October 27, 2013
Have you ever been listening to the radio and heard a “beeeeep” in some parts of the song you’re listening to? You know, the annoying sound that interrupts the song? The sound is a familiar one among those of us that listen to the radio, in particular Rap/hip-hop music stations. This noise is heard because it’s used to bleep out/censor the word that was previously there; the word was most likely ‘bad’ or offensive. Censorship is a growing concern for our society, whether it’s because of the lack of censorship or too much. To understand censorship, it’s important that you know exactly what it is. According to an article by Jonathan Alter, “Let’s Stop Crying Wolf on Censorship” he believes that too many people are classifying something as censorship when in fact it isn’t. “If a record-company executive or an art gallery owner or a book publisher declines to disseminate something, that's not censorship, it's judgment” (Alter 67) Alter wants to get a point across that you can’t just cry “Censorship” every time something is changed, which a lot of people are doing. He tries to connect editing an article and changing song lyrics, and identify them as essentially the same thing. “If an editor wants to change the text of an article about ghetto life, that's editing. But if a rap producer wants to change sociopathic lyrics, that's seen as censorship.” (67) If you think about this, it makes sense. How would an editor wanting to change an article be classified any differently than a rap producer wanting to change lyrics? Why is changing the lyrics seen as censorship, but changing the article seen as editing? Alter also makes a strong point that censorship is induced solely by the government, “Real censorship is when the government--the government--bans books in school libraries, prosecutes artists and writers for their work, seizes pornography, exercises prior restraint.” (67) After reading all of this you might start to question yourself (just as I did), what exactly is censorship? The dictionary definition of censorship is defined as the following: the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body. According to the definition of censorship, in all reality Alters arguments are invalid. Censorship doesn’t only exist by means of the government; it can very well exist anywhere including in music and by producers. If a rap producer wants to change sociopathic lyrics, it’s most likely because those lyrics are found harmful or objectionable. In that case, requiring the music artist to change those lyrics is indeed censorship. Every day in the rap music industry artists get their music tweaked around. An artist may be asked to change a certain word or words before his/her song is released, to provide an entire different version of the song (explicit/non-explicit), or the song could even be rejected altogether. When an artist’s song plays on the radio words that are deemed offensive are bleeped out. All of these things are censorship. An artist is required to change his/her original meaning and intended lyrics for a song, to something that is more “appropriate” or accepted. When an artist’s music is bleeped out on the radio, it often makes the song difficult to understand. It isn’t fair to ask an artist to change the lyrics they originally had, nor does it make sense. If you take the word out that the artist originally had and put pickle in its place, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s changing the artist’s original meaning for the song. Now with that being said, things that aren’t seen as wrong/offensive aren’t censored in songs, but where exactly should the line between wrong and offensive be drawn? Some things could be seen as offensive and taken the wrong way, when really the artist had an entirely different meaning. This can...
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