Sunday, April 26, 2009

Self Censorship

It strikes me that self-censorship is an impossibility. When a person feels the need to self-censor, what they are really doing is reconsidering their view in light of their audience. That's not censorship, that's decorum. Or at least, it's a situational awareness. People say what they want all over the internet with impunity, because there aren't personal relationships at stake. But all communication involves that interaction, and while I don't think a person should sacrifice one's opinions for the sake of visibility, I think that awareness of the audience is key.

I mention this because I've spent a lot of time lately debating Armenia with Turkish Nationals online. If I used the word genocide, I couldn't have a conversation. But if I dance around the word, play in the gray areas of war, war crimes, ethnic violence, civilian casualties, and unintentional consequences, I can have a meaningful debate. And that, to me, is far more important that a hard, ideological line in the sand. Discourse needs some flexibility to work, and I'm perfectly willing to not expressly attack people to make progress towards resolution.

(Ed Note: Armenia is easy for me to do this way, because I don't have a huge personal stake in it; I'm aware of the flaws in that.)

(My apologies for my absence from this blog; I've had more writing this semester than ever before in my life. But school is almost out, and I should be back to the blogosphere in no time)


V said...

I dunno. I see your point about the Armenia debate, but at some point it's not "decorum", but "fear for one's life or livelihood". You're silent not because you want to prolong a civil conversation, but because someone else is weilding power that you fear. That's self-censorship, IMO.

Kelsey Atherton said...

The only power in the situation (for me) is the refusal to talk, and I guess I do give that up in order to have the conversation. I think having the conversation, though, it itself a very vulnerable thing, and engaging in a conversation, even one that dances around words, is not a compromise so long as I never accept that it isn't genocide. I may not say that it is, and I may use a lot of plains war metaphors, but I don't concede that it isn't genocide. I just don't say that it is. Inherently weaselly, and aided by the loose definition of genocide. But I don't think I'm compromised in doing it.