Thursday, January 6, 2011

Banning Theatre

If there is one thing we can count on, it's that if there is a spontaneous social order, there will be a government to attack it. We are familiar with the interventions into the economy, of course. And censorship of the arts is equally well-known. The Nazis and the Soviets both attacked science. The French even tried for a while to attack language itself with their language council designed to dictate what is truly "French." George Orwell, of course, warned against attacks on language and how language manipulation would lead to manipulation of the public itself. Recently Mario Rizzo discussed such word games in relation to the FDA.

So it should not surprise anyone that theatre is facing increasing attacks in places like Hungary, Belarus, and Iraq. (Political correctness and government subsidies and support do the job more subtly in places like Great Britain and the U.S.) Russell Berman argues in Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty, and Western Culture that theatre encourages democratic action:

Dramatic literature, in its convening of the community, tends toward decisive activism, while the novel, with its focus on individual interiority among a polyphony of characters and addressed to the private reader, tends toward a dispersion of power. The former resonates with democracy per se, the mobilized public, the latter with liberalism and the lives of individuals. (164)

It is this understanding, conscious or unconscious on the part of the censors, which leads to attempts to ban theatre, and even to influence its content through more subtle manipulations.

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