e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Bad language, censorship and all that

Today the BBC carries and article on the decision by BBC America to bleep out some of the bad language in the TV show The Thick of It.

Reading it has made me think about censorship in general. Personally I don’t care if certain words are bleeped, but I suppose if you are a writer working in the gritty tradition you might find it irritating. The nature of the word removed is probably less important than the fact that the bleep is an obvious intrusion from the outside world into the world of the story. This is what would annoy me as a writer and as an audience member.

Censorship has been around probably since the beginnings of language, and it’s been misused as often as used sensibly. It’s had a bad press for many years, however and by whom it is applied.

The internet has moved censorship into a whole new world, with numerous new reasons for doing it. Not surprisingly there are many websites devoted to it. Some of them deal with the subject in general and others concentrate on specific news items (Index on Censorship has international coverage). There are also a number of campaigns – mostly against (among them the National Coalition Against Censorship).

As with so many human activities, there’s no perfect system – only what most people in a particular place and time want or will put up with. In the case of TV broadcasts some audiences expect, and maybe want, bad language to be bleeped out. At the same time some writers feel that it should be left in as this is what they intended. I can see both sides of that argument. I tend to side with the audience (I have a customer service background), but I may change my mind if anything I write ever gets censored.


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2 thoughts on “Bad language, censorship and all that

  1. Most of the things I write are for childen i.e.” Children’s Outer Space Coloring Books” so bad language would be “The Death Of A Writer” having said that, I have no writtings that would be inhanced by less than acceptable language..the beeps are somewhat distracting but for the most part I ignore them.


    • Thank you for your comment. I agree the beeps are usually ignorable. I don’t have much use for bad language in my own writing, but I can see that some writers may need it to colour what they are portraying.


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