Are there any good reasons to self-censor your work?

Not too long ago, there was a controversy with DC Comics and their Batgirl #41, where the cover shows the Joker threatening a frightened Batgirl with a gun, with “Joker makeup” on her mouth. From CNN:

Batgirl is menaced by the Joker in a comic book cover that was pulled after criticism on social media.

 “Following that was a viral trending hastag on twitter, called #changethecover. Shortly thereafter, DC Comics pulled the cover created by artist Rafael Albuquerque.

Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books — threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society,” they said.

“We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant. “

Albuquerque said in his own statement, “My Batgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favorite of many readers. ‘The Killing Joke’ is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.”

He concluded, “My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.”

It was just the latest brouhaha involving portrayals of women in comic books and variant covers in particular. In September, Marvel Comics canceled future variant covers from artist Milo Manara after a “Spider-Woman” No. 1 variant cover caused an uproar for being “over-sexualized.” (The company later said there was no connection between the two events.)”

Censorship isn’t just about politics, though. Censorship is about when you have some artistic value in your work, but you silence yourself because you’re afraid of who you’re going to offend. For example, you write something critical of a powerful God-like company like Facebook or Google, but you stop yourself because you’re afraid if you make your masters unhappy, someone at the company might “accidentally” close your Facebook account or post personal data you thought was private to the public domain so all can see. Believe me, white extremely rare, this has happened. That’s why I switched from Google to DuckDuckGo for most of my search engine results, though I still use Google Maps, Gmail and some level of searching (disclosure: I’m slowly moving away from them). You should use DuckDuckGo if you don’t want your searches tracked or saved for all eternity. So you simply refrain from heavy criticism because of the fear of being embarrassed or crushed via SEO rankings or search results.

Or, perhaps you wrote an article critical of JK Rowling (and I bring her up since I was just at a senior thesis presentation today where a girl talked about Harry Potter and its Christian message), who has her seat reserved in Heaven already next to Steve Jobs because she is so awesome like he was, and if you criticize her in any way I can only image the mob fury which will come down on the poor bastard(ess) who criticizes her or Harry in any way whatsoever, legitimate criticism or not. Good luck.

Woe be the writer (book, screenplay, or musician) who creates a piece critical of a group with a lot of money, power, influence, or members, or some other topic which is generally considered taboo and would get you uninvited to the A-list parties. Death threats, hate mail, and boycotts are becoming an increasing common staple of our society by extremists on all sides, who use the internet to essentially form “mob rule” to keep dissenters in line.

Most performers like to keep their politics and religions under wraps as not to offend anyone, so they go along with the flow in order to make sure everyone likes them. For example, what is Aaron Rodgers political preference? Or Stephen Strasberg? They don’t usually discuss, so you know then as entertainers and they keep their brand apolitical and clean. Those who take stands risk pissing off the other side and having them boycott your work or harass you.

This is of course, different than hate speech, where you may have the right to say it but doing so means a legitimate loss of business or boycotts. Don’t expect much sympathy if you write “Heil Hitler” on your blog, or if you talk about murdering gay rights advocates or pro-lifers. Just as censorship is wrong, there are consequences to taking freedom of speech too far.

B&B Tip: consider what you say before saying it, but do not let censorship shut you down.

Disclosure: I’m not suggesting any of the above examples are my own opinions, but ones where I can see problems being caused if you did write about them.

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