REGISTER VIEWPOINT: If you can't see it, it's censorship

Artist James Parlin has stirred up a controvery at BGSU Firelands with one of his works of art. But you won&rsq
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Artist James Parlin  has stirred up a controvery at BGSU Firelands with one of his works of art.

But you won’t be able to see it. Firelands Dean James Smith reacted to objections to the piece by ordering it removed from the Little Gallery. In protest to this censorship, the gallery shut down the entire exhibit.

The trouble with censorship is someone else is deciding what you can hear, see or read. It supposes you are not intelligent enough or moral enough to decide for yourself and must be protected.

All this seems OK when the censor shares your principles. But let him try to stifle what you do not find offensive and the trouble with the basic premise of censorhip becomes apparent.

What’s acceptable varies from place to place, so the only way to ensure no group’s freedom of expression is usurped is to stand strong against all censorship.

Each individual must censor himself according to his own standards.

If a book, a song or an art display offends you, by all means avoid it.

It’s your right.

If you think any of these things could be harmful to your children, exercise your parental authority to curb their access to them.

It’s your duty.

But your right to shelter anyone from offensive material extends no further than your doorstep.

BGSU Firelands can invite any artists it wishes.

Once the invitation is extended and the display is in place, bowing to viewers’ concerns about the suitability of the display is censorship.

To placate those who object to the subject matter, a warning of controversial material within the gallery could have been posted. The decision to view the art would then be placed squarely where it belongs — on the individual.

Those who argue the installation is indecent should consider the fine line between art and pornography — a line that has changed throughout the centuries, from culture to culture. At one time, the works of Michelangelo were scorned as indecent.

This exhibit is not in an elementary school but in a university — traditionally the venue where young adults have access to all the world  has to offer in art, ideas and diverse thought.

Dean Smith had a tough choice to make about the gallery display. It’s too bad the spectre of censorship trumped the principle of unfettered expression in a setting which owes its very existence to free thinking.