Artist self-censorship: Should dark art be censored?

Got a question from listener Valexis on self-censorship.
She is an artist with some very dark material, and she’s concerned that it may be taken the wrong way and could actually have a negative, harmful effect on people.
But at the same time, it could also have a powerful cathartic effect and be helpful.
So she’s not sure whether to release this particular material.
And it goes to the question of what are the obligations of an artist, of a creator, to society? Is there a duty to protect the people in some way, versus perhaps a duty of an artist to simply do whatever it takes, whatever is, on a purely artistic level, seen as good, that is good, and to be willing to break all boundaries.
So this is a very difficult question for me, and I don’t have an answer.
But the issue of self-censorship is certainly something that I deal with.
I’m not used to publicly talking to the entire world.
I mean, you’re talking into a camera, talking into a microphone, and anybody in the world could watch you.
And maybe there’s almost nobody who is even aware of the existence of this channel, of this thing, as it is now, but then even in the future, anything I say could be found by anybody.
And so when you’re looking into that camera, when you’re speaking into that microphone, you really are speaking into the whole world, speaking for all time.
And really, part of the reason why I’m doing these little vlogs is to give myself the practice, the training, of getting used to every day looking into that camera, speaking into that microphone, and being OK with whatever I say being delivered to the whole world.
So in the particular case of some particularly dark material that might be harmful, I can’t answer the question of whether any particular material should be released.
It would have to be a balance between the good of what’s considered to be good art, good work, something that could be valuable to people as art, as work, compared to a possible negative effect that a dark message inside art can have.
But my answer will be to really look into this feeling of self-censorship.
Look into that voice inside that says to hold back, or that cautions against expressing something.
Because it seems to me like this is a mix of multiple sources.
There can be multiple sources of this feeling, of this thought.
One of them, and really the most good and justifiable and reasonable, would be this idea of actually protecting the public against this material, protecting the public from certain material, which I think would only be the case of some very, very dark stuff.
Not just something covering dark material, but something that you would consider to have perhaps a very negative, harmful message.
But it also seems to be connected to all the other possible voices.
There could be all the other possible reasons for this voice.
What holds us back, besides an actual, reasonable concern that we should not say what we’re saying? It’s natural to be hesitant about revealing ourselves to the world.
If you just…
like, think of that feeling when you just get a camera in your face, microphone to your mouth.
OK, you.
Express yourself, right now.
What’s the hesitation? There’s a feeling of this is…
the world is seeing me.
And actually, I can’t speak to this particular situation of this listener.
I can only speak for myself, that there’s a hesitation about being seen by the world.
It’s like, whoa, they’re going to judge me.
They’re going to see me in a certain way.
Am I presenting myself in a good light, or am I making a fool out of myself, or a villain out of myself? Am I projecting a good image of who I am to the world, so that people will think well of me, or at least not think poorly of me? And it’s a natural thought that we all have.
But, you know, when I express it like that, it does kind of come out as being, wow, that is mostly unnecessary.
It seems like it is mostly unnecessary.
If I have something to say that I feel is important enough for me to say, and something that I feel that some listeners can get value from, then I should not be so concerned about how others will perceive me.
And in fact, becoming less concerned with how others perceive me is something that has been greatly helpful for me in becoming more free, more able to make independent, strong decisions, and do better work, the more I can be indifferent to others’ opinions.
Doing things because I believe they’re right, and then letting other people decide what they think of me.
So this I hold as an ideal, that there should be no reason for me to hold back, in regards to how people might react to it.
I simply try to create value, create something valuable, then release it to the world, and then whatever happens, happens.
So this is, I believe, the ideal mindset.
But I’m certainly far from it.

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