Shut Up is Not Censorship

Warning, language.

I have been reading the comments again and I noticed something. Some people seem to be confused of late as to what censorship is exactly. Since nothing irks me more (in a literary sense) than people who, through either ignorance or subterfuge, contort the meaning of a word, I thought I might take a moment to explain to everyone that telling someone to shut the fuck up is not censorship.

Here’s a quick definition from the internet:

Censorship: (Noun) The practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.

I would add that the suppression is by force. Let me give you some examples. Censorship is burning books. Censorship is banning books from a library. Censorship is making an alternative opinion impossible to find through the use of fear and other tactics.

Censorship is NOT examining a book, opinion, etc and saying it’s unacceptable. Censorship is not telling other people that you do not want to hear their opinion. And censorship is not a private organization deciding that they do not want to be associated with certain ideas and opinions.

There’s a big difference between book burning and a negative review.

When I tell you to shut the fuck up, there’s nothing saying you actually have to. I can’t force you to shut up. You can go on with whatever it is you’ve been saying and act like you didn’t hear me. That said, you should know that as with everything else in life, there are consequences to your actions.

Just as you have every right to be a racist, bigoted asshole, the rest of us have every right disagree with your opinion and judge you accordingly. And if a private organization no longer wants to be associated with you because of your actions? That is well within their rights. Consequences. You should have learned about them when you were five.

Here are some more examples taken from recent news items that have found their way into my twitter feed.

Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg can say sexist things about women in the SFWA. Women (and other people) can tell them to shut up. That’s free speech. Our collective judgement of them is the consequence of their actions.

Paula Deen has the right to use the N-word. I have the right to say she’s a bigoted asshole. Both are free speech. Random House had the right to “release” the contract on her five book deal. That’s consequences.

Theodore Beale has the right to say vile, disgusting things. I have the right to say shut the fuck up. That’s free speech. John Scalzi has the right to moderate his comments (it’s a private blog, folks). The SFWA has the right to expel Beale. That’s consequences.

None of that is censorship.

Let me just say this one more time. None of that is censorship.

You can say hateful, vile, disgusting things. I can tell you to shut the fuck up. I am not censoring you.

Also please remember, somewhere down the line there will be consequences.

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