Digest of terms


the attempt to identify and control the expression of views and sentiments which are judged to be detrimental to a defended cause, by proscribing them legally. Historically, the Roman Catholic Church developed an Index of Prohibited Literature, and individual Protestant churches have censored all manner of reading matter. Muslims are protective of the reputation of Muhammad as the Prophet of God, and the burning of offending books and pictures (Rushdie affair) reflects heightened sensitivity to what is regarded as blasphemy. Those concerned with moral education may share the widespread academic judgement that censorship is often counterproductive, because it draws attention to 'forbidden fruits', which then become the more desirable. Equally, they may still seek to censor such material as invites wilful devaluation of others, or hostility to them because of their race, gender or religion. In modern Western societies, though, censorship in respect of the theatre, the cinema, or even of much pornography, still quite extensive as recently as the early Sixties, has reduced markedly in scope, being guided increasingly by a few key liberty-limiting principles.

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