Censorship: Power, Temptation and Liberty


The first amendment to our constitution guarantees us freedom of expression, an individual right that is vital to the health of a democratic system. Now that the information age brings us the internet, where anyone can publish hate propaganda, pornography or even plans for an A-bomb, is that right still appropriate?

Censorship has been the twin sister of the first amendment since its inception. We have a unique love/hate relationship with this most precious right. Even though it is the first of our beloved freedoms, it is often also the first we are tempted to curtail in a crisis since no one wants dangerous ideas to spread.

Any vital society needs the creative vision of its poets and artists to stay healthy and responsive to change. It is the artist's responsibility in every society to be its antennae, alerting it to dangers and reminding it of enduring beauties that are often invisible to the rest of the community. In times of social crisis it is the artists that keep the community from falling into brutality. Yet it is these same visionaries that in more peaceful times sometimes appear to be dragging the society toward decadence. Art is in fact the most powerful mechanism for social change: at once both the greatest fear of the despot and the greatest hope of the people.

Censorship is an inevitable side-effect of democracy. It exists in some form in every community. We can't seem to live without it and yet it threatens our very system of government. How can we reconcile this strange temptation? When does healthy dissent fall into dangerous incitation? How does a responsible social order handle powerful ideas?

I am a concerned parent trying to raise conscientious children in a world I can't control. Having also received threats from fearful people in the course of my work as a professional artist, I know both sides of the front in this battle. One of the gifts of being in this odd both-sides position is a perspective that might help others in addressing the complexities of the issue.

This lecture begins with an overview of the concepts and the issues facing American citizens today. We will touch on the perception of responsibility for powerful ideas from propaganda to children's books, and discuss the tension of the "controlled civil war" that is the democratic experiment. There will be time for questions and group discussion, followed by an opportunity to set up ongoing local dialogue.

Copyright © 2007 Holmes Studio