“We write frankly and fearlessly but then we “modify” before we print.” Mark Twain
Have you ever been in a situation at work, blogging, or elsewhere where you start writing something full of passion and conviction, not caring how it sounded because darnit, it’s the truth and they need to hear it!
…only to read over what you wrote and start cutting, rephrasing, and rewriting a more censored and “high road” version of your previous feverish writing endeavor?
I hate having to do that, but I do it anyway. Why? Because I am afraid of what people will think. I’ve thought about it many times in the past. I’ve tried to attribute my compulsive editing to politeness, to my upbringing, to a solid work ethic, etc. All these things may be part of it. And it’s not a bad thing necessarily, especially when writing work emails (who wants to get fired over something they wrote in this economy especially? Not I!) BUT I think there is a very fine line between saying too much, and censoring too much. And I sometimes censor too much because I am afraid of what people will think of me.
Nobody wants to sounds contrived, regurgitating and rehashing a slew of intricately woven partial truths and someone else’s stories and sayings and platitudes. Everyone wants to be original. They want to reach others and be understood. They want to write something that nobody else thought to write. Come up with the idea nobody else thought of. Publish the story nobody read yet. Creativity is a gift. Originality is a gift. Self-censorship is the enemy of these gifts, when it comes down to it.
I was fortunate to be raised in the good old United States, where individuality and freedom of speech is championed and upheld….but I feel like lately we in the US are giving up these ideals in the name of fear. Fear of being called ignorant, or intolerant. We are no longer able to publicly disagree with someone else’s views if that view is a popular trend on the media’s radar. It has nothing to do with majority rule either. Let’s not kid ourselves. Whatever we read about or hear about on our iPhones or favorite news website or blog becomes the accepted reality once it is endorsed not by a majority, but by a loud and uncensored minority or sub group. A minority that has a loud and uncensored voice will be heard nonetheless, and often championed, whether or not they are right.
Not sure about that? Let me give you an example. In high school, there was always the group of popular kids, the group of nerds, the group of cheerleaders, and so on and so forth. There were also those that bullied, and those that made a campaign of looking out for the environment. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Whose voice was listened to? The loudest. And usually out of fear rather than truth. You wanted to earn the respect of the popular kids so that you could be socially accepted. You avoided and gave in to the bullies rather than standing up for yourself or telling someone out of fear. The nerds and environmentalists were low on your list unless their cause specifically interested you. They weren’t louder than the popular kids or the bullies. In high school, the loudest voices were heard, not the majorities.
Media works the same way. They give you a juicy story to tantalize your interest, and then run the details to death, even if there is very little to tell, so that your brain is full of information about that story, tricking your mind, essentially, into believing that it’s important to know about. Your brain is confirmed about this because the people at your office or church group or whatever heard the same story over and over and discuss it over the water cooler or after service, etc.
Now here is the clencher: The media is highly censored. Why? They are afraid of losing their audience. They carefully and elaborately concoct stories of interest so that they get good ratings. They know that if they drill a story into your head enough, it will be talked about. the more people talk about it, the more “important” it becomes to talk about it. If you know about it, it seems you are in the club. You are now part of the popular crowd and can be considered socially accepted. And the media was a bully all along.
The media wants to appear frank and fearless. But they modify before they go to print. Likewise, writers of emails and blogs and stories and censor themselves out of fear. So then where does the truth go? At a certain point, with all the censorship, the truth gets lost. The originality goes out the window. It’s just another trend.
I don’t want to be that way. I would rather toe the line on censorship. I’d rather err on the side of caution, but I don’t want to regurgitate the tiredness and trendiness of the media around me. I want to keep my sense of freedom and liberty of speech alive.
How about you?