Censorship continues to be a thorny issue within the public domain. Recent insecurity issues have augmented concerns about it, as there is a substantial evidence of increased monitoring of individual expressions and general activities. Evidently, while censorship attempts to curtail the extent of individual expressions and general public communication, such freedoms are declared in the United States Constitution. Individual freedoms are set to be a constitutional right with understandable specifications within the first amendment. The founding members of this nation had specified categorically a set of unalienable privileges for all citizens.

However, despite such constitutional declarations, it is agreeable that over the past years there have been massive infringements in individual rights and freedoms. There has been an increment in the monitoring of various media outlets in the past decades. As well, individual reflections, literature pieces in addition to varied artistic works have all come under stringent scrutiny by the authority. This paper puts censorship into perspective. The paper discusses the censorship regulations and their relationship to the constitutional rights of American citizens. It concludes by revisiting how conflicts have reshaped various laws governing both freedoms of choice and expression over the past years.

Censorship and the Constitution

Hambruger (2005) defines censorship as an intentional suppression of ideas and information that are considered to be dangerous by people of authority or any responsible body or even an individual. Evidently, the implication of this definition is that censor utilizes state power to dictate their perception regarding the appropriate applications of various objects, speech or a form of human expression. This includes the determination of the truthfulness, offensiveness, and objectionable acts in the exercise of the essential rights by an individual. Hambruger (2005) agrees that the present censoring procedures entail such acts as the stringent examination of expressive media like books, magazines, motion pictures as well as an assortment of varied artistic works. Depending on the set limits for the production of the various media outlets, a censor may culminate in complete confiscation or removal of materials from the public access.

The constitutional statement on censorship is understandable. The first amendment completely prohibits censorship and any other attempt to curtail the individual freedoms. However, as observed by Hambruger (2005), it lacks the capacity to provide absolute protection against such acts as the widespread censorship within the corporate sections of our society. Reportedly, such acts as speech sanctioning common with corporate spokespersons, and corporate employees are a critical instance of the failed ability of the constitution to protect against illegitimate censoring. It is undeniable that deficient capital to seek legal equality in the face of critical censoring is a key contributor to the persistent violation of individual freedoms as stipulated within the constitution. Stephens & Scheb (2011) observe that the U.S. has persistently deteriorated in its global ranking regarding press freedoms. Observably, the increased restriction of certain levels of speech within the various media outlets is blamable for the present poor rankings. Obscenity and deformation restrictions remain the two critical laws that increasingly restrain individual freedoms of expression (Stephens & Scheb, 2011).

According to Stephens & Scheb (2011), an examination of various governments across the globe reveals a persistent invocation and application of seditious laws.  Evidently, sedition remains one of the most commonly applied laws in the restriction of speeches and associative forms of expression considered by an authority to be objectionable or of danger to an established legal framework. While tyrannical and collective systems find the law useful, in democratic systems like one in the U.S., it is increasingly unconstitutional as it tremendously restricts the extent of human enjoyment of their basic freedoms. While it is difficult to entirely declare that there is zero utilization of the law within the U.S., Stephens & Scheb (2011) mention several past instances where the law has found multiple applications. Starting from the 1798 institutionalization of the seditious act to the entrenchment of similarly acts during the past world war to its ultimate expiry in the subsequent years, it is evident that is has been used before within our seemingly democratic system. Recent legal statutes such as imminent lawless acts imply an abolishment of the increasingly unconstitutional sedition statutes.

While the constitutional situation with censorship is clear, discrimination of free from censoring society across the various states remains a common issue. Presently, it is a widespread trend to read headlines proclaiming the prohibition of certain acts in certain states across the U.S. Stephens & Scheb (2011) observe that while it is subject to specific freedoms, the constitution remains open regarding the institutionalization of prohibitive legal statutes in the varied states.  Evidently, the various states and municipal associations have persistently instituted legal frameworks that stringently control published information on books, plays, amid other associated media outlets. Stephens & Scheb (2011) report that over the years, there have been critical cases of obscenity culminating in the institution of rules that controlled various key publications including movies and published media. Citing the instance of Ulysses case of 1933 in New York, Stephens & Scheb (2011) agree that publishers have utilized the indiscriminate applications of obscenity guidelines to publish articles and media files in states with acceptable statutes.

Amid the varied media outlets, films are evidently the most censored. From historical extracts, it is agreeable that the first case of movie censorship was the 1897 statute that prohibited the public viewing of violent films in Maine, (Stephens & Scheb, 2011). Reportedly, the state authorities declared such shows too violent for public viewing. One of the consequences was a subsequent prohibition of similar shows across other states. Moreover, over the past decades, issues with films have proved to be critical within the nation’s legal framework. Stephens & Scheb (2011) cite the 1915 case in which the Supreme Court declared that the motion pictures were commercial products and not artistic. Evidently, the deficiency of artistry and the commercial aspects meant that the kind of art lacked support of the freedoms stipulated by the first amendment. As controversial as it may seem, Stephens & Scheb (2011) observe that the code remained effective until its nullification in 1950 by a Supreme Court overruling.

The censoring of motion pictures has proved to become controversial over the past years. Stephens & Scheb (2011) suggest that while several states have persistently played their part in the subsequent censoring activities, both the government and various stakeholders within the movie industry have played their part. For instance, the fear of the stringent state as well as government regulations culminated in the formulation of bodies such as the infamous product code to instill the desired censoring activities with dismal success. Consequently, self-regulation turned out to be increasingly intricate and paved the way for stringent applications by the various censoring bodies in the various states.

In the background of the numerous court cases and the discriminate applications of the varied guidelines, media coverage remained free except for the varied instances of conflicts such as the Second World War, the Vietnam conflict, the gulf case and recent incidences like the September 11 case. In his analysis of the effects of conflict on individual freedoms, Ji (2003) suggests that the government had continuously employed various acts that have legalized increased surveillance of activities during international conflicts. Stephens & Scheb (2011) agree with this observation and suggest that acts such as the espionage and the atomic energy act, the government had the overall authority to curtail patents as well as activities that posed significant threats to the nation. Evidently, the events such as the 9/11 remain critical and culminated in the institution of numerous statutes aimed at preventing such occurrences. Stephens & Scheb (2011) suggest that the government has continuously increased its censorship in the various industries.

According to Stephens & Scheb (2011), acts of terrorism have increasingly complicated the exercise of individual freedoms as stipulated by the first amendment. Evidently, while the law prohibits any legal body from instituting laws that infringe on such rights, past events have increasingly shaped the implementation of the law. The instance of free speech zones is a typical instance where the government has attempted to censor where one can enjoy such rights of speech but not the content of speech. In this regards, the government indirectly institutes legal censorship of speech through controlling the place, the time as well as the way of speech. Noticeably, while these venues remain significant in ensuring individuals enjoy their constitutional rights, they evidently control very critical aspects of the spoken truth, the place and the way as well as the time of speech. As such, there is a dismal enjoyment of the right.


From the forgone discussion, it is obvious that censoring has persistently existed in various forms. While the constitution remains clear on the specific individual freedoms, its applications are limited to the defined rights. Evidently, such crimes as sedition are nonexistent within the various acts as they infringe on the guidelines stated by the first amendment. However, some media outlets such as motion pictures have attracted stringent control given the varied level of nudity and adult scenes that characterize their contents. The consequences of such control are straightforward in the ratings and federal warnings that act as guidelines that aid in the guidance of utilization of such media outlets by minors. Similarly, the paper has revealed that there is increased control of various publications as well as expressions during conflicts.  Events such terrorism have increasingly escalated government censoring over the past decades.   

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