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Humanities LibreTexts

6.4: Anna Quindlen, from the New York Times

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  • Who Decides Our Morals?


    Is the individual opinion the most important thing? Should we have censorship? When does censorship matter? This decades old story of a photographic art exhibit causing an uproar is still fresh and relevant almost 30 years later. We continue to ask what the boundaries are in what is made public for us to see and experience, what crosses the line between art and obscenity, what we may be forced to see, and what we choose not to see, but allow others to see if they choose.

    We have movie ratings, warnings about mature content on TV programs, protection of free speech, and we have obscenity laws, public decency expectations and school dress codes.

    Who decides what the boundaries are? Is it religion? Is it “majority rules”? Or do we allow individuals to decide, and just say that anything goes–you can do something, and we won’t stop you. We might not participate, but we won’t interfere. How do we decide?


    “Public and Private; Dirty Pictures” op ed column by Anna Quindlen in the New York Times, April 1990

    Dirty Pictures?

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