The notions of free speech and censorship have been at the stem of much debate for many years. Margaret Laurence explores various arguments in her work, The Greater Evil, and concludes that censorship is indeed the greater evil. There are valid points that persuade both sides of this argument, however it is clear that censorship mutes society and blinds it from the truth. As a result, censorship is the greater evil.
Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights that individuals have.It is essential to the existence of democracy and the respect of human dignity. Freedom of speech is a notion which sets this country apart from others, and a belief upon which an individual’s rights as a citizen rest upon. Freedom of speech gives society a voice, a voice that can be shared amongst thousands or millions of people, all coming from different classes of society. This way the poor as well as the minorities are not ignored.
Democracy over dictatorship is what allows individual’s to speak their mind, and have an opportunity to share their ideas with others.It is also one of the most dangerous rights, because freedom of expression means the freedom to express one’s discontent with the status quo and the desire to change it. Freedom of speech can be abused, as illustrated by Margaret Laurence. She uses pornography as an example to show the exploitation of women and children. Pornography demeans children and women all over the world; as it uses violence and cruelty for the viewer’s enjoyment. Freedom of speech is one of the most threatened rights, with governments – and even human rights groups – all over the world constantly trying to curtail it.Censorship is essential when freedom of speech is abused. Censorship prevents the naive and uneducated children from being exposed to disturbing material such as pornography.
Furthermore, it protects individuals of different ethnic groups from being verbally harassed through negative media. Margaret Laurence experienced censorship first hand, as her book The Diviners was attacked for being ‘obscene, pornographic, immoral and blasphemous. ‘ Although censorship does provide some benefits, it brings with it many negative aspects that out weigh it’s positive doings.Censorship conceals problems from society. It takes away society’s freedom to think and speak its mind. Similarly, the notion robs individuals of their personality, protests, and hope for change.
Censorship leads one to believe that certain materials of general media are wrong and immoral. However, one cannot deny that much of the literature that is banned under the umbrella of censorship, is merely the harsh reality of life, as is the case in Margaret Laurence’s novel.Society that lives with censorship loses the ability to think outside its boundaries, to obtain knowledge or ask questions about certain pressing subjects, and ultimately think and act as those who are given power to censor media. Censorship assumes that society at large does not have the ability to discern right from wrong, thus allocating controlling power in the hands of few people who make the judgment, which is questionable itself, on behalf of the whole society.
This assumption disempowers the society. There is no great advantage to censorship as it blocks and conceals what people think, and threatens their democracy. Margaret Laurence states that our laws are not written in stone, that they can be changed. An alternative to censorship is to change the law. She uses Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, as an example of hate literature. She states.
‘We must understand and recognize our enemies, to counter inhumane ranting with human and humane beliefs and practices.This alternative option allows society and leaders of the society to counter our enemies by using just and appropriate ways to argue their views instead of concealing them. It is evident that although censorship protects innocent children from negative media, censorship only conceals problems in society. Society loses its voice and a chance to quenches it’s craving for mature subject matters, whereas freedom of speech allows people to explore new ideas and share their concerns with others.
It is clear that censorship is the greater evil.