Censorship always defeats it own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. ~Henry Steele Commager
In my opinion nothing is more contrary to the heart of an artist, or creator, than censorship. No matter how many critics, protesters, and detractors a work has in the end the work will still exist, and the artist’s message will still be out there. When you ban that art, censor it, or keep it from meeting the public eye you effectively kill the spirit of art. Some art can be offensive to some, and meaningful to others. Art can cause laughter, anguish, anger, shame, reflection, and discomfort, and in the end that’s exactly what it should do. Art is meant to make us question ourselves, or the world around us, to look at things from various angles, and consider multiple possibilities. Art is meant to cause a reaction. That is why I have been shocked to find, with the recent censorship of certain media, that many people who call themselves artists, creators, designers, and writers have stood in support of censorship of art they didn’t like. It is heartbreaking to watch when two video games, Grand Theft Auto V and Hatred (it has since been returned to Steam), and a move The Interview, were targeted for censorship, and social media was lit up with people happy about this, people who have artist, writer, designer, and developer in their bios.
Of course companies have a right to sell, or show, whatever they want, but does that mean people can’t question it? When Target pulls one game, while leaving other adult material on the shelf, isn’t that questionable? When Steam pulls a game, but leaves other equally violent and gory games available, isn’t that also questionable? How can we accept anonymous hackers threatening terrorists attacks if we don’t censor our movies? It is still censorship, and no, before you say it, it’s not just the government that can censor.
the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.
There is no definition of censorship that I’ve see, that says only the government can do it. I can understand the general public perhaps being iffy on this, it’s easy to look at a product and say “I don’t like that, that shouldn’t be available for people to buy.” It’s still firmly against the ideals of free speech, but if someone isn’t an artist, or creator they don’t have as much stake in the game. It’s when someone that calls themselves a game developer and they support this sort of thing that it truly breaks my heart. Now, I have zero interest in any of these games or movies. I don’t allow GTA in my house, no matter how much my son wants to play it, but I won’t for a moment support any move to ban these games, ever. If I did, I’d be saying I’m fine with someone taking offense to one of my stories and having it banned, and if that happened I’d have no moral ground to stand on. That’s the kicker to me, the pure definition of the phrase “I don’t like what you have to say but I will defend your right to say it.” If you don’t believe that then you really have no business being an artist, because you don’t even have enough respect for your own work to defend the work of others.
So then the question has come up, is it art? Are these products, made for entertainment, art? Well, legally, yes, without question according to the Supreme Court of the U.S.
“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”
Now, of course this doesn’t mean every country has to consider video games art, and I’m sure many don’t. Just keep in mind, while the GTA bans have been outside the U.S. (so far) the pulling of Hatred, and The Interview happened here in the states, and was supported, even celebrated, by American artists, writers, and developers on social media. This is the point where you have to ask yourself, as a creator, where do you stand if you stand in support of censorship of any kind? Will you raise your voice when they come for your friend’s work, or what about your work? How will you look anyone in the eye, knowing you supported censorship of something you didn’t like, but try to defend your own work?
You can use all the buzzwords you want, talk about protecting this group, or those kids, but in the end if you tell someone else to shut up, because you don’t like what they have to say you are supporting your own silencing. Look back on history, at the sorts of people that have censored artists. Look back at their words, and then look at modern censors. As yourself if you want to be associated with the word’s worst people, because that’s where they always start. They start by censoring art, speech, writing, music and the rest. They do it in the name of protecting people, knowing better how to take care of their citizens, and protecting the children. The next time you say it’s fine a movie got pulled because it was in poor taste, ask yourself who you sound like. I’d much rather sound like Henry Steele Commager.