A Piece of My Mind: Banned Books & Censorship
    
Bennet Pomerantz

Someone pass me a banned book, will ya? By the way, Banned Books Week is September 24-October 1, 2005. Put those dates on your calendars now and lets all start celebrating early!

I thought I would give my opinion on a subject near and dear to my heart. To me, it is an important subject to address, especially to writers. I can only hope as writers you never face the challenge of being censored in any way, shape, or form. It is an ugly little monster when it rears its head. I have faced it a few times...And I don't mean from an editor's hand. If, as writers, we face against public opinion and hopefully, sometimes we should and do...so be it, it does happen! The challenge is special interest groups that wish to put a gag in our collective mouths and stop us from stating our literary opinions.  Those person annoy the crap outta me. So sit back, put your tray table in the upright position and buckle your seat beats for an information ride.

Every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side - Ralph Waldo Emerson

As good almost kill a man as kill a good book . . . Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature: but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself - John Milton

It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers. - Judy Blume

To censor someone from reading a book or watching a film/television show is an annoying display of attempted control over the masses. I get turned inside out when I hear of a school board, a church group or a library system taking out a body of work that seems to someone unsuitable (and what is unsuitable for those  people, does not mean it's unsuitable for all, does it?). This form of censorship, to me, is an ego trip for those in an office of power. And didn't someone once say that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

Such well-known authors as Dr. Seuss, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, J.K. Rowling (yes, Harry Potter made a few communities upset with his books!), Judy Blume, and many others have been banned due to the content of their books. (For a more complete list of banned books, please view this web site: The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990 to 2000. Library boards and school systems seem to want to become parental figures in what a child and sometimes a community reads . Most schools and libraries do not stop the viewing of the internet, where these so called banned books may be viewed, bought, or (dare I say it) read!

And I hate to tell you the facts of life, if someone tries to censor something, whether it is a TV show, a movie or a book . . . It brings more attention to the item. If you want to perk up someone's interest, tell them DON'T and watch them do what you tell them not to. Reverse Psychology is in full effect when you try to stop people from reading or watching something. For example, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was judged by many religious organizations, even before the film's release date. So people flocked to see what everyone was arguing about. Haven't we learned that lesson yet?

Bill Cosby said it best, "When the Lord told Adam NOT to eat from the forbidden tree and he did. It like a child who doesn't listen when you tell them something" Try to censor someone in this day and age, as well as many do still try, is almost impossible. However, it still happens!

So, Do I think it is the parents' right to censor what their children see and watch? Yes I do! It is their right as a guardian to keep children safe. If that means they censor what children watch on TV, play as in video games, or read as in books, sure they could do that. However, do they do that? NOT ALWAYS! Many parents, who work outside the home, do not know what their children are reading or doing. Most people don't which is why I mentioned it. However, some do try to place the kids in bubbles afraid they will see ideas different from them, afraid of what they may see and hear. It's ridiculous they do not trust their own kids.

Many parents bow to peer pressure in regards to censoring their children. They allow schools and friends to dictate what is right for their child. Does that mean we should allow a school system to "play parent" in censoring what a child sees after school? Hardly, I think it's none of their business. It comes down to how we raise our kids. If we are conscientious and love our children, we will raise them to have high morals and standards. If we do that, we do not have to fear what they will read when we are not around. If the moral standards can not sustain being open minded and perhaps have questions asked, thoughts provoked....then the moral standard should be reviewed diligently for faults and weaknesses.

To stay on topic, but to showcase how the pressures of a religious organization can censor the whole country, I site this example. In 1986, the Walt Disney company (yes, the house of Mouse!) bowed to pressure from the Rainbow Coalition to ban the re-release to theaters of the classic, Song of the South in the United States. At that time, Disney cartoons were only released to theaters every five years, home video was not an option as it is today. Also it prevented the film being shown again in the United States in the medium of home video presentation (note you can buy a bootlegged DVD copy of the European version on the internet for twenty bucks). The 1946 motion picture, which included the Academy Award-winning song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," consists of animated sequences mixed with live action featuring Uncle Remus telling stories involving characters such as Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear to a young white boy whose family is divorcing. The film takes place after the civil war and slavery is abolished. The Rainbow Coalition, then headed by Reverend Jesse Jackson said that the film "made slavery appear pleasant" and "pretending slavery didn't exist," which is further from the truth. It is too bad, Brer Rabbit can't be placed on the Walt Disney video shelves next to their cartoon cousins- Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, Donald Duck, Genie, Mickey Mouse, Beast, Snow White, Captain Hook (you need to throw a bad guy in!), Mulan, Alice, Sleeping Beauty, and others. Maybe one day Disney entertainment may get smart and learn not to purge many of their classic entertainment productions. One can only hope Song of the South will appear one day for all to view.

And one more, for those who need more examples and don't think censorship happens these days. Just an aside thought to the last year's super bowl mess when a censor couldn't censor.   Saving Private Ryan, the Tom Hanks/Matt Damon war film, ran for a few Memorial Days on ABC television without a hitch until Janet Jackson's booby gate (that ain't my words, that what others have called the Super Bowl wardrobe mishap). Last year, twenty-five of the ABC stations did not run the R-rated Ryan. Mostly because of fear that the ultra violent film, depicting vivid war and battle scenes, were too intense for its viewership. Wow, a reason for censoring a great piece of work - even though the film is edited for television!  In the previous years when Ryan ran, few noticed or complained regarding the motion picture's violent nature.

It is definitely scary to think someone can become a "Big Brother" and decide what I should and should not read. Like I don't have a brain? People are not as stupid as the powers that be feel they are. I do not want anyone censoring what I read, nor do I need a watchdog to tell me what is good or bad. If I wanted to know if it good or bad for me, I can read it for myself.

I await any comments. The email is [email protected] Until next time, reach for the stars!

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.