The Advantages and Disadvantages of Censorship in America and China

America is a hotspot of so many different cultures and races from all over the world. With this, comes many cultural shocks that people from America may sometimes not understand. These people from other backgrounds bring their various backgrounds into America. This can cause the people who were born and raised here to react to certain customs as wrong or inappropriate. While it is good to be aware and call out others for things that are wrong, it is also important to understand a person’s or culture’s background before jumping to conclusions. With cancel culture being so relevant in recent years, this is something that is extremely worth noting as there are many advantages and disadvantages to censorship in America and China.

What is Cancel Culture?

Image of Twitter putting cancelled on a person's face with hashtags around them
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Cancel culture is a way that people are able to stop others who commit wrongdoings from being forgiven for their actions. This is not specified to a certain person or a group of people only. To be canceled means that they are being boycotted against. That person will no longer have financial, personal, or professional benefits. This could happen to anyone, no matter their age, gender, or social status. Popular examples of this in recent days are people like R. Kelly, Ellen Degeneres, and many more. When these people are canceled, they lose many fans. They also lose almost any chance of getting a job, depending on the crime they have committed.

 For some people, such silencing and shaming have become a tool of social justice and social control. To others, the trend is worrying as they see it as merciless mob intimidation, that bans any further communication instead of encouraging dialogue. (Matuszak)

Has Cancel Culture gone too far?

While cancel culture has made people be more aware of their surroundings and be better people, it also has its downfalls. As Matuszak mentions, it has also become a form of mob intimidation.  You can also compare it to a form of online bullying. Many times, people easily manipulate stores to suit their advantage. When one person decides that someone deserves to be canceled, others quickly band together and destroy the person. It may seem like a noble thing to do, but oftentimes, new evidence comes out that ends up showing up the full story and the real truth. This truth ends up showing us that the person that really deserves to be canceled was the one who twisted the story.

In the case of Johnny Depp

Picture of Johnny Depp (left) and Amber Heard (right)
Johnny Depp (left) and Amber Heard (right)//

A recent example of this is the case with Johnny Depp and his now ex-wife, Amber Heard. In July 2020, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard went to court after the actor was accused of being a wife-beater. The result was him losing millions in alimony money. He was also cut from his upcoming projects such as Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald and many more. Even after telling publishers that it was the other way around, and she had beat him, people refused to believe his story. He was canceled while Amber was showered with praise for going through that and coming out strong.

As the case got bigger, Depp’s former lovers made statements that he could never do such things. On the other hand, Heard’s co-workers made only negative comments about her. After a certain time, it was revealed that  Amber Heard was actually hurting Johnny Depp. She was both emotionally and physically abusing him. Even after the truth came out, Depp is having a hard time regaining the status and opportunities he once had. On the other hand, Heard is still playing the role of Mera in Aquaman 2.

Depp was falsely accused of many things and being canceled caused him to lose everything. He lost his money, his fame, his status, and his dignity. It was unfair what has happened to him, and all because of the negativity of cancel culture.  It may be that cancel culture is based on a noble intention to reject bad behavior and reinforce common norms and values. However, moral norms seem to override the social norms when the cancelation is at play on social media. (Matuszak)

What is Censorship?

There are countries worldwide that censor certain information for the protection of their citizens. It is a way to suppress images, videos, ideas, etc. which are “offensive”. The ones who usually deem something offensive are governments or private pressure groups. It is important to note that censorship is unconstitutional when done by the government. Many countries and governments around the world censor words, phrases, or images they do not approve of. While countries like the United States give their citizens the freedom to censor some things, other countries like China and North Korea decide for you.

Censorship in China

Image represeinging China's censorship
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China has a history of censorship and the use of propaganda. When Mao Zedong was the President of China, he used many forms of propaganda to keep his citizens in line. He convinced his followers that “the emperor [Mao Zedong] was a bodhisattva, an enlightened individual who had chosen to return to existence to help others reach nirvana”(McCarthy) Many Chinese citizens were brainwashed into thinking the corrupt ruler was correct and basically God-sent. While Mao is no longer the ruler of China, the communist party is still prevalent in the country. Chinese history has always had a hand in both censorship and propaganda to this day.

In modern-day China, the heavy use of technology continues to keep China under government control. This is through the use of video surveillance, fear, and most of all, censorship. China’s censorship is one of the most interesting cases we can learn about.

China’s Internet Censorship

In recent news, we have come to find out about how TikTok, a Chinese app that has taken over the world, was actually gathering data on its millions of users. This created issues around the world as it was something that is unheard of in many countries. Some countries, such as India, even banned the app after learning of this. This may come as a shock for many people, because it was actually quite normal for the people of China. One of the most popular apps, Wechat, is a great example of such censorship.

Reports from the Citizen Lab explain how WeChat blocks content. Prior to being delivered, WeChat sends messages and images to a remote server. There, the server scans for blacklisted keywords before approving the message. Users receive no notification when messages are blocked. (Hardetsy)

One of the many reasons for such censorship is to keep the masses from going out of control. China is one of the countries where the citizens do not have much control over their freedom. While the Chinese government considers censorship and surveillance as a form of protection, many of its citizens do not. As Hardesty says, “China’s large scale surveillance [and censorship] affects millions of lives” (Hardetsy). 

Censorship in America

Image representing American censorship
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If you think China keeps a tight lid on censorship, then America is sure to surprise you. While Americans have more freedom in terms of personal freedom, there are many things the government hides from the people of the land of the free. America, being such a dominant country, has had a lot of negative involvement with foreign nations. The most memorable one is World War II. During Hitler’s reign in Germany, many powerful countries, such as America, Great Britain, France, and more came together to fight for the greater good. The most recognizable symbol of Hilter’s followers is the swastika that tilts to its side.

With the rise of cancel culture, it has become even easier to censor “triggering” images and ideas from the average person. Apps such as Tiktok and Instagram blur images and videos that depict such images so as not to trigger those who do not wish to view them. If they had not done so, people who do not agree with certain images, in this case, the swastika or gore, could easily cancel the app and cause them to lose profits as well. While some nations may not give citizens the option, America at least gives the people the freedom to decide what they wish to view, though it might be harder to do so.

The Importance of the Swastika

While to Americans, the swastika is a sign of an evil regime, its true history comes from peace. The swastika represents good luck or prosperity in many Asian countries and religions. Before the Nazis took the symbol and literally turned it around, it had and still is, associated with positive meanings (Blunden). In recent years, it has been quite hard for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainists to show that symbol in America without receiving criticism.

Japan is one of the countries where the swastika is a symbol that is quite popular, though the name is Manji there. Due to this, the symbol has made a cameo in many of their shows. In anime shows such as One Piece, Naruto, and Tokyo Revengers, they had to censor the manji to a different symbol. Depending on which Asian country one is, the swastika is drawn either right or left facing. The right-facing swastika represents Buddhist traditions, which are often found in Eastern Asian countries, such as Japan and China. The right-facing swastika is symbolic in more South Asian countries such as Nepal and India, which follow more Hindu traditions.

Four images of different styles of swastika facing right or left
Left-facing (Buddhist) and right-facing (Hindu) swastikas

Swastika in Anime

Side by side comparison of Neji (Naruto) of the swastika censorship
Anime: Naruto; Image source:
Image of manji on the flag and uniform of japanese gangster
Image source: from manga Tokyo Revengers
tattoo of swastika with author's note mentioning what the symbol represents
Manga One Piece image source:

With the rise in popularity in Japanese anime, many American fans have noticed how the Manga version displays a swastika on their characters. But, in the anime, it is not there. Why? The reason for this change is Japan censoring the symbol so as to not cause a riot for American fans who enjoy the show and manga. While the symbol has so many positives, people only remember it for its negative impact on our world history.

With the popularity of the recently released anime Tokyo Revengers, this topic has once again come out as to whether this is a good thing or bad. A lot of American fans are upset with the idea of promoting a Nazi symbol in the international media. So many even want to cancel the show and the mangaka for creating this. Others agree that there is nothing wrong with this as the symbol is not the same symbol as the Nazis. With beautiful animation and an amazing storyline, there is little to hate about the show. But, people always find a way (Skyes).

Blood, Gore, and Violence

Image of the manga Uzumaki by Junji Ito
Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Another movie related to censorship that America does is with on-screen violence. While the American media blurs out bloody scenes and violent actions, other countries don’t. Even if they do, they make it quite obvious what is happening. In most horror anime, the gore is very common. In this world, there is no one who is safe, whether it be kids, women, men, or an animal. Anime such as Corpse Party, The Promised Neverland, and many more put fear in the eyes of the viewer (Abrahams).  They are thrilling to watch for horror fans. But it is hard for fans of such genres to watch these shows in America.

Blood and gore are quite difficult for Americans to digest with the high rate of school shootings and so many people die daily for no good reason. This sort of censorship is quite difficult for foreign movies to come to America without making some sort of change. That sort of change would cost millions, if not billions of money, and it is not worth it for them to do so.

So, is censorship bad?

The worst thing about censorship is ___.
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Censorship is neither good nor bad. For some, it is good and helpful. It helps keep people safe and in line. Sometimes censorship goes too far and creates unnecessary fear. It is no longer in the hands of the government but also involves normal people now. So many now use censorship to cancel people who upset them or people who have done wrong. It is a way to control the mass. Another way to view it is a way to promote propaganda. The popularity of cancel culture has been able to raise anger towards Manga artists who use swastika or extreme violence. They try to raise hate in the hearts of those who know no better than something that does not need to be.

How is it Good?

In America, where there is constant bloodshed, the media needs to use censorship so as not to instill more fear in the people. In this case, the use of censorship and surveillance in America keeps the people safe. Events such as 9/11 and the mass shootings have made the American government more aware of internet security and ways to keep their citizens safe. Censoring certain websites can help decrease the chances of a young naive person causing greater harm. There are lots of other such instances where censorship has been a good thing, though they are rare.

Cultural Significance in Anthropology

Censorship of explicit content
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Cancel culture and censorship in America are a major part of the internet that will be relevant for years to come. It is definitely something that is worth researching. As time goes by now, more and more things will surface that will give insight into how the world is and how much change has happened through the years. From here, it will only grow and expand further into people’s daily lives (Hardesty). Even in modern-day, on Disney plus the original show ‘Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King’, they censor racial terms such as Cracker when referring to a white man in jail. This scene comes on at 2.16 but goes unnoticed unless the captions are on. This goes to show just how much censorship is prevalent in America, although many do not realize it.

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