Censorship is a contentious topic in modern society, and with the recent technological advancements in telecommunications, censoring material from the public’s eye can sometimes prove impossible. While censorship in all its many forms is often considered unjustifiable and is regularly used to stop truths or ideas from emerging, I feel that my ideal republic would benefit from certain controlled forms of censorship among the populous.
The topics one chooses to censor in any group can have an effect on the out come of that group. If you tighten up censorship laws the society could ultimately be negatively impacted. Although censorship is general considered a negative among the populous, one could make an argument that some forms of censorship are necessary in certain societal conditions.
In books II and III of The Republic(1), Socrates argues for the general censorship of his ideal republic by asserting that the stories told in his city must be censored before they are told to the citizens and guardians. Citizens of this Republic are not only censored in their education, but in many other aspects such as their knowledge of the internal contents of their body, as well as art that could possibly corrupt morality. Socrates reasoning for the censorship of these areas in his ideal Republic was that it was necessary to ensure the different elements of society maintained their proper roles and do not waiver.
Taking Socrate’s argument for censorship into account, I too felt it would be best to censor those areas of society which may lead the citizens astray from their proper roles in society. This could include areas such as recreational drug use and the forms media that promotes alternate, less productive, lifestyles. Although Socrate’s republic requires these controls to restrict class mobility, I would enforce these controls simply because I feel my republic would benefit from the increased levels of production.
While considering what additional aspects of my new republic in which I would chose to censor, I weighed the pros and cons of several different areas such as media, education, and entertainment. I decided to focus mostly on those areas where I feel censorship would benefit society as whole, rather than how it may benefit one on the individual level.
Many of our societal woes are caused by what in The Politics(2), Aristotle refers to as the appetitive part of the soul. This part of the soul is to produce and seek pleasure, and is often linked to the love of money. Society as a whole would benefit from the censorship of those areas that may induce the individuals appetitive part of the soul at the expense of another. Freedom of expression will also be limited by the possibility of causing detriment to others.
In book II of Politics(2), Aristotle argued for one aspect that one may consider to be a tied to the appetitive part of the soul, private property. He argued that by allowing private property rights within a society, your promoting the levels of production within a society. He claimed that this increase in the levels of production was a result of the citizenry striving to increase their amount of material wealth. Considering Aristotle’s argument, I decided that it is important to avoid censoring these areas of the appetitive soul that promote such motivational to action, so long as they don’t cause detriment to others.
Censorship in my republic would also be provided to help protect the youth of society. Since young children prove malleable, I would feel it necessary to censor those areas where children are readily exposed, such as entertainment, education. These censors would prohibit any content that are deemed detrimental to the progressive development of the youth, such as nudity and vulgarity.
Another area that I would feel necessary to censor in my new Republic would be those areas of education and media that aim to detach the citizen from his/her society. These would include unpatriotic material and those which promote anarchy in general. I feel that while one participates as a citizen of a society, one should be invested in the progression and advancement of the society, and not be actively seeking to degrade the society as a whole in order to promote their own individual beliefs.
During wartime, censorship would take on a new role within my Republic. While the republic is at war, censorship is critical in maintaining moral among the civilians, as it gives the republic an increased chance at victory. It would be important that all aspects of society that prove detrimental or critical of any war effort be censored during periods of war. Once peace is declared, these war time censors will be removed but they will be reapplied upon future declarations of war.
Finally, I would feel the need to censor the internet, as it has become the largest single source of information in modern society, although censoring the internet certainly comes with its challenges. Currently on the internet, you may be able to prohibit certain types of content from being accessed from a server within your republic, but blocking access to servers outside the republic would involve cooperation from internet service providers. Because of this, I would feel the need to nationalize the republics ISPs in order to have complete control over the network. This would allow for the installation and management of various censorship controls, similar to the internet censorship in China is today, without the need to involve private companies.
Looking back on the censorship I’ve considered within my own republic, I’ve come to realize that my new republic’s censorship would be similar in many ways to the current levels of censorship we experience as citizens of the United States, such as the censorship in the interest of protecting the youth of society. While censorship is regularly demonized, perhaps it is imposed not only to hinder us, but to cultivate our own individual progression within society, as well as the progression of society as a whole.
Plato. (1992). The Republic (Classics of moral and political theory). (Morgan, M. L.). Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
Aristotle. (1992). Politics (Classics of moral and political theory). (Morgan, M. L.). Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.