Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Word About Censorship


A commenter writes:

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” — Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

Also a hallmark of Webutante.


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I am flattered by your compliment and remain, happily, guilty as charged.

When I was a newspaper reporter a long time ago, I met the First Amendment for the first time. I may have thought I understood it before then, but I didn't. Not really. Today I probably have more to learn, but I've now come to believe there is nothing more misunderstood by the citizens of our country than the First Amendment. And of the issue of censorship. And the huge differences between personal and government censorship.

Censorship, in our free, democratic world, has for the most part, been taken out of the realm of the government and put in the hands of individual citizens.

The magnificent concept of individual censorship also has another name: free speech. Free speech not only means I can say, write, think, watch, ingest, buy and read what I want---within the limits of the law---it also means I can discern and decline what I choose to think, write, watch and read.

I can and do write what I want here within the bounds of the law and my own sense of propriety, but just as important, no one is compelled to read a thing I say here. Amazing!

I can accept or reject comments for good reason, or no reason at all! Even on a whim. And call it what you may, I am guilty as charged. The Constitution guarantees me this ineffable privilege.

We individuals live and breathe individual choices and censorship thousands of times each day. I censor what I eat, who my friends are, what I blog and don't blog and who I publish in my comments section. Rarely I do reject a comment, sometimes for content and other times for taste. The First Amendment guarantees this right to me and you, but it doesn't and can't guarantee our feelings will never be hurt, or that we won't sometimes be offended.

Others have the same privilege. I may not always agree or like their censorship choices, even when they might censor me, but I staunchly defend their right to disagree with me, censor me and even reject me, even when I think it is uncalled for. The shoe of personal censorship fits both feet.

The First Amendment gives me the individual right of first refusal, so to speak. And guess what, Oh Anonymous Commenter, I can and do exercise that right for good reason, or for no reason at all on this blog.

It gives me the right to walk away, turn off the remote, delete or block an e-mail, refuse to respond to a caller. Remain silent. Be offended, and on and on and on.

And that's good news for you too. Because, if I don't publish your comment, you may still publish it on your own blog for anyone else to read, or not read, as they so choose.

That's freedom within the limits of our law, for that I am most thanbkful. And hopefully you are too.

So, Mr. Anonymous, I'm on my way to a day of personal censorship in myriad ways, and I hope you are too. If you don't like my censorship choices, then you certainly have The First Amendment's permission to walk away from me and my little choices.

Best wishes.

The Pope uses his First Pope Right to condemn and dissuade.

8 comments:

hg said...

You go girl! As a wordsmith, you are far more accomplished than the vast majority of so-called journalists around today. And far more thoughtful, i.e. a complete understanding of the First Amendment.A shame you're not in a teaching position in a journalism school.

w said...

goodness gracious, HG, thank you......but between you and me, I'd rather be teaching in some fishingism school somewhere....know what I mean, Jellybean?

Jungle Mom said...

Web, Jackie posted fotos of the gifts you sent if you would like to see them.

w said...

thank you for letting me know...

Ellen said...

Clearly there is a pattern. Conservative christian bloggers tend to delete comments far more readily than liberal bloggers. It says more about them than they are willing to admit.

As the Justice Stewart stated, it's fits the authoritarian profile of denialism and you are free to exercise your right to be a denialist.

When these deletions are to avoid valid points, facts and discussion, I call it cowardice.

Webutante said...

Censorship/discernment in our lives always says more about the person making the choice.

In the past 14 months, I've banned one commenter from my blog and it was not because of some hidden truth that threated my own truth and that I wanted to deny....it was because he made too many comments too quickly and became emotionally unhinged. And I ended the conversation.

Having differences of opinion is always welcome and keeps things on its toes. And there are always places that I will draw the line.

Jungle Mom said...

I have deleted comments. One was threatening me and my children. The others are for unnecessary use of foul language. I do not wish to share that vocabulary with my other readers who refrain. Some habe even been comments that are in agreement with me!

Bob said...

Thanks for the different slant on the first amendment. Pope Benedict rocks!