Censorship in the literature world has become a fundamental and quizzing issue. The fact there are pro-censorship and anti-censorship campaigners when it comes to the literature and media makes it a truly contagious issue. In this case, it`s the exclusion of materials that are considered obscene or morally questionable from a text, speech or a video. The writers Norman Podhoretz and Azar Nafisi differ in the opinion after an intensive look at the pros and cons. Published books, writers and editors views being questioned analyzed create a justification for the views they bear.
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Podhoretz, who considers himself a conservative, reacts differently to censorship. He appreciates the use of censorship in the literally world, referring to the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov,which explicitly refers to a young girl under the hands of a paedophile (Humbert Humbert), his mother-in-law`s and the movie the ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’. The book (Lolita) being the epicentre of controversy in both authors and also its readers. It`s a book about a girl Lolita in the hands of a paedophile written explicitly and expresses pornographically detail in the larger part of its detail. Podhoretz`s first opinion on the book was that there was no need from censorship in the book as the graphic detail would rob its relevance but on taking a second look he realised that censorship though not an ideal implementation should be used to avoid robbing sex its actual value.
Azar Nafisi on the other hand refers to her background in a communist country to make her judgement. Her`s is a much liberal approach to the idea of censorship. She sees censorship as a shackle to more liberal writers and not an ideal move considering that a country is democratic. She sees it as an oppressing ideal rather than a protective ideal as pro-censorship campaigners would say. She uses her student girls to argue her anti-censorship view, discrediting it as a way to withhold sensitive and important information required in the development, particularly of the girl child in this society.
On reading both arguments one is rather torn in between as they both table well-thought arguments, though the writers are using different perspectives. Podhoretz argues from an effect of explicitness in the media while his counterpart Azar fields her argument on an oppressed point of view. On further review of both opinions I found myself agreeing with Azar, censorship is a clear obstacle to authors` independence to express him/herself as she /he wishes. As much as some books may be deemed destructive to a particular reader they express a view shared by the author and a particular group of people that is as much sensitive as any other issue. In the case of Lolita, it represents a life lived by many girls of this age under the hands of paedophiles as much as pornographic it may seem. The cases it presents are as much sensitive as any other plights faced by any other group of people.
Censorship is a very controversial issue, in the fact that it lies on the most fundamental issue in the many laws in different countries i.e. rights and freedoms, specifically the right of expression. In a way, censorship goes against this freedom in the fact that one cannot express what the society thinks as “dirty” even though that’s what he/she feels, on the other hand it protects the recipient of the message that would be sent by such a writer.
Oppression and censorship, in my opinion, go hand in hand; an oppressed country has limited freedom of expression. In the case, Azar presents a country where girls are oppressed in the sense that there is a law they follow and face great consequence if they fail to adhere to it. Some of the laws represent the moral code followed by the Muslim community though some clearly go beyond that and they hide the “graphical truth” and the expression of it in writing and action. By graphical truth I mean aspects of sex and the perversions that come with it. This law of censorship leads to a high case of unawareness and hence more oppression as the girl child is silenced and oppressed.
Written work has a very huge impact to culture in every society, it`s by fact a representation of the culture hence the censorship of written works would only mean keeping quiet in issues that affect a culture as a whole. Azar`s experiences with the girls show a liberating sense that reading this banned books gave the girls, “freeing” them from the oppressive rules that they were forced to follow and they devised a much liberal path to follow. This is just a representation of how hand in hand oppression and censorship are.
Communist countries used censorship to enhance their monopoly of ruling. Liberal minded writers and artist faced prosecution, exile and many other kinds of negative state response. This shows that information is important in the liberation of mind and withholding it is oppressive. In the case of U.S. adopting censorship and restricting the disturbing books would lead to a restrictive culture. This opinion is also held by Podhoretz who refers to his mother-in-law who chose to refuse to ignore what she did not know. This is the type of culture censorship would breed if effected in the U.S., it`s a bad attitude considering that this acts of pornography and paedophilia will be practiced though not recorded or told to the world for sensitization. The mother-in-law to Podhoretz chose to be blind to all this yet the moral decadence happened even around her.
A country that implements a democratic method of governing cannot implement some censorship and get away with it than when implemented where a theocracy or monarchical governing. Azar, in her book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” shows how censorship was implemented in the area and no one would question the rule and not expect execution. It was well in the rights of a monarchical government to make a unanimous decision for its subjects without questioning from the subjects.
In a democratic country any ruling is subject to criticism, in the case of Milos Forman's movie ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’ we see Larry Flint the publisher of a pornographic magazine called Hustler who was taken to court winning his case before the supreme court citing freedom of expression. In a country that is demographic, censorship would be hard to get away with. The party of reticence lost to the party of exposure after their arguments were found senseless.
A monarchical country on the other hand can implement the censorship rule and criticism wouldn`t be tolerated, we see the writer of ‘Lolita’ Vladimir Nabokov having exiled from his country, Russia, due to this kind of rule. He bases himself in a society that better accepts democracy and is able to express himself better.
In conclusion, censorship is a matter that still needs more discussion and a specific method to censor written material should be made whereby consideration of the literal context and conveyed message should be put in consideration, to keep literal works e.g. Lolita in a different category from Forbidden Knowledge.