Censorship of Expression in the 1980s: A Statistical Survey

Censorship of Expression in the 1980s: A Statistical Survey

Censorship of Expression in the 1980s: A Statistical Survey

Censorship of Expression in the 1980s: A Statistical Survey

Synopsis

The study of censorship is important not because we are shocked by the contents of a book or because a complaint about a work offends our sensibilities, but rather because this conflict between powerful opposing forces in society can threaten its foundations and ideals. Conflict exists because reasonable individuals in our society disagree as to what defines the limitations of creativity and expression, and who should decide when those boundaries ahve been overstepped. These issues are addressed in detail in this important and timely new survey.

Excerpt

The United States of America has grown to be the most powerful and influential nation in the world in just two hundred years. Many scholars have attributed this to our unique form of democratic government. As early as 1835, for example, Alexis de Tocqueville heralded the greatness of "democracy in America." However, it is clear from a study of constitutional history that this country's prominence in the world could not have occurred without the protection of free expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is doubtful that our nation would exist as we know it without passage of this amendment, for many of our founding fathers believed that without individual liberties, the rights of human- kind and the principles of self-governance for which the Revolution was fought,that struggle would have been for nought. Many nations of the world have modeled most or part of the U.S. Constitution in their system of government. However, no nation has risen to the level of freedom our people enjoy because the vision of the great men of the Revolution for a more perfect government provided us with the Bill of Rights, which establishes a broader set of individual liberties than any other political system and protects those rights with a system of checks and balances on the three branches of government. As the first and most important of the amendments that are the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees four expressive rights to all citizens: freedom of religion, speech, the press, and the right to assemble peacefully. The volumes of publications on the subject of the First Amendment and free expression are numerous and have been the subject of much scholarly work. However, the lofty ideals and principles of the scholars are not always understood or accepted by the average citizen. The manner in which the people exercise these rights is a common every day experience that can tend to obscure the more philosophical aspects for many individuals. Free speech activities are so much a part of the lives of all people that this freedom is often taken for granted. Only when a challenge or complaint about an expressive act is made is there possibly any realization that such rights are to be protected, if at all.

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