Censorship and Censoring
Censoring encompasses both the institutionalized acts of the powerful and those of ordinary individuals: everyone censors their own or another's behaviour from time to time, and for such an occasion they can be justly described as a censor; but the title is temporary and contingent upon the occasional act of censoring. All kinds of tabooed behaviour are subject to censoring, but only certain kinds are subject to censorship – for instance, child pornography is subject to both censorship and to censoring; but picking your nose in public is subject only to censoring. Language is constantly subject to censoring: an individual who does not censor their language, and so normally says whatever first enters their head without considering the circumstances of utterance, is deemed mentally unstable. Censorship is the suppression or prohibition of speech, writing and other behaviour condemned as subversive of the common good. It flourishes in a climate of fear. Censorship puts untoward power into the hands of people who are by inclination illiberal and unlikely to be artistically creative or broadly schooled, and whose judgment is open to error, fashion, whim, and corruption. As Tacitus said, banned writings are eagerly sought and read; censorship fails to prevent people intent on flouting it. There is no evidence that reading works such as the Marquis de Sade's "Juliette" has in fact caused debauchery or torture; as long as mankind as been in existence there has been sexual perversion, child abuse, rape, torture, mutilation and murder – mostly by people who had never heard of Sade and certainly not read him. There is no evidence that censorship protects the society rather than imposing a repressive ideology upon us that restricts our behaviour needlessly. Do we trust in individual responsibility to the society as a whole, or do we instead favour the 'nanny state'?
Keywords: Censoring, Censorship, Killing, Language Taboos, Obscenity, Politeness, Sade, Terrorism
Dr Keith Allan
Reader in Linguistics, Linguistics Program, Monash University