The purpose of censorship is to hide something, often by limiting the availability of information. The act of censoring might be done by a government, a company, or some other agency. An individual might self-censor in an effort to seek the approval of those in power. In Freudian Dream Theory, censorship is the force that represses ideas, impulses and feelings, preventing them from entering into the consciousness. In contrast, propaganda gives out false or misleading information. Though different, they both seek to distort the truth.
As a tool for those in power, censorship guides the dissemination of information to manage the public’s understanding about something. It is selective in what is divulged, and what is not, leaving the receiver with a partial and / or distorted view, usually intended to be favourable to the censor’s agenda.
Censorship is like a wall, keeping things from getting out, but as seen with some governments or states, it also prevents things from getting in. Windows and doors in the metaphorical wall enable some things to get through; a door might limit the volume of what can get through; the glass in a window might distort what does.
Building on a fine art genre offers a role for beauty in developing the narrative of the work. Beauty in this role is insidious. It makes the images more pleasing to the eye, it undercuts the gravity of the act, making it more palatable, more acceptable. It has a normalizing effect. It is the sugar coating on the bitter pill. As Aldous Huxley submitted in his 1932 novel, A Brave New World, “the dictatorships of the future will be unlike those of the past … if you [the dictator] want to preserve your power indefinitely … [you] will by-pass the rational side … and make him [the people] love his slavery … the price of freedom is eternal vigilance” [1958, Interview with Mike Wallace]. In other words, it is not only the authoritarian who commands with brute force and terror that we should fear, it is the subtler one who contrives to have us accept their word and then their biddings. These leaders control the information, what is received, they define which are true, which are fake, who is fake, who is to be trusted and not.
The window through which we receive information distorts the truth; good is bad. Information is unstable. The person who lives in a cave can only imagine the outside world by what he is told of it. Beauty encourages us to trust; it engenders hope that keeps us moving on. Hope is the drug (soma) that enables us to pass through what we are told is an ever increasingly complex and unyielding world.
The wall separates us from truth, permits us to ignore, to self-limit what see; to neglect what we don’t want to deal with. It controls our questioning.
While surveillance and censorship are different, it is hard to engage in the latter without the former. The widespread knowledge or belief that we are all being surveilled, leads to self-censorship, to compliance, to normalization. Like Santa Claus who watches, and knows who’s been good or bad, he maintains a list.