Censorship is not just about forbidding discussion of certain facts or limiting the freedom of thought. Our very patterns of thought, emotions, and beliefs can be molded in ways beyond our control, both directly and indirectly. Censorship is indirectly imposed through instilling feelings of guilt and fear through the media and institutions of society. For these reasons, censorship is a violation of human rights. Political discourse and artwork have been subjected to censorship in the same ways for thousands of years.
There are many examples of censorship imposed on artworks of all kinds including books, movies and plays. Sharing a few here will show how censorship can become irrational.
My experience with censorship came with my novel “Stop Hurting My Flesh”, which is set in Turkey. – Meltem Arikan
The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin (movie, 1940): When Charlie Chaplin’s film was released, Adolf Hitler banned it in Germany and in all countries occupied by the Nazis. Curiosity eventually got the best of him and he had a print brought in through Portugal. He screened it twice. Unfortunately, history did not record his reaction to the film. When told of this, Charlie Chaplin said, “I’d give anything to know what he thought of it.”
Guernica by Pablo Picasso (painting, 1937): The reproduction hanging outside the entrance of the United Nations Security Council was covered with a large blue curtain. Press Secretary Fred Eckhard, said the covering provided “an appropriate background for the cameras.” Obviously some were concerned that Picasso’s antiwar masterwork would not make a suitable backdrop for speeches and press conferences advocating the bombing and invasion of Iraq. Picasso’s work is a chilling reminder of what such military operations would mean for civilian populations.
The Wall by Pink Floyd (Music, 1979): This album was banned in South Africa in 1980 after the song was adopted by supporters of a nationwide school boycott protesting racial inequities in education.
A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick (Movie, 1979): The film was rated C (for “condemned”) by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting because of its explicit sexual and violent content. Such a rating conceptually forbade Catholics from seeing the film. The “condemned” rating was abolished in 1982, and since then films deemed by the conference to have unacceptable levels of sex and/or violence have been rated O, meaning “morally offensive”. .
Examples of Censorship in Turkey
Governments rationalize the necessity of censorship by making justifications such as protecting the family structure or fighting against usage of drugs. Governments use censorship of sexuality, both male and female, in the name of morality and religion, just as censored the books of Chuck Palahniuk and me in my country:.
Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk (Book, 2008): The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into the book called Snuff written by Chuck Palahniuk, who is also the author of the worldwide best seller “Fight Club.” Istanbul Press Prosecution sent a notice which includes a report from the Council for Protecting Minors from Explicit Publications to the publisher. In the notice, the novel is accused of “abusing sexual instincts” and “incompliance with moral norms.” ..
Enough, Stop Hurting My Flesh by Meltem Arikan (Book, 2004): My experience with censorship came with my novel Stop Hurting My Flesh, which is set in Turkey. The novel describes the situation of a number of different women who have suffered a variety of traumas. One was the victim of incest. After publication in 2004, the book was banned. I then received a summons from the Attorney General of the Turkish Republic demanding that I appear before the Public Prosecutor, because of a complaint by the Presidential Committee for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications in which it was declared that by ‘using Turkish names, writing about the reality of incest, which does not occur in Turkey’, I had ‘destroyed the Turkish family structure by using a feminist approach’, and that I intended, therefore, to destroy society itself, which has its basis in the family.
They further claimed, and this really astonished me, that the names of sexual organs are never referred to directly in fiction. On the evidence of three literary academicians, this claim itself was relegated to the realms of fiction. At this time, it was a crime in Turkey to mention incest on television, in the press or in fiction, but not if it was safely contained within medical publications. The decision was reversed, and the ban was lifted.
Within a year, the novel was awarded the Freedom of Thought and Speech Award by the Turkish Publishers Association. In the countries of the analogue world, whether democratic, semi-democratic and non-democratic, one of the main tools of governing is censorship. All political governing strategies use hiding the facts and controlling the free flow of information as an essential tool. Governments do not impose censorship only on political issues. .
Methods of Censorship & WikiLeaks
Governments use censorship as if protecting society from all insufficient, ignorant, stupid and unconscious individuals. Simply, censorship interferes with natural social life.
Generally, there are two methods of censorship. The first method is limiting or banning certain statements, writings or images. The second method is prevention of the writing before its written, the statement before it’s mentioned, and the image before it’s created. In both circumstances, it is essential that the originator of the statement, the writing or the image to be feared. In the same sense, those who will hear, read or respond to them must be feared.
In the analogue world, it was less easy for facts to be revealed and to be shared with society. The facts were kept inside locked cases in locked rooms. Even when the facts were discovered, the means of approving their release was limited. With the media controlled by governments, it was almost impossible for society at large to learn the facts.
WikiLeaks provides an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to their journalists. They publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of their sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for revealing unjustly suppressed and censored material.
The methods used to counter WikiLeaks, such as ‘political pressure applied on five major US financial institutions, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and the Bank of America to stop receiving donations’ and ‘transforming Assange into a criminal by enforcement of laws’ are all indeed acts of censorship.
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During this transition period to the digital world, all these acts against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are, in a way, generated from the same mentality as burned the women as witches in the Middle Ages and Colonial America. Artworks have no borders for creation. If an artist is forced to create within a set of borders parallel to the ideology of the rulers, the result will be not an artwork but propaganda. Some artists may feel that if men and women can exist with their natural sexual identity it will be impossible to dominate them with fear and violence. The sustainability of government provided order will then be imperiled. In order to maintain the system, fear must be spread throughout society. Thus censorship is a weapon of violence and fear.
In all societies within the analogue world, whatever the political governing system is the majority always succumbs to governments’ censorship. The tragedy is that Minorities, who resist censorship, are always marginalised by their governments. There is always a need for ‘The Other’, because danger can only occur if there is an ‘Other’.
In order to avoid being labelled ‘The Other’, people start auto censoring and then are obliged to label others. In the 1960’s the hippie movement of youth, flower children suddenly appeared in several western societies. Having roots from rock music, and being against the Vietnam War, hippie movements became a danger to the structure of several societies. The governments sensed the danger and censorship was used against them, as they ignored all types of censorship.
For example, when young people of the hippie movement refused to join the Army, they were labelled as traitors. But songs written and played by country and rock bands enlarged anti-war campaigns, and Hair, the musical and movie, had a great impact on US society, resisting the governmental censors, who were using nationalism as a weapon. This movement passed from US to Europe (and many other countries) with the help of a new culture of music, fashion and graphic design. This biggest freedom movement of the last century was demolished piece by piece by cooperative efforts among governments over a 15 year period. Governments used drugs as weapons to decrease the voice of young people. Instead of marijuana, chemicals became preferred because they were easy and there was cheap access. .
This example simply explains that when direct censorship does not work on some occasions, governments can violently use any sort of indirect censorship on individuals. For this reason societies do not confront the fact that they are being censored. When societies are subjected to the censorship of fear for a long period of time, they may not even be aware they are being censored. But suddenly and unexpectedly a society may pass the threshold of fear. As the song written originally by Kris Kristofferson says, “Freedom’ is just another word for ‘nothing left to lose.”
Rulers use media, movies and other sorts of art on society to persuade their citizens to accept ‘false facts’ as advertised, in order to be a member of the consumer society. Censors both veil true facts and create ‘false facts’ to hide reality. From childhood, the results of all classical education methods, which are directed by the rulers’ demands, are all terrorist acts. Children and young people are forced to be educated in the name of ‘career development’ and these educations are actually developed to prevent knowledge of the world, societies, nature and bodies. If you do not obey your parent’s demands you will be on the streets. If you tell a lie you’ll burn in Hell. If you touch your body you’ve committed a sin. These are building false mindsets and feeding fear.
During the transition period from the analogue world to the digital world personal computers have become cheaper, allowing parents to buy PCs for their children with the excuses of gaming or education. Those who stayed out of the classical education methods have actually stayed out of the terrorist education and become free minded. Those not brainwashed, and with a high level of intelligence, had the opportunity to think freely and managed to develop their own ideas, not affected by any censorship. These young people, who are everywhere, have started to question life. They are agnostics and anarchists who search for the truth by refusing all censorship imposed on them. This is the environment of Wikileaks, Anonymous, Anonymiss and all other similar groups that are fighting for freedom. Like the 1960’s, governments of the world are trying to impose censorship. In this context, all filtering and surveillance attempts towards the social media environments like internet access, Facebook, Google and Twitter are censorship attempts. Solidarity is needed for all freedom fighters to stand against censorship of governments.
5 Banned Books
Finally I must share with you, five examples from the “25 Banned Books That You Should Read Today” list of DegreeDirectory.org.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Lee’s only novel is considered by many to be among the greatest works of fiction in American literature. Yet the story of young Scout Finch and her father, Atticus, has often been banned. Atticus is a lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. The novel’s frank discussion of rape and the central topic of racism have made the book a lightning rod for controversy.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: Ellis is a frequent target for protests due to the nature of his writing, but none has faced the level of opposition of American Psycho. The story concerns Patrick Bateman, a businessman who may also be a serial killer. The novel contains highly detailed and disturbing depictions of violence, as well as graphic sexual content. Because most of Bateman’s victims are women, the novel has most often been criticized as being violently misogynist.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy follows good and evil forces in pursuit of a magical ring. The book has been banned as ‘satanic’ in some areas and was even burned by members of a church in New Mexico in 2001. The controversy is ironic, though, as Tolkien was a devout Christian and many scholars note Christian themes in his work.
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Christian groups find fault with the witchcraft portrayed in J.K. Rowlings’ immensely popular series. They’re particularly critical of the positive portrayal of witchcraft in literature aimed at children, and the series has been accused of supporting paganism. Additionally, some groups criticize the books for a perceived political agenda.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence: D. H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel was the subject of numerous obscenity trials in the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries as recently as the 1960s. Objections were raised about the book’s explicit sex scenes and use of taboo four-letter words. The plot of the story centers on a woman named Constance who has an affair with the gamekeeper of her estate.
About the Author
Meltem Arikan is a contributing writer to WikiLeaks-Movie.com and winner of the 2004 “Freedom of Idea and Statement Prize.” She has published 8 books of fiction and non-fiction as well as two theatrical plays. Like Julian Assange, Wikileaks and others, she is deeply familiar with controversial censorship and freedom of information issues. Upon publication of her 2004 novel Yeter Tenimi Acıtmayın (Stop Hurting My Flesh) the Committee to Protect the Minors from Obscene Publications, a body established under the Turkish Prime Ministry, banned her book and accused Meltem Arikan of “Writing about the non-existing incest fact in Turkey, while using Turkish names for the characters, attempting to disturb the Turkish family order with a feminist approach”. .
ReMix Art Based on Censored Artworks — by Michael Parenti, aka @exiledsurfer
“Thank You” to WikiLeaks-Movie.com Friends and Fans
Thank you for reading “On Censorship, the Arts & WikiLeaks” by novelist, activist and playwright Meltem Arikan. This article builds on our expanding library of “Edutaining” articles and interviews related to all things Wikileaks including recent pieces on and by @exiledsurfer, James Spione’s “Incident in New Baghdad,”Greg Mitchell, The Ireland Cables, the PBS LulzSec Hack and Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). It continues our tradition of highlighting relevant Wikileaks and Julian Assange news and events as well as the many movies, films, DVD, televised specials and documentary film projects about this important story. Additionally, make sure to check in with Wikileaks-Movie.com with our massive “Go To” resource archive for online videos, film clips, trailers on Wikileaks as well as Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Lulz Sec & Anonymous.