In 1497, Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola inspired the populace of Florence, Italy to burn their vanities. He was not the first to attempt to impose his ideas of what was right and good upon the people. Since history began, regimes and religions have sought to direct and restrain ideas and thinking by controlling what people read and see. Many classic books schools now often require students to read include formerly banned books.
Digging a little more deeply into Monday's LinkedIn post on this subject, I repeat the opinion that censorship is alive and well, even in the USA today. The general concept of censorship hinges upon the idea of access to words and ideas being restricted by an outside authority or force. With the capabilities afforded by social media, people today exercise even more thorough censorship upon themselves.
We use social media to filter the news we receive so that contradictory ideas and controversial concepts might disturb us. We're happy in our little ruts of thought; change and expansion hurt. Echoes of our own opinions and convictions validate them and comfort us. I'm guilty of that and so are you.
One easy and frequent method by which we exercise self-censorship is through the DNF ("did not finish") of the books downloaded to our e-readers. We justify deleting unfinished books from our e-readers because of poor writing, poor storytelling, disjointed or nonsensical plots, factual errors, displeasing protagonists, or abhorrent themes. Some readers cannot and do not tolerate explicitly sexual material. Others clutch their pearls when faced with profanity. Disappointed or appalled readers self-censor their reading by removing offending material from their e-readers and then attempt to dissuade others from those same books by leaving reviews warning potential readers of the objectionable or lackluster material. I'm guilty of that and so are you.
In short, we hope to influence others to our ways of thinking even as we protect our own fragile minds from the material that disturbs, disgusts, or offends us.
That said, I do not consider every book I download and open to be worth my time. My time is valuable and my limited leisure time even more so. It's mine to do with as I wish, just as yours is. We exercise choice which lends itself to self-censorship.
To make self-censorship palatable and at least rational, one must engage in critical thinking to evaluate the verbiage dumped into our minds. A former coworker once accused me of being close-minded. An open mind is like a ditch, it accepts everything that falls into it, I rebutted. I have filters. I judge the ideas and words flung at me and then decide whether they're worth keeping. Not ever idea has worth. Not every concept withstands critical evaluation. Some we accept anyway, because they entertain us or make us feel good or for whatever other reason. As long as we know why we accept such things, we understand the influence they may (or may not) have upon our thoughts and actions. Those we determine as unworthy and unacceptable, we toss, but it's important that we know why we discard them.
Humans mostly make decisions with their emotions or gut feelings. We are not always, mostly, or even necessarily rational creatures. Like our pets, we prefer comfort and toss into the bonfires of our vanities that which discomforts us.
What are we discarding that, perhaps, we ought to reconsider keeping?