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October 1994


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"Russell A. Potter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 24 Oct 1994 08:04:39 -0400
text/plain (52 lines)
Chloe M. Evan-Hughes ([log in to unmask]) believes "censorship in necessary."
Please do drop us all a line when you get a librarian job -- I'll remember
not to visit you there.
I think you are confusing censorship with judgment.  Judgment is exercised,
one hopes, by everyone -- which is why I believe that librarians should
*not* pre-judge materials.  They can, and often do, help patrons choose
appropriate materials, but they also have a responsibility not to deny
people access to books.
In the U.S. (and apparently, to some degree, in the UK), the paranoiac
version of judgment seems to have become the norm.  Films, videos, music,
and books are viewed as dangerous implements, in need of warning stickers
and restriction on purchase and borrowing.  If someome sees a movie about
mass murder and then begins slicing and dicing his neighbors, we expect
him to sue the producers of the film (and the network or studio as well).
If someone listens to a rap song about cop killing and goes and kills
a police officer, you can hear the defense even before the case comes
to court.
You say you would not want your 4-year old nephew viewing "a horrow film."
Which one?  Do you trust every sticker you read?  My 7-year old loved
Frankenstein when he was 4; my 4-year old is terrified of it, and may
not watch it until he's ten -- or whenever he's ready -- a judgment I
will make, not some ratings board.  All kids are different, and so are
adults -- just because a few scattered people misinterpret a film is
no reason to censor it (ditto on books).  Would you lend a morose-looking
young man a copy of _The Sorrows of Young Werther_?  Encouraging suicide!
How about _Catcher in the Rye?_  And, when it comes to films, would you
let this some patron check out _Caligula_ -- or would _Full Metal Jacket_
maybe push him off the deep end?  My point is that you, as a librarian,
cannot make these judgments; it must be up to the patron (and, in the case
of young children, their parents or guardians).  All censorship is born
of good intentions.
When it comes to what films or books a library acquires, of course, you
are quite right. There are hard choices to be made.  But it's still my
feeling that a library shold make available the books it thinks will
be most valuable, most in demand, regardless of whether a certain one
is "controversial" -- ditto for films.
Is there such a thing as "rational censorship"?  I think not.  But
there is personal judgment, and it will have to do; librarians (and
educators) should not be making judgments (or taking responsibility)
for choices that should by made by everyone.
"Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies"
                                                    --Friedrich Nietzsche
=======Russell A. Potter========<[log in to unmask]>=====================