Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Censorship

Tapping Philosophy: Censorship
Gross Generalization: People like often like to say what they cannot or should not say. Hence, for as long as there has been culture, or at least the idea of social expression and norms, from negative theology to (the very entertaining) South Park, there has been the idea of censorship.

We should certainly examine the merits of this assumption, to see if culture is possible without censorship, but I think we will have trouble finding any historical examples of such a culture. If censorship is inseparable from culture, and thus at the limits of what can be said in a culture, is it that radical of a move to claim that censorship defines culture? If we look at censorship as the limits of a culture, is censorship the condition of possibility for culture to begin with? Is a culture of censorship compatible with a culture of democracy, or the first amendment? Perhaps culture is constituted by more elements than communication and expression, but this is a possibility that I think should be examined nonetheless.
Some other, perhaps less problematic questions that can be addressed include: Who are those that traditionally hold the capability of censorship within a given culture, and what are some possible motivations that they could have in the use of censorship? What have been some consequences of those who have been historically censored? What are some of the traditional methodologies of censorship, and are there any particular case studies of large silences within history that are worth examining?

So far, most of this topic has been about censorship as a form of cultural and social suppression. Freud examines a form of repressive censorship where the value systems derived from the conscious subject repress hidden desires of the unconscious subject, and the tension between these two forces results in the distorted and fragmented expression of the unconscious, which are dreams. Would it be possible to implement this model of distortion to understand how some people participate in their culture in ways that could be objectively understood as irrational and destructive, and are their any historical examples that might fit this schema?

Edit: I thought it prudent in light of one of my recent readings that we open the possibility of engaging Herman and Chomsky’s criticism of the media in the 80’s with the propaganda model. Herman and Chomsky claim that the media has a vested interest in propagating the status quo, primarily due to the large financial investment required to begin a corporation, corporate investment of advertisement as a primary income source, and close ties with the government. As a result, the news is configured in such a way that only certain stories receive benefits of exposure due to repetition on a large scale. I’ll end on a quote so that it’s apparent how this better fits within the context of the topic:

“Most biased choices in the media arise from the preselection of right-thinking people, internalized preconceptions, and adaptation of the personnel to the constraints of ownership, organization, market, and political power. Censorship is largely self-censorship, by reports and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organizational requirements, and by people at higher levels within media organizations who are chosen to implement, and usually have internalized, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centers of power”

-Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent

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