The Merits of Censorship

Censorship is the enemy of free speech and unrestrained self-expression.

But perhaps free speech and lack of restraint can be the enemy of creative expression. If one has no constraints, what motivation does one have to stretch perceivable reality to communicate a message? Free countries are easy – if you want to say the government sucks, you can. But beware: no one will care to listen to you, or at least they’ll nod in agreement and carry on. Unless, that is, you say it in an interesting way.  Risk-free messages, even if controversial, are otherwise boring.

One of my most valuable lessons in creativity comes from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. There was no freedom of expression. There was an Industry of Censorship, and all writers and artists had to submit their work to the censor before it went to the publisher. Writers would get their manuscripts back rejected, whited out, and completely changed. If what they wrote was too dangerous, they could even get arrested, so artists began to work within the confines of the Industry to ensure their work would make it to a public audience. And yet, in spite of the restrictions, Soviet music and Soviet literature are some of the best in the world (I’m biased).

The Industry of Censorship forced its aspiring writers and artists to find creative ways to develop unacceptable messages or ideas while still remaining within the confines of acceptable writing within the Regime. It forced them to develop a type of code that would be understandable to those willing to listen and undetectable to those employed to scrutinize. What resulted was an apparent simplicity, and yet a fundamental complexity that combined required aesthetic with desired purpose and resulted in genius innovation. These outside restrictions on the mind actually forced the mind to stretch in order to produce quality and meaningful artwork. Without the Industry of Censorship, would Eastern Bloc artists really have any significant contribution?

For an artist, whether it be a performer, writer, or crafter, it’s often believed that one must remove all inhibitions in order to succeed. I insist this is not true. One merely needs to work with these inhibitions and find ways to get around them. Self-censorship can be a great thing if you recognize it as an obstacle through whose defeat you may triumph.

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About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Art Music and Literature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Merits of Censorship

  1. bicycle says:

    You should read the Aeneid (if you haven’t). It has two very different interpretations (one that supports the Augustine Regime and one that chastizes it).

    Your same conclusion can be seen in some theories of prosody. T.S. Eliot once said,”no verse is libre if the poet wants to do a good job.”

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