Censorship is a Good Thing

August 11, 2010

By John Marini

As a strong supporter of Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech, I must confess that I am also a big proponent of censorship. In fact, I practice it every day.

Before you think I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, let me explain. I have never written to the school board asking them to take a book out of the classroom, although I wish math books were banned when I was growing up. What I mean is being selective with words, which I believe are very powerful.

As the father of two young children, I exercise censorship while reading to my children. Not only in the books I choose, but in the way I read them. Occasionally, I will come across a word that is no longer used in today’s vernacular, at least not in the same context, like the word queer. It’s used often in the wonderful book “The Boxcar Children,” which was written in 1942. When I first came across it, I told my 7-year-old son the meaning of the word and then every time I came across it again I substituted the word strange – partly because the word queer is now a slang reference to being gay (which is another word that doesn’t mean what it once did), and partly because it’s seldom used in today’s vocabulary.

I may also see a word I don’t want my children saying, like the word stupid. I happen to think it’s a particularly strong, derogatory word; I don’t say around my kids and I don’t want to hear coming from their mouths. When I recently came across it reading to my 4-year-old daughter, I automatically changed it to silly.

As a communications professional at Curley & Pynn, I have to choose the words I use very carefully because they can have a big impact on how a client is perceived. That’s why I employ self-censorship in what I write on a daily basis. Chances are you do too.

Think of this post the next time you hear of someone accused of censorship. While the First Amendment protects your right to say they are stupid or their thinking is queer, it may not be true.


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