A Discussion on the Dangers of Music Censorship

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself” said an Associate Justice of the United States, Potter Stewart (Stewart). Censorship has been around since there was the ability to express one‘s self, Censorship by definition is the act of suppression of words, images, or ideas that are considered “offensive“. There have been arguments over how much and what exactly should be censored, so it’s no surprise that music has fought its fair share of battles to be heard.

But what is it that makes music so fought over? Considering the profound and even revolutionary role music has played in society, what is the danger of imposing restrictions on music lyrics that are considered controversial or offensive? Music censorship in America is dangerous because it creates arguments over the First Amendment, it‘s controversial on what is considered offensive or inappropriate and it limits an artist’s artistic freedom.

First, music censorship is dangerous because of the arguments it causes over the First Amendment.

According to Heather Newton from the article “Music Censorship: An Overview”, “US courts have held that the First Amendment does protect indecent speech, and thus such material may not be banned but may be restricted, especially to prevent its exposure to children” (Newton 2). Material can‘t be banned for inappropriate language but it can be limited in attempts to shield it from children, The argument of freedom against children will always come out to a dangerous and controversial decision since both are highly valued and protected.

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The exact limitation to what should and what is censored is a blurry line but there is always an argument when it is crossed. Also, according to Heather Flippen from the article “The Uncensored History of Music Censorship”.

“Many Americans believe that censorship is an infringement on the first amendment rights that grants United States’ citizens the freedom of speech, but there are just as many that believe censorship is necessary to prevent them from having to hear messages in music that they find offensive or inappropriate” (Flippen). This expresses that there will always be two sides to an argument with such open ends, Setting such an impacting decision could create a huge battle between those who want to censor and those who choose to let the music be freely expressed, With a battle like that amplified, surely there would be chaos in the censoring world. Overall, music censorship causes controversial arguments over freedom of speech as well as definitions of what should be censored, Second, music censorship is dangerous because it’s controversial to define what “offensive” or “inappropriate” content is According to former President and now Chairman of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, quoted in the article “‘Parental Advisory Labels’ —The Criteria and The History”, “‘First, no “board” [The PMRC] can determine what the appropriate interpretation of a song and therefore how it should be rated” (Cole).

It is difficult to say that the content of a song is inappropriate based on a certain group‘s interpretation of it What some may consider vulgar, others may consider pleasing. The final decision is not to be left on just one group, but rather the general public and those who choose to listen to iti Also, according to the head of Gold Mountain Records, Danny Goldberg, also quoted in the article Parental Advisory Labels’ — The Criteria and The History”, “We felt that words did not lend themselves to a movie type rating system, because different people would interpret what was ‘violent’, etci, differently — not to mention humor, irony, etc.” (Cole). The lyrics contained in a song are very difficult to rate on a scale of exposure of content similar to that of movies The difference of interpretation between lyrics and movies is difficult to correspond.

Content exposure of films is more direct than what one interprets from the music they hear, based on mood and past experiences. Films usually have a set message while music can be interpreted in many different ways. After all, the censorship of music based on one’s interpretation of the content is just as dangerous as limiting creative freedoms that come with being an artist. Third, music censorship is dangerous because it limits an artist’s artistic freedoms. According to hip-hop artist, 50 Cent’s speech, addressed in the article “50 Cent, T.I. Speak Their Mind on Lyric Censorship”, “Music is a mirror and hip-hop is a reflection of the environment we grew up in, the harsh realities. If you ask us to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you’ll have a difficult time. So to capture what we’re trying to in this art form, l’m sure some conservative American can’t lD with it because of their lifestyle and the way they were brought up.

They haven’t been exposed to these realities” (Mitchell)i The use of such content, to express a reality that is not exposed to many, is seen as necessary. lt’s difficult to block out the rest of the world from what is truly happening and musical lyrics seems to be the form most effective and easiest to pass along among most mediums, Also, according to musical artist, T.L*s speech also addressed in the article “50 Cent, T.I. Speak Their Mind on Lyric Censorship”, “The things l say come from the life that l used to live, and this is a harsh realityi Now, maybe most of you were fortunate enough to not have ever dealt with that. Most of you all don’t know what that life is like. l know the B-word, the H-word, and the N-word are the words under attack right now. And l don’t know if you know it or not, people, but there are b*tches, n*ggas, and ho’s who live in America, And as long as the fact exists, l think rappers deserve the right to talk about it” (Mitchell).

Although it may offend many, the exposure of its content is seen as necessary and is nothing new to most of the world. lt’s a fact of life that everyone’s experience of what they have been exposed to is different, but it’s not in other’s position to limit another’s freedom of expressioni Every individual has the right to listen to what they please and censoring other’s words is never going to settle the fact that these realities are out there. Overall, limiting an artist’s freedom of expression through musical censorship is dangerous for the opinions it brings out, In the end, dangers are up roared when music is censored because of different classifications of what is offensive or inappropriate, the limitations of an artist’s freedoms and the controversial arguments over what is allowed by the First Amendment.

From no common ground on what should be considered bad enough to completely be restricted to the expression of a harsh reality, music is everywhere and talks about everything that happened or is ever going to happen. The fights to limit and set free the voices of the creators are something that are never going to end since there are too many interpretations of what the public hears and enjoys The debates to block out those that have different opinions than others will always be a fight and it comes with human nature to have the ultimate controlr Music censorship will continue to be an issue due to all the factors incorporated into it, It may be impossible to please everyone thus the restrictions will always be fought against and there might never be a common ground. Just as there is a freedom to write music, there is the freedom and choice to listen to it.

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A Discussion on the Dangers of Music Censorship. (2022, Nov 19). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-discussion-on-the-dangers-of-music-censorship/

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