censorship (4)

To Censor or Not to Censor: That Is the Question

Small child with art supplies

Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of ACT Insurance, its employees, or any of the companies affiliated with it.

In light of recent events, it seemed a good time to write a blog post about something that many artists and other creative people have faced for thousands of years and that some of them are still facing today. When, if ever, is it ok to censor art or books, and how much freedom of expression should creative people be allowed to have?

These are difficult questions that can’t be fully answered with this simple blog post. So why bring it up? Why bother even writing about it? Because having the conversation is just as important as answering the question.

As with most everything, people have differing opinions on the issue. There are those who believe that some images and words are not appropriate and should be censored every time. Other people believe that nothing should be censored - under any circumstances. There are also those who take a middle ground.

Sometimes the reasons art is censored changes over the years. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain has been censored numerous times over the years. While today it is usually banned because of its racist language and stereotypes, it was first banned one month after its publication by a Massachusetts library in 1885, according to a Huck Finn teacher’s guide provided by PBS. Why was it banned? Because of the “very low grade of morality...couched in the language of a rough dialect [with] a systemic use of bad grammar and an employment of rough, coarse, inelegant expressions. It is also very irreverent…”

Ouch! What artist or author would want to hear that about their work? Mark Twain didn’t mind. His response: “They have expelled Huck from their library...this will sell us another 25,000 copies for sure.”

There are good reasons that people give for why censorship is needed (usually for the sake of children), whether you agree with them or not. There are good reasons that people give for why censorship is not needed, whether you agree with them or not.

Still, it seems odd to call for art to be censored simply because I don’t like what I’m seeing. Who am I to censor something that I consider “offensive” when someone else may have the opposite feelings as I do? My feelings about this “indecent” thing may be very strong. The other person may have feelings just as strong as mine. A piece of art that I consider “immoral” could be a beautiful work of art to someone else.

And here’s the great thing: If I am offended by some piece of art, I have options. I can be my own censor.

If I find a passage in a book that is offensive to me, I can stop reading and close the book.

If I’m at a museum and I see something “indecent,” I can walk away.

If I see art I consider offensive about someone or something that I consider sacred (or that I feel at least deserves reverential treatment), I can ignore it.

What I do know, and I think the majority of people in the world would agree with me, is that there is NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON LIVING ON THIS EARTH who has the right to kill someone else because they were offended by an image, word, or another piece of art. Ever. No exceptions.

Artists, authors, sculptors, and other creative individuals should have the right to create whatever art they want. I have the right to personally decide whether that art is something I want to look at or not. In essence, it really is that simple.

Do you agree with the post? Want to express your opinion about censorship? Please comment below.

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Pros and Cons of an Open Forum


Anyone can read it without being approved or pay a fee


Any post has the potential of silencing others from expressing their opinion


If everyone can read what is posted even non-members can learn information and can take action from the ideas shared on the forum


Sometimes you don't want the "outsiders" to know what you are talking about, or is this a "Pro"?


It can be a melting pot from a wide variety of opinions


You can't speak your mind without possibly getting in trouble with some vested interest

The first popular online open forum in our business was the NAIA forum which was a very dynamic forum until a few obstreperous people continually derailed the discussions and the group voted to make it members only. This really slowed down the discussion and participation dwindled.

In the beginning of AFI all different kinds of people joined and I was pretty clueless about managing it. It was pretty interesting to watch my friends and many strangers show up and debate the questions of the day. People could post anonymously and there were (to my mind) some fists flying. People joined and resigned and rejoined. Many sent  me emails wondering why I was letting such uncivilized behavior occur. At one point there was a mass defection. We changed the rules about anonymous posting, set up a vetting process to allow members into the site, and rewrote our Code of Conduct. Early on some show directors joined and they were attacked and they left, silencing their voices here.

Some of these early voices determined who was on the site and who was not and set the tone.

One thing I have learned is that every comment has the possibility of encouraging someone else to speak and someone else to be silenced. I've heard "well, if they can't interact on an Internet forum how can they expect to prosper at the fairs?" You've got to know the purpose of this site is not to toughen people up.

I don't pay attention to the statistics of the readership or the "hits" and am often surprised when I'm at a show to have someone I know say they read the site regularly and their name isn't even on the membership list. It makes me wonder who is reading the site besides the people who post and comment and what function AFI has for them. My hope is that open discussions can influence people's behavior at the shows and in running the shows.

I can edit everything on the site. I have banned people from the site who came into the forum only to attack others and who never had a constructive point to add and who were just plain mean and rude. I have removed a few that were deliberately attacking another person in a personal way, but probably not often enough.

Many comments and posts have disappeared from the site (including a very recent discussion) because when a person resigns from the site all of their content (comments, discussions, blog posts) disappears with them. I have no control over that.

I've allowed others to stay because sometimes they are very good and sometimes they are very bad and I like to believe the good they contribute outweighs the other. Mostly its a pleasure to get up in the morning to see what is going to happen here today, as there is a solid amount of useful content and I am surprised by the generosity of many of you, but let me tell you folks sometimes it keeps me up at night.

Looking for your input ... is this a fair place to post your views? Got any suggestions on making this a better place for all?

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Moderation and Censorship

Life gets lonely in the studio, or sitting here at the glowing screen of my computer. This website has become a place where like-minded people can hang out, learn some new skills, make some new friends, pick up some tips and make plans for the future. There is a constant inflow of new people and information. But I've got a problem today and am asking for your input.

It has repeatedly been brought to my attention that some members' remarks make others uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that they leave the site and/or won't participate in the discussions any more. We have banned some members from the site and others have not been banned even though they appear to be breaking our "code of conduct." Most of the time, in the middle of some of the "rants", there are some excellent ideas and things to think about. Not always. In order to have an interesting community it is necessary to talk about things besides what kind of tent to buy and should I take credit cards. Right?

I do not read everything that appears on the site and often don't know if something is happening unless I see lots of comments on a topic. I do not want to moderate other adults' conversations. I want to keep this site alive and full of helpful information and entertaining discussion and I want you here.

The question is about censorship and moderation. 

What is true censorship?

  1. Moderation that expects everyone to "be nice" and is enforced, or
  2. a site where members can say what they want and effectively silence others.

And, just in case you think this is something new here, visit this link from a year ago: http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/this-is-your-mother-speaking

I am interested in your comments. Comment on the site or here.

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Art show could land curators in Russian prison

MOSCOW (Reuters) –
The curators of an art exhibit that mixed religious icons with sexual and pop-culture images face up to three years in prison in a case that is testing the tolerance of Russia’s government and its dominant church.

A Moscow court is to issue a verdict on Monday in the trial of Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, charged with debasing religious beliefs and inciting religious hatred for the 2007 show Forbidden Art.

The trial, which recessed late last month, was marred by rowdy shouts from ultranationalists and what Yerofeyev said were thinly veiled threats to kill him and Samodurov if they are found innocent. “The state is trying to selectively censor art,” Yerofeyev said, accusing the authorities of encouraging or supporting ultranationalists who took issue with the exhibit.

Amnesty International said a conviction would make the defendants Russia‘s only prisoners of
, and cultural figures have appealed....read the rest of this story here

This is all over the news and an interesting escapade. I'll bet there are some conservative folks here who would agree ;)
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