Media Observations – Censorship

Some may consider it the realm of conspiracy theorists. Others consider it more reasonable, considering the recent scares concerning the government supervision of our communications. Worries of the NSA’s listening ears, or the Patriot Act’s indiscretion have opened the public’s mind to the idea that the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution has some clear exceptions to absolute free speech.

Congress is usually restricted, being allowed to make no law whatsoever to govern what passes through the media channels of the country. The exceptions to this are several, being principally censorship of matters of military operations in times of war, of national security, and of clear and present dangers to the public of the nation.

The trick here is that these terms are very open and potentially ambiguous. What the government believes is a matter of national security is likely not the same as what typical media outlets consider to be a threat to the nation. Clear and present dangers often require court mediation to decide the true nature of the communication, as the definition of “clear” and “present” are not always clear. The general idea, however, is that a public threat must be obviously dangerous to the public well-being, and currently active or spreading throughout the populace. Thus, even a past event, something that was once a clear or present danger, may still be censored if it did not penetrate to the public’s attention while it was still current.

This difference in opinion is where the media and the government clash most frequently, as reporters and news outlets may sometimes compromise the common good for a timely, informative, powerful, or controversial story.

How do you feel about the censorship the government applies to our media? Is it justified? Would you rather see censorship applied to more areas, such as generally disturbing or foul entertainment, or fewer, so as to avoid a slippery slope of censorship?


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