Why I am against
Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read
any books except the books that nobody reads – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
By ALEX P. VIDAL / PNS
April 25, 2011
As a community
journalist, my orientation is anti-censorship.
Because I was blessed
with editors during the Tita Cory post EDSA revolution era whose
dyed-in-the-wool adherence to freedom of press and expression was at
fever-pitch, I could not countenance censorship when it was my turn to
rock the chair as editor-in-chief of two daily newspapers – Sun Star
and Daily Informer – during the Erap and Gloria administrations.
Even if some of their
motives and principles were suspect, I could never in heaven’s name
mangle or touch with a ten-foot pole the write-ups of our columnists –
the opinion makers and so-called “catalysts” of change.
An eager beaver but
wet-behind-ears radioman who wanted to dabble in print media, a
vegetarian but malnourished penpusher who belonged to the Dinosaur
Age, a male celibate university professor hiding in a female moniker,
a dentist who loved to lecture about sex education.
politician who wanted to write a column so he could expose the
inanities of a former law firm partner, an ex-convict who wrote poetry
inside the jail, an ex-Maoist Lothario who permanently turned his back
from the movement after a “rest and recreation”, a debonair but
Quijotic brain doctor who wanted to preserve our native dialects. You
name ‘em, we had ‘em.
I am a firm of
believer of John Stuart Mill who said that “Even when the opinion is
wrong, discussion should not be suppressed. Without such challenge and
discussion, the true opinion would become nothing more than dogma –
something believed on mere faith.”
Because of this
personal principle, I even nixed suggestions to delete horny and
irrational Facebook friends because I believe they too have the right
to exist and express their opinions however weird and downright corny
and illogical their ideas may be.
One of the best
stories I read about the subject matter was the opinion made by
Alejandro Roces. Actually, it was Hilarion Henares who started the
series by stating that censorship originally started not to exorcise
sex and violence, but to control religious and political views.
The initial and most
powerful censorship board in all history was the Catholic Church’s
Index of Prohibited Books that started in 1557 about a century after
Gutenberg’s movable type made books available to the public. The books
condemned then are now popular classics – the novels of such authors
Victor Hugo, Balzac, Dumas and Flaubert.
They were not
considered pornographic. They just did not meet the political norms of
Authors were often
forced to change the identity of the characters in their books.
Boccacio’s The Decameron was banned because the characters involved in
illicit sex were priests and nuns. When he changed it to plain ladies
and gentlemen, his books were removed from the Index Librorum
The very first film
movie board censor was the British Board of Film Censors established
in 1913 but still in operation to the day. In the United States,
censorship was a state matter, but the Catholic Legion of Decency
Actually, the courts
were deciding obscenity issues long before censorship came. As far
back as 1868, Chief Justice Cockburn in a judgment in Regina vs.
“The test of obscenity
is this: whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to
deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral
influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.”
Pope Leo XIII in
General Decrees Concerning the Prohibition and Censorship of Books,
decreed: “Books which professedly treat of, narrate, or teach lewd or
obscene subjects are prohibited. Care must be taken not only of faith
but also of morals, which are easily corrupted by the reading of such
And on March 31, 1930,
the Code to Govern the Making of Motion and Talking Pictures by the
Motion Picture Producers and Distribution of America, Inc. declared,
“Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion
This is the question
that has become a major issue in our times. Where does artistic
liberty end and where does obscenity begin?