Censorship: Why Do We Need It?

http://www.wholetruthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/censor1.gif

     The United States is a country filled with censorship from television, radio, and advertisements to liberties and freedoms.  Certain materials, which society deems to be indecent or too risqué for the general public, are restricted or banned.  Violence in advertising and pornography are restricted based on their content.  Advocates for censorship argue that without it, our children would be susceptible to these resources.  They also argue that allowing appalling material to exist in society will eventually lead to desensitization of its content.  If this is true, then hypothetically, boys who grow up watching porn will subconsciously develop the belief that women are supposed to be submissive.  Religious and spiritual groups say prostitution has no purpose in society and only breeds bad morals.  All of these arguments stem from a lack of education and a fear of the unknown.  On a philosophical and practical level, censorship should not exist in any aspects of entertainment or life.  Altering or prohibiting certain materials can seem productive, but often leads to ignorance in society.  Laws should only be made to restrict freedoms when those freedoms cause physical harm to others or attempts to incite violence.  I am not advocating for a world in which society lets risqué materials govern humanity, but a world in which all people understand all aspects of its culture.  Responsibility lies on society to teach children and each other what is real and not real.  In the following analysis, I will argue that since censorship prohibits progress in society, we must support the legalization and regulation of porn, prostitution, and violence and sexism in advertising, in the general public.

In order for censorship not to prohibit progress, the American people must support the existence of the porn industry.  Porn is adult entertainment that does not always avoid the eyes of children.  In the 21st century, porn is very accessible and children and adolescents often get their hands on it.  Is the problem that teens watch pornography or that they do not understand all of its conditions?  The problem is not that it exists; because on a pure level, pornography is entertainment just like other films and television shows.  The problem is the way pornography shows life as a fantasy.  Pornography is not real and therefore if misunderstood, can yield harmful implications.  Some of the arguments against pornography are the industry is grotesque, does not contribute anything positive to society, and commercializes women, making them sexual objects.  Arguments like these are not first-class arguments to restrict pornography in society, but rather arguments to have full transparency.  Discussions, based on these claims about pornography, further progress when it comes to gender equality.  Claims advocating for anti-censorship are not pro-pornography, but state that “great works of art and literature would be banned; the First Amendment would be breached; political expression would be suppressed; and a creative culture requires freedom of speech.”[i]  Censorship on pornography is fundamentally against the First Amendment.  Regulation within the industry is acceptable because we want to protect the individuals working in the industry.  Nevertheless, the solution to the problems of pornography is education about the matter.  The solution is to provide education methods that teach children and other individuals what is real.  Nudity should not be restricted on television.  The ratings system currently in place is a good system in which pornography can be rated for mature audiences.  It is not the government’s job to restrict pornography but the responsibility of schools and adults to educate their children about.  Looking at other countries where nudity and sex are allowed on television, there are much lower pregnancy rates.   As of 2007, the birth rate among teens in the United States was 42.5 % compared to only 9.9 % in Germany.[ii]  Disregarding materials like pornography as offensive or indecent in our country, can lead to harms like teenage pregnancy.  If teenage pregnancy is such a prevalent issue in the United States, what is the answer?  The public school system as well as general morality of American society has failed at properly educating teenagers about sex.  People will end up making their own decisions in the end, but they can at least be guided in the right direction.  Education and discussion can prevent the harms described by advocates for censorship without restricting individual freedoms.

Building on the claim that censorship is harmful to society, we must support prostitution as a legitimate industry.  The problems people have with prostitution are:  it is not always a choice, it is not a good model to set for women, and it instills the belief that a woman’s job is to service a man.  These arguments are against sex slavery, not prostitution.  There is a difference because in its purest form, prostitution is a choice.  Lars Ericsson claims that people are against prostitution because the industry sells something that is so fundamental to humans, which makes it indecent.  We have to pay for food and clothing, but we do not have an essential problem with this because it is not seen as indecent.  He states, “That we have to pay for the satisfaction of our most basic appetites is no reason for socially stigmatizing those individuals whose profession it is to cater to those appetites.”[iii]  Prostitution is just like any other service industry.  What does this mean for censorship if prostitution is legal?  Advertisements would be able to broadcast on television and posted on billboards.  The harms of the sex work industry currently are the dangers for women.  In the story The Bacchae by Euripedes, Pentheus attempts to keep the dirty worship of the Dionysus, out of his kingdom, “But don’t infect me with your madness.  As for the one who in this foolishness has been your teacher, I’ll bring him to justice.”[iv]  Pentheus is eventually murdered by the very thing he tries to keep out of his kingdom.  This story is a great example of having a sort of “controlled chaos” in society.  The United States cannot let prostitution have a strong hold on society, but cannot try to get rid of it either.  Banishing prostitution only makes it more unsafe for women and more of a problem for the public.  The American people have the responsibility to treat the sex work industry like any other industry.  Recognizing prostitution as a legitimate industry makes it regulated.  By not censoring advertisements for prostitution, the public can further recognize it as a service industry.  We can disestablish this taboo in society by legitimizing prostitution.

In supporting anti-censorship, along with pornography and prostitution, we must also support violence and sexism in advertising.  There is a problem in advertising with stereotypes that are purported.  Advertising methods are reflective of what catches the public eye.  I agree that the violent advertising is not a good fad, but disagree that the way to change that is by censoring ads.  Advocates against these advertising methods want truthful advertising that does not oppress women.  They believe companies are very irresponsible for purporting these ideas.  Companies have the obligation to sell their product.  We cannot blame them for the methods that make an impact on consumers.  We can only blame ourselves.  Charlotte Hilton Andersen, a writer for the Huffington Post, says “I have found myself flipping mindlessly through a fashion mag only to be jerked out of my reverie by a bizarre ad.”[v]  She would not buy the product, but she recognizes the engagement of “bizarre” advertising.  Censorship of sexist and violent ads does not address the problem of sexism and violence in culture.  Individuals can be harmed by this type of advertising.  However, the root of the problem starts with our culture.  Including education about the media and advertisements in elementary schools has the potential to eliminate sexism and violence.  Since advertisements are often reflective of society, the best way to change them is to change our culture.  A former New York City mayor was quoted by the New York Times saying, “Our laws forbid the publication of any libelous, obscene, indecent, immoral, or impure picture or reading matter.  Is not that enough?”[vi]  Obviously it is not enough to solve the female inferiority complex in our culture.  The attempt to eliminate pornography, prostitution, violence and sexism is an attempt to ignore our problems.

Since censorship is antithetical to progress, we must permit pornography, prostitution, and violence and sexism in advertising, in order for humanity to grow.  We need to realize there is a difference between regulation and censorship.  Regulation makes the thing safe, whereas censorship eliminates the thing entirely.  There are two problems with censorship:  Is there a stopping point, and does it help humanity?  The answer to both of those questions is no.  Government agencies think the appropriate response to problems like violence and sexism is to eliminate anything which has the consistency of being violent or sexist.  Through censorship, the government creates the same problem they are trying to combat in these subjects.  Individuals do not have moral obligations to keep “indecent” materials private.  Society has no right to determine morals when it comes to a woman’s right to her body.  If we want less violence and oppression, we need to change those things.  We cannot make laws that restrict individual freedoms, unless they physically harm others.  We can make laws forcing companies to tell us what is real and what is not, without prohibiting their right to advertise.  Schools should be required to educate on subjects like pornography, prostitution, and advertising.  The biggest harm for children would be for society to protect them from the problems.  Children will grow up one day to have their own beliefs and make their own decisions; the best civilization can do is to make sure they are well educated to do so.   With the lack of censorship, we have the ability to solve the problems of our culture without restricting personal freedoms.  Society needs discussion and progression, not condemnation and stagnation.


[i] McElroy, Wendy. “A Feminist Overview of Pornography.” A Feminist Overview of Pornography. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2013.

[ii] United States: (2010). Births: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58 (24). Other Countries: United Nations Statistical Division. Demographic Yearbook 2007. New York: United Nations.

[iii] Ericsson, Lars O. “Charges Against Prostitution: An Attempt at a Philosophical Assessment.” Ethics 90.3 (1980): 367-70. Print.

[iv] Euripedes, David Grene, and Richmond Lattimore. Euripedes. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1992. Print.

[v] Andersen, Charlotte Hilton. “Dolce & Gabbana Says Women Like It Rough.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 May 2013.

[vi] “Censorship and Advertising.” Censorship and Advertising – View Article – NYTimes.com. New York Times, 16 Feb. 1919. Web. 24 May 2013.

Do Ignorance and “External Forces” Rid You of Culpability?

Now, I know what everyone is thinking and yes, we should hold Nicholas Cage to different morals due to the abundance of terrible movies he has been in.  However, this is not the topic of my post today.  Nicholas Cage’s character is named Cameron Poe, a decorated United States Army Ranger who is convicted of involuntary manslaughter because he defended his girlfriend from a couple of drunks.  He was held to a higher standard of the law because of his military training.  I think Cameron was just a victim of bad circumstance.  Some would consider Cameron a hero for protecting not only his country but his girlfriend in this particular situation.  The author of our book argues that heroism is not required for being good men and women.  He uses the example of the Austrian man in World War II, who refused to join the Nazi Empire.  His friends who were in the same situation should not be regarded as morally culpable because they were forced into the situation.  Do we really want to live in a society that practices obeying all command even if it is not right and then using the excuse that they are not morally culpable.  If that was the case, all officers who committed heinous acts during World War II could have used the excuse that they were forced into the situation.  People have to be brought to justice for their actions, no matter the cause behind them.  So, perhaps Cameron Poe deserved his punishment.  The main point is that we need heroes in our society.

Would we consider ourselves free of culpability if we had “no other option.”  Most of the clothing purchased in the United States is made in the countries like China, India, Bangladesh, etc., where factories commit terrible human rights atrocities.  The purchases we make support these horrific acts.  Are we morally culpable for the treatment of these people because we buy the clothes they manufacture -yes.  According to the author, however, we would not be culpable because we really do not have any other choice.  Without being morally culpable for all actions, we get nothing but stagnation in society.   

http://www.catholicregister.org/news/canada/item/16296-sharing-a-moral-responsibility

Man Murders 77, No Death Penalty

A man in Norway (photo above) murdered 77 people with a bombing and a shooting spree.  A terrorist act of these proportions would receive the death penalty in the United States.  However, in Norway, there is no death penalty.  In fact, there prison system is majorly based on rehabilitation.  Anders Breivik will serve 21 years in a Norwegian prison (shown below) for his crimes.

He will not be released for a few decades, because his release is dependent on how much of a threat he poses to the public.  It will take a long time to convince the Norwegian government that is fit to be a member of society again.  Shouldn’t he be put to death for his crimes?  I do not want to get into an argument about retributive justice, but I think it is important to discuss people that are too dangerous to keep alive.  A common response to this notion is life without the possibility of parole.  This is an option but does not always work.  We have to consider the safety of the public as well as the safety of other prisoners.  Solitary confinement or private cells is an additional option.  Stanley “Tookie” Williams found a way around his private confinement.  Williams was placed in solitary confinement because he was causing problems with the general population of inmates.  Somehow, he was still able to call out hits from within his padded cell.  He was eventually put to death in 2005.  Leaving someone like Williams or Breivik alive is not the solution.

Advocates on either side of the capital punishment debate need to agree that some people deserve to die.  Mass murderers and serial killers who thrive on spreading fear and violence have no purpose and no right to be part of society.  We need some way to make sure these types of people do not impact our lives.  The only way to keep the public safe from monsters is to eliminate them.  It is not a good option to limit the ways in which the judicial system can prosecute the criminals that spread fear and pain to the public.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444812704577608672475346042.html

Global Poverty: Are our Virtues Important and Would Communism Solve the Problem?

Those who advocate for rich countries giving up a portion of their wealth to help developing countries are confused about the virtue of liberality.  They assume that the moral and virtuous thing is to help others to the point that it does not hurt yourself.  In monetary terms, people should use their disposable income to help combat poverty in the world.  To Aristotle, this is a vice of excess.  Aristotle would argue that people should give some money, but not the amounts that Peter Singer calls for in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”  The key is finding the virtuous mean to figure out how much money to give.  Justice does not occur when you give money to the ones that need it.  Some help is fine, but giving large sums of money does not bring justice to our world.  In our chapter about Moral Ideals this week, we learned that the ideal of justice does not play favorites.  A proposition that encourages people to donate all of the money that they use to spend on “material things,” to relief funds, does not embody justice.  The Guardian article says that the claim that the developed countries are already being over-generous is a bunch of rubbish.  I sincerely believe that the rich countries of the world are somewhere near that virtuous mean of giving.  They may be giving a little too much or not quite enough, but their virtues continue to stay strong.

Tackling the kinds of arguments which advocate for relinquishing all belongings that we don’t “need,” is easier.  Peter Singer’s arguments resemble Marxist philosophy.  Singer believes that we should help all of humanity become developed.  This notion has good intentions, but the methods used to get there are flawed.  If we give away all “unnecessary possessions” and all disposable income to help those in need, we would definitely solve the problem of poverty.  Nevertheless, some problems cannot be solved and more problems will result.  Civil war is an aspect of poverty that will not necessarily be solved by this system.  Not all people can be reasoned with.  Perhaps guns would solve this problem by forcing issues to go away, but I do not think this is the best solution, considering this is supposed to be a humanitarian proposition.  The biggest problem that ensues is the halt of innovation and development.  An unfortunate part of our world harps on development and industry which cannot grow without the haves and the have nots.   Capitalism needs executives and cheap workers.  We would like a system where everyone is out of poverty, but this notion cannot exist along capitalism and the growth of industry.  To suggest that we rid ourselves of Capitalism is an even crazier notion and would not receive helpful feedback.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jun/14/aid-is-hardly-an-act-of-great-generosity-effectiveness

Obligations to Individuals or Communities?

 

afe.easia.columbia.edu

One of the chapters in our book this week was devoted to obligations and the role they play with our morality and ethical code.  The author gave numerous examples of how we encounter conflicts of obligation between work and our personal lives.  How do we deal with conflicts of obligation on a bigger scale?  Countries in Africa as well as China, to name a few, have problems with population control.  Africa’s problem stems from contraception not being widely available along with the uneducated nature of several countries on the continent.  Nevertheless, China’s problems are a little different.  China’s population continues to grow exponentially despite the economic standards in the country as well as the lifestyle of many of its citizens.  China’s current population is about 1.35 billion.  To put this in perspective, the world population is around 7 billion.  The world has a population growth problem, but China’s is in dire straits now.  What is the solution?

The Chinese government has had policies in the past, referred to as the “one child policy,” which mandated families only have one child.  This would regulate the population’s replacement rate.  What is the problem with this kind of policy?  A government, especially a “Democratic” government as the PRC claims itself to be, has obligations to the country as a whole but also to its individual citizens.  A democratic government is first and foremost by the people and for the people.  Along with these democratic ideals, come certain “inalienable” liberties and rights, as Locke described.  People have the right to live out their lives to the way they see fit as long as it does not interfere with the way others live their lives.  But, there is a serious problem with population control.  Does the Chinese government have the obligation to regulate the population and infringe on basic freedoms or to not infringe on the basic freedoms of its people and look for other solutions?  The one child policy has resulted in increased abortion rates and female infanticide.  The policy will continue to be a part of legislation until at least 2015.  The Chinese government decided that population control was more important than individual freedoms?  What if this was you?  In my opinion, individual freedoms are always more important than other obligations.  There are usually other solutions besides restricting freedoms, which seems like the “easy” thing to do.

What’s a better solution?  It is reported than 51 percent of China’s population lives in urban areas and that number continues to grow.  The natural link made would be that population growth is stagnating.  This is not the case because much of the population living in rural areas has low paying jobs which are linked to the culture of having many children.  My solution would be for China to look to ways to grow its middle class.  This is the best solution for the future.  Citizens of the middle class tend to be more educated which is linked to having fewer children.  Am I asking for a lot in terms of lifestyle change? -yes.  But I am not willing to relinquish individual freedoms, because I believe this is the highest obligation of society.

http://ventureburn.com/2013/04/chinas-growth-is-not-in-decline-heres-why/

Ethical Analysis: Why Does it Seem Like No One Does It?

  

     It is important to understand the basics of ethical analysis.  We owe it not to just ourselves but society as a whole, to take the time to gather facts and dissect reasoning before we come to a well thought-out conclusion.  I think our book does a decent job at providing some basic rules on how to analyze ethical issues, such as gathering the details of the case, identifying relevant material, and determining possible routes.  However, the book does not give good examples of how this process is actually enacted.

     The author gives an example of a professor with a student, who is a star on the football team and is also failing the professor’s class.  The author weighs out the options of failing the student, which would result in him not being able to play in the big game, or passing him, since the football team is so good and needs him to win.  The author fails to address the all of the professor’s responsibility as an educator.  He addresses the professor’s responsibility of equality for all of his students, but does not discuss the professor’s responsibility to making sure his students are successful.  This student-athlete may not be good at mathematics, but he could play professional football one day.  Not allowing this player to play the game could hurt his chances of becoming a professional.  In my belief, the professor has the responsibility to look out for his student’s future.  His student may not be good at anything besides football.  Do not punish him for his inefficiencies, but rather help him establish himself in the field in which he does achieve on the football field.  Professors have the duty to make sure their students make something of themselves, if given the opportunity.

     In the article below, studies show that women are overwhelmingly discouraged by ethical dilemmas often associated with businesses, like bosses taking credit for their employees’ work.  The chapter also references our obligations in ethical dilemmas and issues.  One of those obligations is to respect and understand the beliefs and stances of all relative parties.  If we are ever going to solve the problem of sexism in the workplace, especially with big business, we must take into account the dynamic of workplace politics.  Change of the behavior causes change of the demographical problems.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/women-in-business-discouraged-by-ethical-dilemmas_n_3015822.html

Affirmative Action- Does Racism Combat Racism?

     When it comes to issues like affirmative action, it is important to hear arguments from relevant actors.  As a white male who applied to college only two years ago, I believe my opinion is relevant to the affirmative action debate.  Everyone knows that race is a consideration when it comes to college acceptance.  Is it fair that someone who has the same qualities as me, is considered more based on his/her race?  In this context, I view affirmative action as reverse discrimination.  At this point in society, I think institutions such as universities and colleges consider all applicants equally.  The only reason for this policy currently is to ensure equality of opportunity to combat discrimination.  I do not see a purpose for this at the university level.  There are some proponents that believe all institutions still behave in a discriminatory manner.
     I can agree that some institutions would behave in a discriminatory manner without preventative measures such as the Civil Rights Act.  Earlier this year, there were advocates for eliminating a small part of the Civil Rights Act.  This prompted a discussion as to eliminating the legislation as a whole.  Many members of the African American community were against this notion, believing that the problems the Civil Rights Act set out to solve would come back into existence.  I agree that racism has not been eliminated to an extent in which the Civil Rights Act is not needed.  However, there are employers who are hesitant to hire minorities because of fear of lawsuits against them, if a employment termination were to occur.  The Civil Rights Act gives protection to minorities to fight wrongful termination, but many employers have been wronged by wrongful termination suits.  Often, race has been used as a weapon in these suits.  Is it right for employers to not hire minorities in fear of future legal action if termination occurs- no.  Is it right for people to use their race as a weapon- no.  As a whole, I believe affirmative action is still needed.  However, there are problems that exist within the system. Hopefully, the need for affirmative action will diminish in the near future.
     Here is a link about the review of the Voting Rights Act that is also very pertinent.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/04/justice/holder-voting-rights-act/