The Fallacy of Censorship

The great fallacy of censorship is in many cases the way in which it draws even more attention to the sign, the symbol or the action it seeks to obscure. There may be some elementary psychological principle at work in this, some irreducibly mischievous game of taboo peek-a-boo. We seek to representationally obscure that which is already obvious: the bleeped swearwords which by context are simple enough to deduce; the digitised middle-finger insult – comically poignant during replays of broadcast television wrestling matches in which athletes simulate beating each other to a pulp but the almost completely (i.e. materially) harmless act of “flipping the bird” is considered to be too outrageous to display un-digitised. Perhaps we can only cope with (or hide from) the authentically troubling facts of our civilisation (poverty, war, mismanagement, corruption, misanthropy) by the cumulative misdirection, displacement and sublimation in diminutive dissimulations of those trivial acts and representational trivialities that we can, at least notionally, control.

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