SUMMARY: When there’s a veil in front of us, it’s impossible to see the whole picture. Fine lines and details that are critical components to empowered decision-making are obscured. When what we see and hear is tainted, filtered through the lens of censorship, our choices are not birthed from authenticity. We must fight to remove the veils that blind us.
By Jennifer Wolff-Gillispie HWP, LC
What does it mean to be censored?
Dictionary.com defines censor as “an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, and cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military or other grounds.”
For many, the idea of being censored is a far cry from the American dream. Many people grew up in an America that was seen through patriotic eyes. An America that although imperfect, at its best, sought ways to allow people to be free and prosperous. Censorship was relegated to other countries or historical times where sanctimonious leaders withheld information from the masses or burned books that did not align with their malign agenda.
Ideas Became Weapons
Information was suppressed while people were encouraged to “carry on” with business as usual. Names like Stalin and Hitler come to mind when censorship is discussed. One of the biggest book burnings from the not so distant past of 1933, took place under Hitler’s regime. What was in those books that was so dangerous they had to be obliterated? IDEAS.
One would think the books were radical publications on overthrowing a government or committing terrorist acts, but they were not. Most were fictional books that presented new ideas like time travel and utopian societies, stories about times of war, and perspectives on politics. During an era where half the civilized world was feeling the oppression of a maniacal dictator, ideas became weapons.
“Reality” Is Your Perspective
When WWII ended, most of the world still reeling from that terror, vowed to live and uphold a world that was free for all people. However, ideas like indecency and obscenities kept courts and regulatory agencies busy policing the airwaves for offenders, while they were writing new policies to control them.
With the advent of the digital age, instantly there became more to monitor. America couldn’t possibly allow good people, especially children, to get hurt. Not on “our” watch. But almost immediately there was a new concern—who would monitor and censor information on the internet?
Of course there are national agencies that rightfully monitor for illegal activities, but what about ideas that may be unpopular or even unfounded? When does an idea become dangerous? One may assert that it’s a matter of opinion. Even the most benign ideas can spark the rage of a madman, yet the most dangerous of ideas only linger in the imagination of the righteous.
Truth and Consequences: Lies and Consequences
Today we are faced with an ever-growing threat. In a time of manufactured content— “catfishing,” altered photos, CGI, and deepfakes,—the internet is littered with untruths. The amount of content that is false may indeed outweigh the facts, yet information flows freely.
Artificial Intelligence is also being employed across social media platforms to manipulate your “information diet,” subtly swaying your psychology and playing on your ego, which is eagerly looking for more “likes.”
Within the last 5 years there has been a huge push for media/social media to employ “fact checkers” that promote correctness in reporting, but how does one fact check an opinion? Can an opinion ever be untrue?
Information revealed with no set precedent, seemingly unfounded, might simply be ripe before its time. Is it also possible there is information being shared which certain groups or individuals don’t want to be revealed? For many that answer is a resounding YES.
There have been multiple instances over the last 100 years in America, when our government and independent companies or agencies purposely withheld (censored) life-saving information from the American people: tobacco industry research/findings, the Tuskegee Experiment, the Ford Pinto coverup, Raybestos-Manhattan coverup, Santa Susana Field Laboratory contamination, Erin Brockovich vs. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and “Simpsonwood,” to name a handful.
It took committed people with strong resolve to go up against these major powerhouses to tell the truth; all while being targeted, harassed, and threatened. The same is true today.
Please Blow Your Whistle
People DO speak up, some of which are whistleblowers, coming forward to blow the lid off deception at the highest levels of government, and from inside the agencies that were put in place to protect us.
If everyday people are censored from sharing their lived experiences, one might argue we are NOT free. Are we destined to live in a society that only promotes a preapproved, single-minded, one-sided agenda? We should all hope the answer is no.
The free world depends on the circulation of free-flowing ideas. Truths and facts are ever-changing constructs that cannot be solely dictated by people in positions of power. “We the people” must have our best interests in mind; this is a PROACTIVE practice.
If we’re to have the opportunity to navigate this world in a way that allows all people to have a voice, censorship has no place. We must continue to meet censorship head-on, with as much disapproval as we put toward the information we do not agree with. Our liberties must stand stronger than our sensibilities.
Let Wisdom Lead
When we look to the past and heed the words of those who came before us, we can learn from their struggles and triumphs. Allowing our rights of free speech to dissolve in one generation, would suggest the “greats” toiled and risked their lives in vain. Instead, we can stand together and embody the wise words of the freedom fighters and activists who were fierce and unrelenting.
In the words of Voltaire/Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
The great Martin Luther King Jr.: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, and political activist:
“All censorship exists to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
Let’s cease being participants—unintentionally or not—in our own censorship. Some of us have been lazy, and perhaps failed to pay attention, but we are NOT stupid. The solution is to take our power back! Share your ideas, and those from brave journalists, researchers, and individuals who have fought for truth, regardless of social media push back.
Use and support sites that encourage free speech, such as Parler, Substack, and Telegram. One of the most powerful things you can do to fight against censorship, is to look to the people in your city, county, and state who support your right to free speech, and in turn, support them. Our future freedoms (and those of future generations) are dependent on us standing up and letting our voices be heard.
Published on September 15, 2022
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