There is a PBS video on the art of the nude. In it, they discuss a sad bit of censorship. An art teacher was fired because the library had a boxed collection of post-card sized illustrations of great artworks on hand for students and some 6th graders got to see them. Messed up her career. Two of the cards featured female nudes.
This is a kind of de jure censorship. Even though there’s no specific law against showing nude art to children, the definition of censorship only requires government action of some sort. Most people are receptive to censoring messages that involve tobacco, alcohol, violence, and hate from what children access at school but I think blocking artwork from the Louvre is going overboard, as is firing the instructor.
Alexander Kandinsky’s work, Nude Descending a Staircase, was denied admission to an exhibition. Not because it featured a nude or because it was the seminal work of the radical new school of abstract expressionism, but because she was descending a staircase. Proper female nudes in art do not descend staircases, they must be passive and not active.
This really isn’t censorship. It is generally a rule of law that anyone who owns a media outlet can control what goes out. It applies as much to Facebook or MeWe or YouTube or Twitter. If I own a venue and at that venue I put up a bulletin board for the use of my customers, I have the right to remove notices that I object to. However, there is an intermediate state.
Let us say that the government issues guidelines on what may or may not be expressed. The speech that falls plainly within the restrictions is de jure censorship. But guidelines are rarely explicit and almost never clear-cut. There will be grey areas. Intentional grey areas intended to discourage legal speech. Because of the blurry line between allowed and proscribed speech, private parties will often exercise far more restrictive self-censorship than is actually called for out of fear of legal entanglement. This is indirect censorship.
What do we call it when a college cancels a scheduled speaker out of the fear protesters will cause a ruckus? They are for the most part government entities. That is censorship by spinelessness. Censorship by heckler’s veto. The funny thing is that the first amendment was not intended to protect uncontroversial speech. The speech that everyone is cool with needs no protection. Colleges, the supposed liberal bastions of society, have conveniently forgotten this.
Source: This is my place.
Original publication 1 February, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 14th February 2021
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.