WHY I HATE CENSORSHIP

by

Peter J. Mancus,

Owner, www.wowthewonderofwomen.com

Retired Attorney-at-Law

Sebastopol, California

pmancus@comcast.net

707-703-9210

Background

I define censor as used here, as a noun, to mean this: 1) an official who examines any tangible form of communication for the purpose of suppressing or deleting parts to suppress and/or to advance a preferred orthodoxy, whose conduct chills the free expression of ideas, manipulates the free expression of ideas, controls the free market of ideas, intimidates disfavored persons and/or promotes and insulates favored persons from criticism; 2) a private person who, while lacking governmental power, exercises his/her rights of free speech and/or freedom of association to express a negative opinion of anyone’s expression of ideas in any form.

I define censure as used here, as a verb, to mean this: 1) any strong or vehement expression of disapproval by a government, a government official and/or a private person, regardless of legality; 2) criticism, reprimand, rebuke, or reproach done harshly; 3) suppressing, banning, outlawing, and/or confiscating any tangible or intangible communication of ideas in any form.

I define censorship as used here, as a noun, to mean: the act or practice of censoring.

I hate censorship. I am also leery of censors.

I champion a maximum measure of unfettered free expression of ideas, in any medium [written, visual, electronic] per these core beliefs that I hold dear: 1) Some of the most precious and vital “blessings of liberty” that are supposed to be secured for American citizens by the U.S. Constitution include the broad rights of “Free Speech”, “Freedom of Association” and “Right to Pursue Happiness”; 2) Like cream that rises to the top, when and where there is robust, uncensored, “Free Speech”, the best ideas, eventually, will and do, secure favor in the public market place of ideas; and 3) As a sweeping generalization, the best and most effective remedy for “bad” and/or “dangerous” ideas is more “Free Speech”, not censorship to promote any government’s or any private actor’s preference.

Americans have a fairly complicated form of government. Sadly, many Americans do not correctly understand the U.S. Constitution, have not read it, do not reason correctly from or to it, don’t care what it says, and have no intent to obey the USA’s “supreme law of the land”.

Here is a real life example that illustrates my point. Years ago, I saw and heard Sam Donaldson, a TV reporter assigned to cover the White House, discuss his views about the First Amendment’s guarantee of “Freedom of the Press”. I was shocked when Donaldson said he construed this part of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of . . . the press . . . .” to mean this: He, as a member of “the press”, has an absolute, literal, categorical, constitutional right to report, and to disclose, anything to the public, with absolute immunity from punishment, regardless of the circumstances. Mr. Donaldson articulated this example to support his opinion: If he were a reporter in 1944 and he found out what were the Allies’ plans for the invasion of Europe to liberate Europeans from Nazi control, he, per his “Free Press” right, would have been 100% free to report to the world, including Hitler and his senior military commanders, the exact time and place for the Allies’ plans to attack!

I disagree. I would have censored Donaldson because he, inexplicably, expressed a grossly foolish opinion and made a fundamental mistake: He focused on one part of the U.S. Constitution—his “Free Press” right, in isolation, but it is axiomatic that to construe the U.S. Constitution correctly one most correctly construe it as a whole.

Donald, recklessly and incompetently and/or arrogantly, ignored and did not factor in what the U.S. Constitution says about treason. In my opinion, Donaldson’s approach smacks of treason as defined in the U.S. Constitution. Art. III, Sec. 3 defines treason as: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” [Emphasis added by me.]

If Donaldson had revealed General Eisenhower’s [Supreme Allied Commander] plans for invading Europe, before the event, he would have exceeded his “Free Press” rights because he would have committed treason by giving Hitler and his armed forces substantial “aid and comfort” by telling them the Allies will invade on X date at Y place. By so reporting to the public, there would be at least “two witnesses” to his “overt act” of him giving Nazis “aid and comfort” in the guise of him exercising his “Free Press” right.

I doubt if the men tasked to participate in the invasion, or their loved ones back in the USA, would agree with Donaldson that his “Free Press” rights extend as far as he claims.

This conflict of views between Donaldson and myself is an example of how the public market place of ideas works best when it is allowed to function unfettered, with absolute minimal interference, especially by government officials.

I have felt censorship’s sting: 1) In college, “academic freedom” was a snare because some professors functioned as egomaniacal, condescending, pseudo intellectual, despots who reduced “academic freedom” to a trap; 2) when I worked as a lawyer I encountered too many judges who usurped and substituted their opinions and policy choices for what was the controlling law; 3) disingenuous elected officials who usurp, after I criticized them publicly, maliciously twisted what I said to try to marginalize me, make me look unhinged, intimidate me, and gag me; 3) relatives and so called friends have put me on probation and disassociated themselves when I failed to wear their yoke and conform to their norms [their rules?] for how they want me to behave; 4) most of my Christian friends criticized me when I began to photograph artistic nude models; 5) many of my friends and people I know not only do not have the courage of their convictions they don’t have convictions, and they just “go with the flow”; 6) peer group pressure is another form of censorship: either yield to the group or risk expulsion and ridicule; 7) the senior management of Smug Mug, where I originally had my WOW THE WONDER OF WOMEN art nude Internet site, after I spent 1.5 years investing my valuable time and energy to improve that site, told me—firmly—I had to make all galleries that showed nudity 100% non-public and 100% non-searchable, which destroyed the viability of that site, so . . . . I fled Smug Mug; and 8) I hate anyone who acts or thinks they have a mighty fine ass and they can willy nilly sit on my back and ride me into the ground. Any one who approaches me that way is bucked off.

Censorship is frustrating because it is a manifestation of people control and people control is anti-liberty and anti-individual freedom.

Censorship triggers fundamental questions: 1) Is it wise to allow anyone to tell you how to live?; 2) Is it wise to empower anyone with actual authority to control what you say, see or hear?; 3) Who, if anyone, do you have enough confidence in to elevate to have the right to deny you “the blessings of liberty” and your inalienable “Right to Pursue Happiness”; 4) How should you respond to a censor’s censorship: Accept or resist? If resist, how: Firmly? Violently? Logically? Non-violently?; and 5) Why would you react the way you would?

Ignorance, arrogance, ego, bias, personality, governance, and competency—or the lack thereof—play major roles in the decision to censor or not censor and how to react to censorship or a censor.

Many people are rigid, uninformed, misinformed, uneducated, and judgmental, and many have different understandings of “right and wrong”, different levels of “tolerance”, and different levels of “competency”. Some are libertine and others are rigid; some are incompetent; others, competent.

There are four levels of competency—from lowest to highest: 1) A person is so totally incompetent they do not appreciate that fact. [This type knows so little they tend to be quick to see everything in stark black and white terms, and they also tend to be absolutely certain that their views are correct. This type tends to see no gray because they know so little, do not comprehend the nuances and complexities involved, and wrongly assume that the limits of what they know co-extend with all there is to know.]; 2) A person knows they are incompetent. [This is progress!]; 3) A person is marginally competent but has to rely on a checklist because their mastery of X is not ingrained; and 4) A person is a master, meaning they comprehensively know their subject, thoroughly, inside and out, and could handle a complex situation if drunk and swinging upside down.

These four types tend to have different approaches to censorship.

I wrote this document and complied the anti-censorship quotations, below, to highlight the problem of censorship, to sensitize others, and try to raise them to a high level of understanding, so they become more tolerant and accepting of ideas they might otherwise want to suppress.

Tolerance is the opposite of intolerance, control, rigidity, and suppression.

I prefer tolerance and “live and let live”; however, unlike European Jews who abhorred violence and tolerated Hitler’s Nazis so much they laid down to receive a bullet to the head or they walked into ditches or gas chambers to be executed, I do not embrace a foolish quality of tolerance. I have convictions and a real “bottom line”. As such, when the censor, or a tyrannical majority, seeks to subjugate me, if necessary, I will fight to keep my bone and my place on the porch, with an unobstructed view and no leash that ties me down to another’s arbitrary stake in the ground.

I embrace this part of the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence: “. . . But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their security. . . . .” [Emphasis added by me.]

Many in name only Americans [and many so called “Free World” people] hate liberty, hate freedom, want to control others, poke their nose into others’ areas of legitimate autonomy, and are miserable if they cannot control or intimidate others into submission. But, everything not under government control is not out of control, and most people should just mind their own business.

There is such a thing as “the tyranny of the majority”. The majority can, and often does, function as an arrogant, mean, stupid, drunk with power, oppressive, gang, with the uncritical, myopic, self-serving blessings of their conscience, if any, and, more probably, with the blessings of their ignorance and intolerant prejudices.

The most effective way to get me to change, or to conform to anyone’s norms, is simple: Convince me on the merits I am wrong and the recommended alternative is wiser or better. Fail to do that and I know of no convincing reason why I should let you control me.

There is awesome wisdom in the anti-censorship quotations which I compiled, below.

If you value your freedom and wisdom, I recommend you read and ponder these quotations and adjust how you live and think.

As you grow older, I hope you become wiser and more mature.

ANTI-CENSORSHIP QUOTATIONS

Censorship is Dangerous and Despotic

Progress generally begins in skepticism about accepted Pro
“Progress generally begins in skepticism about accepted truths. Intellectual freedom means the right to re-examine much that has been long taken for granted. A free man must be a reasoning man, and he must dare to doubt what a legislative or electoral majority may most passionately assert. The danger that citizens will think wrongly is serious, but less dangerous than atrophy from not thinking at all. . . . The priceless heritage of our society is the unrestricted constitutional right of each member to think as he will. Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism, and we have no claim to it. It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.” [Emphasis added by me.]
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, dissenting, in Communications Assn. v. Douds (1950) 339 U.S. 382, 442-443

“What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.”
— Thomas Sowell

“. . . to impose what you believe is true for you upon all men, indeed upon a single individual—that is despotism.”
—Thomas S. Szasz

“Where there is official censorship, it is a sign that speech is serious. Where there is none, it is pretty certain that the official spokesmen have all the loudspeakers.”
— Paul Goodman

“The dread of censure is the death of genius.”
— William G. Simms

“Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.”
—Jonathan Swift

“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
— John Stuart Mill

Community Censorship is Too Loose and Dangerous

“Any test that turns on what is offensive to the community’s standards is too loose, too capricious, too destructive of freedom of expression to be squared with the First Amendment. Under that test, juries can censor, suppress, and punish what they don’t like, provided the matter relates to ‘sexual impurity’ or has a tendency ‘to excite lustful thoughts’. This is community censorship in one of its worse forms.”
—William O. Douglas

Community Censors = Gang

“No matter whose lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves. If there is anything in the universe that can’t stand discussion, let it crack.”
— Wendell Phillips

No Censorship is the First Condition for Progress

“All censorship exist 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. There is the whole case against censorship in a nutshell.”
—George Bernard Shaw

Censorship’s Limits

“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”
— John Morley

“He who complies against his will, is of his own opinion still.”
— Samuel Butler

Ideas Cannot be Incarcerated

“Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ides is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.”
—Whitney Griswold

“You can cage the singer but not the song.”
— Harry Belafonte

The Danger of Unchallenged Orthodoxy

“Free speech has been preserved, but its effective existence is disastrously curtailed if the more important means of publicity are only open to opinions which have the sanctions of orthodoxy.”
—Bertrand Russell
Best Solution for Bad Ideas

“Where opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.”
—Thomas Paine

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
— Louis D. Brandeis

“For God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides.”
— Thomas Jefferson

To Escape Censorship is Essential

“A man’s first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart; his next, to escape the censures of the world.”
—Joseph Addison

Americans Can Speak Freely Without Fear

“America is a free market for people who have something to say, and need not fear to say it.”
—Hubert H. Humphrey

“The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think what we like and say what we think.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

“. . . the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
— William J. Brennan, Jr.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
— Robert H. Jackson

“Intellectual freedom means the right to re-examine much that has been long taken for granted. A free man must be a reasoning man, and he must dare to doubt what a legislative or electoral majority may most passionately assert.”
—Robert H. Jackson

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— George Orwell

“No one deserves punishment for his thoughts.”
—Latin saying

“Give me the liberty to know to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
—John Milton

“The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right to think as much as the strongest in the land.”
— Clarence Darrow

Americans’ Right to Criticize Public Officials

“I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticize their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of the office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to loose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.”
— Woodrow Wilson

Censor’s Excuse to Murder Under Color of Law

“Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.”
—Cardinal Richelieu

Hostility Against Tyranny Over Free Thinking

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
—Thomas Jefferson

“Almighty God hath created the mind free.”
—Thomas Jefferson

“If there is anything that cannot bear free thought, let it crack.”
—Wendell Phillips

Censorship is the Dictator’s Weapon

“The weapon of the dictator is not so much propaganda as censorship.”
—Terence H. Qualter

He Who Yields to Censorship is a Slave

“He who endeavors to control the mind by force is a tyrant, and he who submits is a slave.”
—Robert G. Ingersoll

Control Freaks

“Some who are too scrupulous to steal your possessions nevertheless see no wrong in tampering with your thoughts.”
— Kahlil Gibran

Pondering Certainty

“To refuse a hearing to an opinion because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” [Emphasis in the original.]
— John Stuart Mill

The Cost of Censorship

“If there had been a censorship of the press in Rome, we should have had today neither Horace nor Juvenal, not the philosophical writings of Cicero.”
— Voltaire

Freedom to Offend

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
— Salman Rushdie

Society’s Lack of Confidence

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”
— Potter Stewart

Self-Censorship

“Self-censorship silences as effectively as a government decree.”
—Tom Wicker

Friend’s Silence = Censure

“The silence of a friend commonly amounts to treachery. His not daring to say anything on our behalf implies a tacit censure.”
— William Hazlitt

If Free Expression for Another Worth Your Death?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I well defend to the death your right to say it.”
— Voltaire

Who Speaks Freely?

“Kings and fools speak freely.”
— Dutch saying