The Impotency of Censorship

By MatTehCat | MatTehCat's Blogs | 5 Dec 2019


“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose,

By any other name, would smell as sweet.”

 

- Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II, Juliet, by William Shakespeare

 

Censorship is, in laymen’s terms, the idea of an authority telling you what you should not say; from a lexical definition, “The suppression or proscription of speech or writing that is deemed obscene, indecent, or unduly controversial.”  Far too often, we are willing to turn our heads away from censorship.  We will say things like, “Well, it’s not me,”  “All you have to do is follow the rules,” and, “Freedom of Speech does not mean freedom from consequence.”  All of these serve as apologia for what, in this blog, I will demonstrate as being blatantly Anti-Human. 

 

Yes, Anti-Human.  Against human nature, against what it is to be a human, against Humanity as a being that is distinct from all other creatures on this planet; i.e. a thinking being with the capacity to reason and to communicate that reasoning through symbols (culture) to better itself.  No other creature is capable of this; no other creature has the capacity to speak, to identify an object, to give that object meaning, to associate objects of its like with that meaning, and to know, through categorization, through pattern recognition, that like objects will have a like function and nature.

 

This is the idea of cultural development, that which truly separates humans from other species on this planet.  Culture is the extended phenotype of the Human species that serves as a mechanism to socialize, or civilize individuals so that they may become members of a group; and, the mechanism through which values, or an ideal model, are instantiated in a being, which manifest within the individual, and the group, the potential to develop more complex instantiations of those values, or that model.  Without culture, we lack the capacity to socialize in a highly functional and complex manner, we degrade to our baser state, and we lose the ability to enmesh ourselves, as individuals, into a group, into a whole.  Culture is thought to have been born, or is continuously born when a thinking being establishes a new function for an object, or subject; the thinking being gives that object, or subject, a name and associates it with a function; and, the thinking being recognizes the object relative to its function. (1)

 

If you didn’t catch what’s important about the development of culture, here it is, “The thinking being gives an object, or subject, a name…” it names its object, it uses language, communication and signification, to categorize and assign function to an object.  And then, something beautiful can happen: two, or more thinking beings can cross each other, beginning something called Cultural Evolution; a change in culture over time. Once a cultural object exists ( i.e. a named thing that has a function), is related to its function and its name, and can be associated with objects of an analogous, or homologous nature, through communication (i.e. through the production of signs and symbols), greater functionality can be instantiated within the object (2); i.e. Cultural Evolution.  Through the exchange of ideas via communication, the production of signs or symbols, our understanding of objects, or subjects increases through that which is considered to be a synthesizing process; the mechanism through which one instantiation of an object reaches or meets another, or similar, instantiation of its like, which manifests, by a communicator and observer of said meeting, a greater understanding of its functionality, its purpose. 

 

Then you may be asking yourself: how does this relate to censorship, why, then, would this make censorship explicitly Anti-Human.

 

1: Culture is a distinctly Human attribute.

 

2: Censorship, for it to, in effect, work, must end culture; it must end the flow of communication, signification, and the evolution of ideas.

 

C: To end culture, to end the flow of communication, signification, and its evolution, would be Anti-Human, as culture is distinctly Human.

 

 

Here is a model of the afore mentioned process and why, if one wishes for censorship to truly take effect, culture must cease to exist.

 

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Figure 1

 

In Figure 1, we acknowledge via the null hypothesis that the locus of censorship continuously, or will continuously reinstantiate itself through the mechanisms of communication, signification, and the evolution of culture.  If otherwise, it will have to be shown how culture can evolve without giving rise to variables that reflect the original locus of censorship. For the sake of argument, the theory is accepted as modeled.

 

Now, you may ask yourself, why doesn’t the censor recognize the folly of their own behavior; why are they inclined towards that which is Anti-Human?  One simple reason: they are unable to recognize the loop they are in, for, in my estimation, at least three reasons.  1: by the time the reinstantiation of the locus of censorship occurs, the individuals who decreed that its original instantiation should be censored are gone, beginning the process again; 2: the evolution of culture through communication and signification takes place in a manner that is, at first, deemed benign, and then, when it disturbs the senses of the censor, deemed malignant; and, or 3: to put it simply, they can’t see what is in front of them for their noses, i.e they are greedy, power hungry, avaricious, willing to sacrifice what makes Humanity human for control, and thus blind.  And of course, it needn’t be one or the other; it could, in fact, be all three at once.

 

What the censor also fails to recognize is that, in order to censor, they must engage in the very act of signification and communication that is causing the problem; the production of signs and symbols (words and laws) and theories on those words and laws, (signs and symbols); i.e. communication and signification, respectively.  In turn, they develop doublethink.

 

When I quote Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, what I am expressing is that, no matter how you put it, no matter what word you use, nor matter how you symbolize it or express it, the object being expressed, (e.g. the Rose) will be the case; its function, the potential functions and their effects, which are nested within it, which are analogous and homologous, are manifestable.  You cannot rid the world of the symbol without ridding the world of the object as the object, not as the symbol.  And because the meaning, or function of the object can reinstantiate itself in objects, or subjects, of an analogous or a homologous nature, you cannot simply rid the world of the objects, or subjects, unless you rid the world of that which gives meaning to the objects, or subjects, all together.

 

In this case, the object is culture, because language and the written word are aspects of culture, and, through signification and communication, even without the written word or linguistic systems, what has been censored can be re-expressed in different forms of culture, (Aesthetically, Musically, Somatically, etc); because culture is a distinctly human aspect, you cannot effectively censor without ridding the world of that which manifests the problem for the censor in the first place: Humanity.  Thus, to censor is to be explicitly Anti-Human, not merely anti-culture.

 

This extends outwards, to all aspects of society, not merely the public but also the private:

 

“The First Amendment says that, and I quote, ”Congress shall make no law… abridging the Freedom of Speech,” however this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook.  We’re [Sacha Baron Cohen and the ADL] not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society, we just want them to be responsible on their platforms.”

 

- Sacha Baron Cohen at the ADL International Leadership Award Presented to Sacha Baron Cohen at Never Is Now, November, 2019

 

In this quote, we can see Sacha Baron Cohen calling for what we have identified as a distinctly Anti-Human sentiment.

 

1: Censorship is Anti-Human.

 

2: Engaging in censorship would be Anti-Human.

 

C: Even if it is a private company, for it to engage in censorship would make that private company Anti-Human.

 

Couching this in being responsible does not diminish the fact that, in calling for this, Cohen is expressing a clear Anti-Human sentiment, for the reasons that were listed above: he does not think that people will find a way around this censorship; he thinks that that which is currently deemed acceptable will not be deemed unacceptable in the future; and, or he is too power hungry to see the impotency of his call to action.

 

Another instance of this comes from Angela Merkel.

 

“[Limits] start where there is stirring up, where there is the propagation of hate, these [limits] start where the dignity of other people is hurt and we have to and will stand up against this in this house.”

 

- Angela Merkel, November, 2019

 

Again, it is clear to see that the censor is unaware of its own act, that it is blind to the act it’s committing, that it is blind to the fact that, in Merkel’s own words, the dignity of not just, “other,” people, but all people is hurt, in fact, by necessity, must be hurt, in order for censorship to take effect.  As has been shown, the only way for censorship to truly work is to end communication and signification all together, i.e. to end culture.

 

What is most intriguing is that, in the instance of Cohen, he almost seems aware of the fact that, for what he is calling for to work, there must be, what he qualifies as, a “Purge.”

 

“If these internet companies really want to make a difference, they should hire enough monitors to actually monitor, work closely with groups like the ADL, insist on facts and purge these lies and conspiracies from their platforms.”

- Cohen

 

What sort of cognitive dissonance will these monitors develop; how paranoid will they become when they realize that even the most benign image has the capacity to be reappropriated and redefined through communication and signification, such that all imagery must be purged, all thought purified, all language made null; what happens when they start to see their own gestures, their own behavior, and their own responses as the problem, in so far as their whole being causes that which they foolishly wish to crusade against.

 

Is Cohen aware of this, is Cohen aware of the fact that a flood begins with a trickle and then develops into a downpour, eventually deluging all it touches?  Where does the buck stop, who and what should be purged?  Is he, for his art, going to be purged, will he be seen as the cause of bigotry and hatred, which, according to Merkel, we will have to stand against? Or, is he closing the door behind him; is he washing his hands of his own acts while decrying you for doing that which he did? 

 

Once the process of censorship begins, the people enacting the censorship will be caught up in a positive feedback loop; a feedback loop that runs haywire; its result being, both metaphorically and in actuality, explosive.  If history has taught us anything about censorship, about the suppression of peoples and culture, it is that what those people were saying, what they were communicating and signifying, always rears its head; the truth wills out.  In calling for censorship, what Angela Merkel and Sacha Baron Cohen fail to realize is that they are preforming what is, for all intents and purposes, a Sisyphean task; as is indicated in Figure 1.  They, as a result of cultural evolution, will have to continuously censor; and, as the mimetic loop destabilizes, as the positive feedback loop goes haywire, they will have to censor more and more, until the veracity of their impotent act is exemplified.

 

 

 

References:

 

(1): A Theory of Semiotics; Umberto Eco, (0.8.2.), Tools, p 22. 1976, Indiana University Press.

 

(2): A Theory of Semiotics; Umberto Eco, (0.8.2.), Tools, p 24. 1976, Indiana University Press.

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MatTehCat
MatTehCat

Writer, Blogger and Vlogger creating stories, rhetorical arguments, and editorials on philosophy, psychology, religion and art.


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