At the beginning of the 20th century, American historian Henry Steele Commager wrote, “Censorship always defeats it own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.” Other authors have also asserted that censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence and tests democracy.
A century later, we are still struggling with censorship. For us, the word embodies the examination of speech, books, music, films (and other art forms), the press, radio, television, and the Internet by the government in order to suppress questionable material. Governments cite different reasons for censorship including national security, obscenity, pornography, hate speech, promoting or restricting political or religious views, as well as preventing slander and protecting intellectual property. Censorship, however, is not always legal and the line is often blurry. Take Kuwait for example. Books, movies and magazines are officially examined by the government and the socially unacceptable parts are suppressed – or in extreme cases, banned. When one books tickets to watch a movie in Kuwait, it is in the full knowledge that it is a censored movie. We pay to allow someone to infringe on our rights. We pay, time and again, to watch a movie that has been cut and tailored to fit someone else’s morals.