSR under Josef Stalin, where publicly used photographs were often altered to remove people whom Stalin had condemned to execution. Though past photographs may have been remembered or kept, this deliberate and systematic alteration to all of history in the public mntral themes of Stalinism and totalitarianism. More recently, the official exclusion of television crews from locales where coffins of military dead were in transit has been cited as a form of censorship. This particular example obviously represents an incomplete or failed form of censorship, as numerous photographs of these coffins are often printed in newspapers, magazines, and on the web.
Censorship of state secrets and prevention of attention
The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, since their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Nanking Massacre, the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist, favorable or patriotic view.
Also, some religious groups have at times attempted to block the teaching of evolution in schools, as evolutionary theory appears to contradict their religious beliefs. The teaching of sexual education in school and the inclusion of information about sexual health and contraceptive practices in school textbooks is another area where suppression of information occurs.
In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it can lead to a slippery slope enforcing wider and more politically-motivated censorship. Some artists such as Frank Zappa helped in the protest against censorship. Although they usually failed, they did put up an argument against the censorship of other material.
An example of such censorship is, ironically, Fahrenheit 451. The book was themed against censorship, but changed heavily. The version that appeared in school English textbooks
Censorship of educational sources
For more information, see the article on scientific misconduct.
Scientific studies may be suppressed or falsified because they undermine sponsors' commercial, political or other interests or because they fail to support researchers' ideological goals. Examples include, failing to publish a study that show a new drug is harmful, or truthfully publishing the benefits of a treatment while failing to describe harmful side-effects.
Suppression/falsification of scientific research
American musicians such as Frank Zappa have repeatedly protested against censorship in music and pushed for more freedom of expression. In 1986, Zappa appeared on CNN Crossfire to protest censorship of lyrics in rock music, saying that harm will be done or unrest caused if controversial information, lyrics, or other messages are promulgated.
In countries like Sudan, Afghanistan and China, violations of musician's rights to freedom of expression are commonplace. In the USA and Algeria, lobbying groups have succeeded in keeping popular music off the concert stage, and out of the media and retail. In ex-Yugoslavia musicians are often pawns in political dramas, and the possibility of free expression has been adversely affected.
Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights.
Censorship in music and popular culture
Copy approval is the right to read and amend an article, usually an interview, before publication. Many publications refuse to give copy approval but it is increasingly becoming common practice when dealing with publicity anxious celebrities.
Copy, picture, and writer approval
Censorship is regarded among a majority of academics in the Western world as a typical feature of dictatorships and other authoritarian political systems. Democratic nations are represented, especially among Western government, academic and media commentators, as having somewhat less institutionalized censorship, and as instead promoting the importance of freedom of speech. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics maintained a particularly extensive program of state-imposed censorship. The main organ for official censorship in the Soviet Union was the Chief Agency for Protection of Military and State Secrets generally known as the Glavlit, its Russian acronym. The Glavlit handled censorship matters arising from domestic writings of just about any kind — even beer and vodka labels. Glavlit censorship personnel were present in every large Soviet publishing house or newspaper; the agency employed some 70,000 censors to review information before it was disseminated by publishing houses, editorial offices, and broadcasting studios. No mass medium escaped Glavlit's control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit representatives on their editorial staffs.
Some thinkers understand censorship to include other attempts to suppress points of view or the exploitation of negative propaganda, media manipulation, spin, disinformation or "free speech zones." These methods tend to work by disseminating preferred information, by relegating open discourse to marginal forums, and by preventing other ideas from obtaining a receptive audience.
Sometimes, a specific and unique information whose very existence is barely known to the public, is kept in a subtle, near-censorship situation, being regarded as "subversive" or "inconvenient". Michel Foucault's 1978 text Sexual Morality and the Law, for instance - originally published as La loi de la pudeur [literally, 'the law of decency'], defends the decriminalization of statutory rape and the abolition of age of consent laws, and as of July 2006, is almost totally invisible throughout the Internet, both in English and French, and does not appear even on Foucault-specialized websites.
Suppression of access to the means of dissemination of ideas can function as a form of censorship. Such suppression has been alleged to arise from the policies of governmental bodies, such as the FCC in the United States of America, the CRTC in Canada, newspapers that refuse to run commentary the publisher disagrees with, lecture halls that refuse to rent themselves out to a particular speaker, and individuals who refuse to finance such a lecture. The omission of selected voices in the content of stories also serves to limit the spread of ideas, and is often called censorship. Such omission can result, for example, from persistent failure or refusal by media organizations to contact criminal defendants (relying solely on official sources for explanations of crime). Censorship has been alleged to occur in such media policies as blurring the boundaries between hard news and news commentary, and in the appointment of allegedly biased commentators, such as a former government attorney, to serve as anchors of programs labeled as hard news but comprising primarily anti-criminal commentary.
The focusing of news stories to exclude questions that might be of interest to some audience segments, such as the avoidance of reporting cumulative casualty rates among citizens of a nation that is the target or site of a foreign war, is often described as a form of censorship. Favorable representation in news or information services of preferred products or services, such as reporting on leisure travel and comparative values of various machines instead of on leisure activities such as arts, crafts or gardening has been described by some as a means of censoring ideas about the latter in favor of the former.
Self-censorship: Imposed on the media in a free market by market/cultural forces rather than a censoring authority. This occurs when it is more profitable for the media to give a biased view. Examples would include near hysterical and scientifically untenable stances against nuclear power, genetic engineering and recreational drugs distributed because scare stories sell. It also occurs when politicians/culture expect the media to give moral guidance - i.e., not publishing the cartoon depictions of Muhammed.
Informations about censorship: In many communist countries any information about existence of censorship and the legal basis of the censorship was censored. Rules of censoring were classified. Removed texts or phrases were not marked.
Creative censorship: In many communist countries censors not only removed texts but sometimes rewrote them, so some texts had secret co-authors.
Censorship by country