What’s a Bigger Crime – Censorship or Self-Censorship?

It’s bad enough there are always people who feel they know what’s best for everyone else.  The current debate in Congress over birth control is testament to that.  But, as a fiction writer, I know all artists will offend someone somewhere at some point in time.  In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously stated that he couldn’t define obscenity, “[B]ut I know it when I see it.”  If obscenity or offensive material is purely subjective, then how can free speech and a free press conflict with community standards?  I guess it depends on whose standards you’re talking about.  Personally, I don’t feel that nudity or sexuality is necessarily obscene.  But, I find violence offensive.  It seems most Americans feel the opposite.  Yet, I think when artists start censoring themselves to placate the masses – or worst, an oppressive totalitarian regime – then the true spirit of creativity has been butchered.  In years past, writers and poets in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations lived in fear that their own works could be not just professional, but personal suicide.  Now, China is in the spotlight, as its writers are subjected to growing levels of censorship in a country that is increasingly becoming a major player on the global stage.

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