[Author’s Note: Started on Saturday, September 14, 2002. Finished on Saturday, October 26, 2002.]
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
–George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
–Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire (1906)
“It is always to be taken for granted, that those who oppose an equality of rights never mean the exclusion should take place on themselves.”
— Thomas Paine, On First Principles of Government (1795)
“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”
— Heinrich Heine, Almansor (1821)
“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”
— John Morley, On Compromise (1874)
If we want to know if someone believes in freedom and liberty, the prophets of creativity and passion, we may simply tell them, “When I told a person my opinion, they resorted to threats and physical violence.” If the person we are telling this to believes in freedom, they will express their absolute horror at such a situation, but if the person does not believe in freedom, then they will ask, “What was the opinion?” As true liberty and freedom does not have borders or restrictions, unless another’s liberty is at risk. If a man becomes the chorus of freedom and sings the songs of happiness, but states it ought to be illegal to express some opinion they believe to be heinous or ghastly or an abomination, then this man is nothing but a hypocrit and a traitor to the advancement of civilization. When a leader says, “You can say anything you want, but you may not say this or this or this,” then it is the beginning of Censorship and the devaluation of opinion. And as they make it illegal for us to open our mouths, they make it illegal for everyone else to open their minds.
Shackles attached to the strings of the heart as much as they are bondaged to the sentiments of the mind, and civilization, and its institutions of art and love and community and peace and freedom, as Censorship advances, civilization becomes crippled and debilitated. When we can no longer sing the song which has enchanted our hearts, unless we are rigidly following the notation of a biased authority, then we are no longer living in freedom, but in the foul chambers of Censorship. There is nothing more obscene when the cry is made that literature is obscene in nature and should be censored. What can honestly be said of a person when they say we are not allowed to think a certain way, or to express our opinions in a way they dislike? What can be said when a Conservative states all Liberal texts should be banned, or when a Christian states all heretical texts should be banned, or when a person states that a radical opinion should be supressed and not heard? If a person wishes to prove that a theory is correct, they should do so openly and using evidence. To silence your opponent and not allow them to argue their case is to disable the advancement of truth and liberty. Those who are desirious of learning the truth and expanding their knowledge of both sides will be disheartened to find that they cannot find a text of anyone who opposes one theory.
The government which approves of Censorship does a disservice to society. The crime stipulated by Censorship is not one of action, but one of knowledge. It is in knowing that we become criminals. And in all of the Totalitarian nations where Censorship is in full force, artists and writers and comedians and musicians and thinkers, or any individual that is part of a creating class, will find themselves to be criminals. Not criminalized because they are the source of some evil, or that they cause misery or distress, but solely because they hold opinions, that they have thoughts, that they are capable of judgments. The members of the criminal class then are not only the poor who have no means of production, but the thinkers, the geniuses, the researchers, the scientists. And as Censorship masquerades as protection, as it continues its love affair with ignorance, all classes of men who find themselves allured to liberty, will detest Censorship against any group, in any form.
There have been thousands who have been persecuted for holding an opinion, let alone expressing the opinion. The church has been notorious for killing heretics all the way into the 20th century, with the death of Francisco Ferrer. The Red Scare and Senator McCarthy spent his political career by destroying others. And there came to be no more smug and cruel an institution as the Unamerican Activities Committee in our modern world. Lives were destroyed and futures were crushed, as the persecutors gained in fame, glory, and wealth. As the bog-god, terrorist machine of government crushed more souls into consumerist fodder for its never-ending goal of control and oppression, the world was thrown into a maddened craze. Even investigation of theories of Communism was tantamount to being recognized as a Communist in the eyes of the government.
What have our lives come to, when there are laws and regulations that say we cannot read certain things, that we cannot think certain things, that we may not question and understand certain things? Can there be any ideology, any belief system, any religion, or philosophy that is so taboo or foreign, that we must not permit anyone to know about it? The idea that is so dangerous that it must be banned from the mind is the idea that does not exist. Censorship of an idea proves nothing. It only proves that someone must resort to physical force to put down their opponents. When someone cannot disprove their opponent with argumentation and evidence, they will resort to Censorship. And it is true that the censor-morons have been responsible for Censorship in all its forms, whether it is the destruction of the printing presses or killing those who hold an opinion.
The gluttonous beast of tyranny will do all in its power to disable and handicap the progression of civilization. It may try to crush our hearts, destroy our desires, and fill us with the idea that hope is vanity, truth is vice, and lust is sin. But before the cruel servants of brutality do anything — before they construct their prisons, before they enforce compulsory education, before they force us to work in dangerous factories, before they tax us so they can support their luxurious lifestyles, before they massacre us in the streets — before the Cyclops of iniquity raises his fist to take a blow at civilization, the first thing he will do is to put a clamp on our lips and our minds. He will burn our libraries, control all means of communication, and will make it punishable to hold or express a taboo opinion. And once Censorship is in place, all sorts of injustices and unfairness may be committed upon the tender flesh of innocence, upon the crying infant of life.
Can it not easily be predicted that these with enough brazen attitude will be met with heartfelt sorrow when they discover tha their questions are illegal? What kind of country would we be living in if questions and their answers are illegal? There may be those in full support of Censorship who will claim that we should remove obscenities from books, and allow only material to be published that respects sacredness. There can be nothing more sacred than liberty and freedom, the mother of inquiry and justice. Among the cruelty of the Censor-morons, there is the vilification of the human body. The Fig-Leaf Campaign is notorious for this. In their never-ending quest to destroy freedom and creativity, only the greatest artists, be they Renassaince men or pornographers, have been persecuted. And by what writ can they claim that our bodies are obscene? Of all things, it is the least obscene! We are all born into this body, this bundle of loosely connected nerves, given the hormones of lust, allowed thought and contemplation. Such a magnificent machine and such a wonderful experience, but upon inspection of this spectacle, the Censor-morons claim it is an obscenity! There is no expression more sincere in its cruelty and outright ignorance, when it claims that we are obscene, disgusting, vile, terrible, horrible, based on the way our bodies look to others. Perhaps if it were humanly possible, they would pass laws making it illegal to see our own nudity.
The question really presented to us is this: can any idea, based on how radical or alternative, be so dangerous that we must silence it? If our means of communication and thought are free, then the journey to truth is only given permission to pass. When we can question everything, present ideas, and express evidence, only then will we have a free and clear view of everything. The just courts of the world will not suppress evidence. By what writ can a just society suppress a view? It is not a question as to who is right or wrong. Many who censor Racists may say it is because they cannot be right. But if it is true that Racism is wrong, then allow it to be observed and investigated. If it is untrue, it’s publication will be detrimental to its cause. But to suppress the opinion, disallow investigation of any opinion, is slavery off thought and destructive to truth. As the noose around our mind tightens, with government regulation, we will find that our liberties in all areas of our lives are degrading.
With excessive harshness, trying to govern what we are allowed to think and what we are allowed to say, we will become indoctrinated into a drone-like trance, without humanity, with creativity, with love or hate. Becoming mindless fools following a set path determined by an unjust power, the ability to carry out justice and fairness will be severly debilitated. Deviation will be punishable. As the crimson sky of vitality and knowledge darkens to a lifeless, breathless mass — as it becomes illegal to investigate and pose questions — as the book fires reach further and further towards the skies and the condition of life sinks lower and lower — and as intelligence becomes a sign of criminality, we wil discover that our lives are without freedom, our minds full of barriers, and the never-ending journey of education has turned into a slug-race. Censorship is our enemy, so much as ignorance, cruelty, and brutality are our enemies.