Censorship

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Phil Turner
Philosophy
02/14/2012

Censorship

Should the government censor media, literature, and the internet?
Censorship has been a major controversy in the United States even before it was country. In 1734 a New York newspaper printer, John Peter Zenger, publicly bashed the current ruler at the time and was imprisoned. He was defended by Alexander Hamilton who made his famous speech “truth can't be libel.” This case led to freedom of speech to be added to the Declaration of Independence. Even with the first amendment being in the constitution censorship has still been around in America and is only getting worse. Currently the government is trying to make laws to monitor what you can do on the internet. While there motives are to protect certain business's it still raises the question when has censorship gone too far? In 2012 America was the 47th ranked country in terms of press freedom in a survey done yearly by the organization Reporters Without Borders. The increase of censorship has had many opinions a lot of people are happy with the government’s decision to increase censorship because they feel the government is just protecting its citizens. Others however are against it saying it violates the first amendment and is bad for society. One of the most outspoken people about censorship is philosophy professor David Ward. David Ward has taught philosophy at many universities including the university of Illinois and Widener University. He has written many papers on why the government shouldn't censor the media, literature, and the internet.

        Before I go into David Wards' papers let us get a little understanding on censorship. Censorship actually dates back to well before Columbus set foot on America. It goes back to the dawn of civilization there has always been a struggle of what if anything should be blocked for the better good of the people. When leaders try to censor certain things they are more often than not trying to protect people from certain things. The goal isn’t to punish people or make their lives harder the government is just trying to act in the best interest of all. The problem is very few people like to be told what they can and can’t do, which is why censorship Is always met with conflict. The definition from Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.” The problem with that is who defines what is objectionable is? Should the government? Should god? There is no right answer which leads to a lot of problems with censorship. What one person thinks should be censored another might not. The first amendment gives us freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. These are some of our most important rights. Does censorship violate these rights? David Ward thinks so and that's why he's strongly petitioned to end censorship. “Censorship is wrong because it makes it less likely that truth will be discovered or preserved, and it is wrong because it has destructive consequences for the intellectual character of those who live under it.” David Ward says this in his paper Philosophical Issues in Censorship and Intellectual Freedom. This is one of the most powerful quotes from his paper and shows his strong belief in this issue. It raises a good questions can the truth be reached with censorship and how much does censorship alter the truth? Thinking about that is interesting are we be denied the truth by the government? Ward also says “the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute...
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