Censorship: We ███ know ████ ██ ████ what’s ████ █████ best for you


By MacKenzie Chase

Big Brother is watching.  At least, it feels like he could be with the recent rise in attempts to monitor and control people’s actions.  The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which were introduced earlier this year, caused a big commotion among younger people when they realized how easy it would be to be censored.

Before the Internet, movies, music and books were under attack through the years for one reason or another. Bookmans Entertainment Exchange has been fighting against censorship for over 30 years and has designated September as Censorship Month.

Elena Ybarra, Bookmans’ event liaison, believes censorship is still a very relevant topic because people continue to try to control what others are allowed to read.

“Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) puts out a list of books that have garnered complaints and requests for bans from public libraries and schools. A lot of the titles are ones that have been in this fight for decades,” she explained.

Some examples of books that have ended up on the banned books list before range from dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s classic 1984 to Bridge to Terabithia, a children’s book by Katherine Paterson. Among these commonly challenged books is the Harry Potter series.

“There are a lot of reasons why material is censored. Harry Potter was brought to court under the claim that it perpetuated worship of the devil and dark arts through its world of magic and spells,”said Ybarra.

Noemi Borcea, a senior majoring in social work, agrees some of the titles that have appeared on the banned books list don’t belong.

“I thought some of them were really stupid, like James and the Giant Peach. They banned that one, but I read it in sixth grade,” she said.  “I can read Harry Potter without turning into a Satanist.”

There’s an entire week dedicated to reading banned or challenged books which usually occurs in the last week of September.  According to the official Banned Books Week website, the campaign began in 1982, due to the rising number of books being taken from the public shelves. Bookmans provides bookmarks for readers to pick up for free that contain thoughtful slogans, such as calling censorship the assassination of an idea.

“Censorship takes away the opportunities for everyone to be involved, on every level, from creation and execution of an idea to the intake and appreciation (or otherwise) of that idea,” Ybarra said.

Banned movies and music are just as much an issue as controlling what people can or cannot read.

“We feel very strongly that censorship of those mediums, for whatever reason, is detrimental to our society and its members,” she said. “There’s an incredible amount of knowledge and expression at stake when someone comes along and says ‘I don’t think anyone should read/watch/play this because there’s something in there that I do not like for these reasons.”

By not allowing people to read or view something, they’re not able to form their own ideas about issues or discuss opinions with others.

“It hurts everyone — even us, behind the counters at Bookmans, who often read and discuss such books, movies, music and everything else on a daily basis,” she said.

However, there could be an exception when it comes to parents, although they should know about the media before making the decision on whether it is appropriate.

“Take the time to play through a video game or watch a movie, or read the book before deciding if it is okay for your child,” Ybarra advised.

To that, Borcea added some things that seem age-appropriate really are not.

“It’s the parent’s right to censor what their children read, but after a certain age, you can’t [just] stay with age-appropriate material.  It depends, though, because sometimes age-appropriate books are really not age-appropriate.” Borcea said.

Through the month of September as part of their campaign, Bookmans hosted weekly movie nights called Censorship vs. Film where they would screen films that were based off of different books that had been challenged in the past or currently.

“We set up a television in the Cafe and had discussions regarding the court cases made against both books and film — what changes were made to the films to appease the ratings committees and even taking a look at some essays written by grade-school children about why they think they should be allowed to see these films for themselves,” said Ybarra.

The other events included an Adult Craft Night for attendees to create notebooks for self-expression and a celebration of The Hobbit’s 75th anniversary, a popularly challenged book.

“We’re hoping to find ways to gather more interest and generate more noise about like events in the future,” she said.

During the rest of the year, to fight censorship, Bookmans tries to provide customers with titles that they are interested in including banned materials.

“We understand that not everything is for everyone, but we trust customers to understand why we still carry it. It’s part of the education we hope to give regarding censorship and anti-censorship, and we’re always happy to answer any questions about titles that they may have,” Ybarra said.

Stick it to the man by picking up a book that’s appeared on the banned list over years and take the time to educate yourselves outside of the classroom.


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October 2012
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