Written by Heather Penn


“Censorship, the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security,” as defined by Oxford Dictionary. An example being “the regulation imposes censorship on all media.”

One of the first documented cases of censorship traces as far back as 399 BC when philosopher Socrates was silenced, by order of death.  Socrates believed that men who served in government should be of the highest intellect, openly criticizing those who weren’t and rejecting the idea that the gods were omnipotent or all powerful.  He was charged with being an Atheist and corrupting Athens youth and so, under the guise of the “Publics Best Interest” he drank the deadly Hemlock poison. Though his death did not stifle his message, as Socrates former student Plato and several of his pupils had begun writing down Socrates philosophies and theories. Thus his practice of thinking for oneself endured.

Another form of censorship dealt with books. The first “Index of Prohibited Books” was written in 1559 by Pope Paul IV with the last issue being released in 1966. These indexes would be copied and modified by countries such as Russia and Germany. Galileo was one of the first authors whose books became a part of the new censorship index.  Living in an Aristotelian time, Galileo, an astronomer, started developing theories contrary to what was believed. He supported Copernicus theory that the earth and planets circled the sun and had a fascination for mathematics and physics leading to his development of the “Universal Law of Acceleration,” among other things.  Galileo’s books and findings were censored when he found evidence contradicting the prevailing Aristotle and Church doctrines.

By 1644 the bureaucratic practice of pre-censorship was in full swing. English poet John Milton took aim at the Licensing Act, passed by Parliament in 1643, that required government approval and the licensing of all published books, Milton, in a one page pamphlet entitled Areopagitica, called for an abolishment of the licensing as it acted as a wall to stifle truth and free expression. Censorship was not saved for just speech and the written word, it is and was rampant in Art and Music as well.

In the United States Constitution the First Amendment reads; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” With terms like “fake news” floating around one wonders where the “real” news is. If speech is free, can “fake news” be deemed an expression and thereby be protected? Is the media transmitting a censored or altered version of the truth masked under the words fake news?

For many, they choose to execute their rights to knowledge by maintaining a questioning mindset, seeking out more sources, following the lights and not accepting one answer for potentially multifaceted questions. Many of these people are dotted throughout history, with many more to come forth, as those who dared stand against censorship as the truth seekers and trailblazers. Free speech is a concept that implies ones right to express themselves freely without persecution. Censorship only serves to inhibit that concept.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”     


About the author

Heather Penn

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