Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense
March 27, 2014
Ernesto Perez Chang
HAVANA TIMES — As a mechanism for ideological control, censorship is not
unique to totalitarian regimes. In nearly every country around the
world, there are political, religious and other demarcations that make
so-called freedom of expression mere semblance. This is a truism. No one
is so naïve as to believe they can freely express their opinions without
some form of hostile consequences.
The fact censorship exists nearly everywhere should not, however, be
used by governments to justify its practice as an unquestionable right,
nor as a kind of consolation for those whose right to dissent is curtailed.
All countries will always suffer some form of censorship (tacitly or
explicitly), but public opinion groups and individuals must be very much
aware of the legitimate role they must play in their relationship with
Journalists and writers – provided they are true to their calling and
assume the absolutely independent and responsible attitude devoid of
opportunism and complicity with higher-ups their profession demands –
are duty-bound to practice their trade honestly and decorously, even
when this means an open and direct confrontation with the political
It is not a question of turning literature or journalistic work into
propaganda, creating spaces, columns or opinion groups, much less
affiliating oneself to parties or parading down the streets holding
banners and yelling out slogans (as citizens, we are all free to do
this, of course). It is a question, rather, of shedding one’s fears
ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship
as “common sense”, as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and
nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.
While it is true that efforts to avoid censorship through the use of
literary disguises of every sort has spawned literary masterpieces and
brilliant authors whose real names we will never know, hidden as they
remained behind a pseudonym or total anonymity, it is also true that no
hand numbed by fear or guided by a foreign and despotic will ever
managed to write anything worthwhile. One cannot write a journalistic or
literary piece if one is forced to respect the limits imposed by others.
Nothing of any significance can be achieved when one needs a permit in
order to create.
Publishing a sterile work that has been emptied of potentially offensive
content, besmirched by convenience and adulterated by the fear of
punishment could be tolerated in mentally challenged people, but it is
shameful and objectionable when practiced by individuals who have an
effective influence on the public sphere.
Any system that fears individual opinion, the direct usage of the
written word or questioning (misguided or not) only demonstrates that
the ideological foundations that sustain it are as fragile as paper or
as insubstantial as hot air.
By attacking those who dissent, governments merely reveal their colossal
clumsiness. By revealing, through their hatred, their disproportionate
and contradictory faith in the written word, they attest to the fact
that their reality is made up of a huge pile of words, each propped up
by the other, part of a discourse that is only apparently coherent.
Words are not the political or ideological property of anyone. Imposing
limits on the activities of intellectuals and artists does great harm to
a country’s culture. Strategies aimed at silencing people and at
controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and
others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity
that prevail in our society.
Source: Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense – Havana
Times.org – http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102649