No Sense in Censorship

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Talk show host Dick Cavett once stated that Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself. Although this interpretation dealt with obscenities, I believe that his message still holds true for all forms of censorship. Censoring a message is the act of publicly displaying oner’s disapproval. It shines a spotlight on an image and in many cases throughout history, does more harm than good whilst trying to restrict something from the publicr’s eye.
In most cases, the threat of an impending attack would be unsettling to most people, but in Seth Rogenr’s case, it was the best thing that could have happened. In December of 2014, Rogenr’s new movie, The Interview, was expected to release on Christmas day. In the film, popular talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) land the interview of a lifetime, an interview with Kim Jong-un. Before departing for the interview, both Skylark and Rapaport are recruited by the CIA and instructed to assassinate the dictator. After Korean Intelligence discovered the contents of this movie, the real Kim Jong-un threated a merciless retaliation for the release of this movie due to its negative depiction of both himself and his country. This threat mixed with previously existing possibilities of North Korear’s use of nuclear weapons caused widespread panic across the states causing a majority of theaters to cancel all showings of the film.

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Originally, this film was expected to attract a typical stoner comedy audience. It had received many negative reviews and was expected to be a box office flop, but after North Korear’s threat, a new buzz was created over movie. Many people who would have never seen the film were now curious of its contents and why North Korea wanted them banned. News stations provided the movie with hours of free publicity as every major cable provider covered the newest threat to American safety. Even with this newfound curiosity, Americans were hesitant to see the film because they still feared for their lives. Just when it seemed like North Korea had succeeded, and that the movie would not be shown, Sony came up with a soulution. They released the movie as planned, but rather than in theaters, the film was released on VOD (video-on-demand) services so that the public could access the material without leaving the safety of their homes.

Even with this unusual release strategy the movie was purchased or rented over six million times earning the studio just over forty-five million. North Korear’s attempted censorship of this film ended up turning a potential box office disaster into Sonyr’s most profitable online release to date. When asked to comment on the situation, Rogen was able to provide some comic relief stating People dont usually wanna kill me for one of my movies until after theyve paid 12 bucks for it. He and the entire Sony team never stopped working toward finding a way to release the movie, even in the midst of all adversity. They werent intimidated by the threats and were determined to make sure that their film was seen. While this may seem farfetched as censorship was coming from a country synonymous with oppression and censorship, but my belief still holds true in other countries.

This past October, a similar situation took place at the Ubud Writers Festival, a festival held in Indonesia where writers and scholars alike gather from across the world to discuss the meaning of cross-cultural connection. Along with marking the 12th year of the festival, 2015 was especially important in other ways: marking the 50th anniversary of the Indonesian anticommunist purge responsible for killing upwards of half a million people.

Keeping this tragic event in mind, event organizers originally planned to have the massacre act as a focal point for many discussions, but, just days before the festival, something changed. The Indonesian government forced the director of the festival, Jane DeNeefe, to cancel three sessions about the massacre and its aftermath, as well as a screening of Joshua Oppenheimerr’s critically acclaimed documentary, The Look of Silence, a documentary in which an optician confronts the men who killed his brother during the 1960s purge. On top of everything, the government insisted that the event itself must not be mentioned. As one can imagine, this decision did not hold well with festival attendees.

The government was evading conflict. They were trying to continue to pretend that these past events had never occurred. They didnt want to take responsibility for past actions and were worried that if the genocide was brought to the center of attention, new conflict amongst the country would arise. Instead of hushing their disturbing history using censorship, they escalated the situation igniting a global uproar, which brought even more attention to the anniversary, and therefore, government cruelty.

As a result of censorship attendees from around the world condemned this enforced silence and assured the world that this event would still be discussed, even if they couldnt use its name. On top of receiving negative press about the genocide, the government now faced accusations of free speech violations. A spotlight was now shown on the country, and on the festival itself. If the Indonesian government hadnt attempted to censor this issue, I personally would never have known that it occurred. But because they tried to restrict an unalienable right, free speech, they ended up negatively impacting their own cause and turned the world against them. There are even examples of domestic censorship backfiring.

The Civil Rights Movement is arguably the most important movement of this country since the countryr’s founding. It was led by iconic figureheads such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X and was the push to exercise the fact that all men are created equal and was the beginning of the end to the embarrassing time period of white supremacy in this country. Whilst acting as a voice of African Americans, MLK faced his fair share of adversity. He and his followers constantly received threats and beatings all with the hope of discouragement. What most didnt know was that even our government was trying to stop MLK. New declassified documents show that even the FBI tried to scare Dr. King away from his cause. In letters sent to MLK, the FBI stated, King, there is only one thing left for you to do (kill yourself). You know what it is. [ ] You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation. The FBI did everything in their power get him to stop but MLK pressed forward.

They released his extramarital affairs to the press as well as any other information that would discredit him, but MLK was not deterred. He realized equal rights were just around the corner and used the FBIr’s actions as fuel to the fire that was his fight for equality. In 1968 as MLK was continuing to make slow and steady progress, he was assassinated. Many people believed that without a leader, without a Nobel Peace Prize winning figurehead, the movement would lose traction. They couldnt have been more wrong.

This assassination, the literal censorship of King from the Earth, impacted the country in exact opposite of what was intended. The assassination served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement. The murder resulted in a period of national mourning, a period that was the first time many white Americans felt sympathy for the black cause. A man who had preached peace over violence, a man who had kept white-black conflict to a minimum, was now dead. King, now a martyr, served as even more of a face for the cause. Now more than ever, people across the country came together in support of the movement, forcing the government to amend its current laws.

Time and time again the act of censorship has proven to send a more powerful message than the message itself. It creates a rallying point and unifies the groups opposing censorship. It has caused viewership of a taboo subject to increase, awareness of a genocide to spread, and expedited the Civil Rights movement. Censorship has proven ineffective due to the backlash it receives for restricting the natural rights of all.

Works Cited

  1. Faughnder, Ryan. “‘The Interview’ Earns $31 Million from VOD, $5 Million at Box Office.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
  2. Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  3. Groves, Nancy. “Ubud Writers’ Festival Debates Massacre ‘that Were Not Supposed to Talk About'” The Guardian. N.p., 2 Nov. 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
  4. “Martin Luther King Jr Assassination.” A&E Television Networks, 20120. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
  5. Vibes, John. “Declassified Documents Show FBI Threats To Martin Luther King Jr.” MintPress News. N.p., 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
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No Sense in Censorship. (2019, Jun 10). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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