Essay:Criticism of CP's Censorship Page

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This essay is criticism of the claims made on Conservapedia's Censorship page. Accessed December 24, 2008. (Note: Shortly after access, Andrew Schlafly reverted a point that addressed Conservapedia's own censorship. Since I did not counter this claim, it has little impact on the essay.)


Conservapedia claims that censorship "is the suppression of statements or information for ideological reasons." This is not entirely accurate. Censorship instead is the suppression of any information or media for the basis of security, or because said information or media is objectionable or too provocative for political, moral or commercial reasons. Ideology is only one of several aspects of reasoning to censor something.

Examples Conservapedia claims for censorship are based solely on their own definition, which itself is not accurate. Here I will discuss each separately.

Conservapedia's points

Atheist's response

the banning of prayer in the classroom

An assumption must be made here, as prayer in the classroom itself is not banned anywhere in the United States. However, forced or group prayer in public schools (private schools which do not accept taxpayer funds are free to decide for themselves) during class time or school functions are prohibited, as part of the First Amendment's separation of church and state.[1][2] Individual students may pray by themselves, or as part of voluntary groups that meet outside normal school functions and hours. Schools are also legally allowed to rent their classrooms outside of school hours to religious organizations and churches to hold religious services. The claimed censorship seems to be that Conservapedia wants everyone to undergo their religious doctrine, regardless of their religious affiliation. Schools are for educational purposes, just as churches are for religious purposes.

the rejection of pro-life advertisements

CP's claim here gives an example of a Canadian public organization's refusal to display a pro-life advertisement. The article, however, opens with "The city of Hamilton, Ontario, has announced that it will be revising its rules so as to allow pro-life advertisements to be displayed in city bus shelters and other similar city-owned advertising spots." It appears that what they link runs counter-claim to their argument.

An organization, LifeCanada, purchased an ad campaign that had a pro-life/anti-abortion message, and the image of a pregnant woman with a ghostly unborn baby inside her womb. The article states, "The decision to pull the ads was made after Hamilton's transit office received three complaints, and one of the ads was vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti. A city councilor, Brian McHattie, also personally submitted a request for the ads to be removed, saying that they were 'offensive,' and 'totally inappropriate'."

"The proposed changes to the city's advertising policies will not only apply to pro-life ads, but to all advertising that is religious or that involves advocacy of some kind," the article continues. So, after complaints were filed, the ad campaign was pulled. But the city of Hamilton's mass transit authority has revised its policy of advertisement for all future ads that are religious or advocating a position. This is not censorship, but a refinement of what will be allowed from any organization, regardless of its message.

The authority already agreed to run the campaign; the complaints caused it to suspend the campaign and refine its rules.

Censorship of dissenting views, particularly pro-evolutionary and pro-choice views, on Conservapedia[3]

This would qualify as censorship on ideological grounds.

the destruction of conservative newspapers on college campuses

Since the link offered does not show any stories (and instead redirects to the home page of Philadelphia's The Bulletin), it is difficult to know what the claim is. At a college I went to, the Wall Street Journal was as available as The New York Times and USA Today. Conservative newspapers on campuses also exist. What is destroyed is inconclusive.

the banning of mention of intelligent design in school

This is another example of an incorrect argument. Intelligent Design's name is not banned anywhere in school. Religious and philosophy classes are able to teach it. Science classes can mention it as a view people hold. However, as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School System revealed, Intelligent Design is poorly-repackaged Creationism. It is not a valid scientific idea, has no evidence or testable hypotheses, and offers nothing in the sense of the scientific method. It simply cannot be taught as a science.

To argue this constitutes censorship would be the same as arguing that not teaching alchemy in chemistry class, magic in physics class or astrology in astronomy courses constitutes censorship. Science is about expanding man's knowledge of the natural world, and not about entertaining any idea or opinion offered as so-called alternatives. To teach each of these would take up entire years of classroom time and would end up failing the students.

protesting and disrupting invited conservative speakers on campuses

This goes both ways. The first claim is an example of a freedom people in the United States have; arguing that allowing it is a form of censorship infringes people's rights.

Protesting and organizing against a person or entity is legal and should be enjoyed by those who have a grievance. And this argument only targets conservative speakers. Is CP claiming that protesting conservative speakers is censorship, but protesting liberal speakers, or progressive speakers, or environmental speakers, or gun-control speakers, etc., is not censorship?

The second claim is valid. Disrupting speakers on campuses should not be tolerated. Protesting can be done without disrupting the person's speech. But like the previous claim, is it only conservative speakers who would validate this, or any speakers invited to the campus?

If CP claims only conservative speakers deserve protection from dissenting voices, then their claim falls into the ideological. It would be arguing only their point of view matters.

Censorship can also take the form of ostracizing students for expressing pro-life or other conservative views

Their claim links to another CP page about liberals and friendship. One of their professed arguments about liberal ideology on school campuses is from Darryn Beckstrom. In it, he argues that conservatives need to hide their ideology or be ostracized on campuses, because students and colleagues expect them to be liberal.

My personal experiences follow. One class I took on journalism involved a mentally unbalanced, proud conservative instructor. He was not mentally unbalanced because he was conservative, but because he became unhinged every class. On a discussion of the media, he turned to the class and proclaimed that the United States would have won the Vietnam War if it had not been for the godless liberal media. His rantings became so frequent that classes fell behind in lectures. By the time I asked to be transferred to another instructor teaching the same course, I was three chapters behind in the textbook in the third week of instruction.

I knew he was a conservative. He was proud to wear the badge of conservatism. I knew of one instructor who was a liberal because she joked about her husband being a Republican and she a Democrat late in the course. I've had about thirty instructors, and these are the only two instructors I can state their political beliefs.

I've known a few classmates who were openly conservative. A few had McCain or Bush stickers on their laptops, backpacks, books or organizers. They were never targets for their views or made examples of in any classroom I attended. Politics never came up except with the instructors listed above. Except for the mentally unbalanced instructor above, all teachers taught the courses for which they were hired to teach and left their personal lives and ideology as far from the classroom as possible.

Perhaps the feeling that people like Darryn Beckstrom and CP editors feel is that others are tired of hearing their ideology? If it must rule their lives to the point that everyone easily knows their political or ideological beliefs, then this would be their issue and not others around them. Professors are to teach, and students are to learn. Unless the class specifically requires ideology or political beliefs, there is no reason that any should be injected, whether conservative or liberal. And anyone who wishes to wear the ideological badge while teaching a non-ideological class should reconsider why he or she is a professor in the first place.

Censorship is sometimes based on a misuse of copyright, as in the unsuccessful attempt to censor the movie Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed about intelligent design

The example given is the family of John Lennon suing the makers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed for the use of part of Lennon's song "Imagine." Yoko Ono, widow of the former Beatles band member, is a bit sue-happy, according to others.[4] She has also asked a performer not to trademark the name "Lennon." Using the Lennon family's lawsuit as an example of censorship against Expelled is not very telling.

Besides, should Conservapedia really argue censorship under the guise of misuse of copyright?

Censorship of conservative talk radio via the Fairness Doctrine

Any radio broadcasts licensed in the United States are granted a limited monopoly under FCC regulations. This means that, should the licensee run afoul of rules setup by the FCC, the license may be revoked. By granting this monopoly, the FCC also restricts the bandwidth in any area.

So if a radio dial has all of one voice in a market (which often is the case), then the public has little choice in what is broadcast in the marketplace. Thus, the Fairness Doctrine acts as a guarantee that a market is not controlled by one voice. Under previous administrations, the Fairness Doctrine was minimalized and discarded, and thus gave birth to the juggernaut of right-wing talk radio. Corporations would license to or buy radio stations in markets and put on non-stop right-wing talk hosts, to the point that any other talk shows or upstart networks would have no viable licenses in the market.

To declare the addition of another voice at no cost to the existing voice an act of censorship is absurd. To enable only one voice in a market is itself an act of censorship of other voices in the public airwaves.

Conservapedia's article then shows more of their ideology at work. They quote:

In the United States, the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Broadly speaking, the First Amendment
is designed to prevent the government from exercising censorship. However, the government
sometimes censors political and religious speech anyway.

What's missing in those ellipses?

. . . respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or . . .

Why would they leave that out?

They then claim:

More specifically, the government should not exercise "prior restraint." That is, a citizen
should not need advance permission from the government in order to publish something, unless
it threatens national security. This does not mean that publication may not have consequences:
a citizen can be sued for publishing libel, or incarcerated for disclosing military secrets,
but the consequences typically occur after publication, not before. 

No examples are given about citizens requiring permission to publish something not including that covered under national security. Why this is brought into their article is unclear.

The rest of the article is about censorship based on moral and obscene grounds. Saudi Arabia censors Christianity. United States censors nudity more than the French. Claims like these.

At the end, though, Conservapedia includes a link to Liberal censorship, but offer no links to Conservative censorship. Are they admitting again that CP practices censorship on ideological grounds? If so, it goes against their claimed differences from Wikipedia.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Engel v. Vitale, 1962
  2. Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 1963
  3. Andrew Schlafly has since reverted the edit that added this point
  4. http://www.thebadandugly.com/2008/04/23/yoko-ono-is-a-little-sue-happy/
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