Censorship


The Constitution of the United States of America contains the basic rights of citizens of this country. There is, perhaps, no right more controversial than the First Amendment in the Constitution, first introduced on December 15, 1791. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”(1st Amendment, Internet). Due to the indecisiveness of this Amendment, arguments over the interpretation of the words written by the founding fathers have flourished for years. One of the main arguments that has arisen over the years is over the interpretation of what is meant by free speech and free press. While this argument has stemmed off in many directions, one of the most recent and heated debates is over the governments ability to censor material to the public. Some of the major forms of censorship occur in television, music, literature, and most recently, the Internet. Censorship has taken place in various forms since the earliest rulers existed. These earliest forms of censorship existed through a leader of some sort trying to keep his people from saying bad things about him. This censorship, while fairly undocumented, has taken place in various governments throughout time in most areas of the world. While censorship today has taken a different form in the United States, the same basic principles have remained the same. Censorship is basically an attempt by the government to limit what the public sees, hears, or absorbs. I believe that all forms of censorship are basically a violation of the basic First Amendment right that so many people take for granted. Some limit must be put on the ability of the government to censor any kind of communication in the United States, or the basic rights of the people will be infringed upon. One of the biggest forms of censorship that takes place in the United States today exists in one of the largest mediums of communication we know of. This medium is known as the television. In 1999, it was reported that over 99% of all American households have at least one television, with a majority of the households having more then one set available(Chafee, 173). This startling statistic is accompanied by another fact that shows the average American watches 30 hours of television weekly(Chafee, 173). With this kind of participation from the American public in any kind of medium of communication, it is no wonder why some people consider the idea of censorship with so much enthusiasm. However, adults have the right to view material they please, and therefore, their rights should remain intact. The problem that most people have with violence, sex, and profanity on television comes into play when considering the number of children that watch television without a parent or any sort of controls on their viewing. It has been reported that 10,000 acts of media violence are witnessed in one year by the average American child(Zeinert, 88). One must keep in mind that this statistic does not include any sexual content or profanity children may view. The American public has expressed some concern over the material their children view each day, and that has been the beginning and the continued push behind the need for some sort of censorship of television. It wasn’t until the dramatic increase in violent crimes committed by children, however, that there was a strong public demand to censor the material children have access too. While the claim that something needs to be done to at least reduce the amount of violence, sexual material, or profanity that American children view has began to pick up support among the American public, the means by which to accomplish such a task have yet to be resolved. Some argue that censorship is the only way to accomplish such a large scale problem, but others argue that the problem starts at home. A survey conducted by the Roper Center concluded that over 50% of parents do not monitor what their children watch at home. This figure shows me that parents are not taking the responsibility to