Critical Reasoning Question 6-Artistic Expression
The extent to which society is really free can be gauged by its attitude toward artistic expression. Freedom of expression can easily be violated in even the most outwardly democratic societies. When a government arts council withholds funding from a dance performance that its members deem “obscene,” the voices of a few bureaucrats have in fact censored the work of the choreographer, thereby committing the real obscenity of repression.
Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the argument above?
A. Members of government arts councils are screened to ensure that their beliefs reflect those of the majority.
B. The term obscenity has several different definitions that should not be used interchangeably for rhetorical effect.
C. Failing to provide financial support for a performance is not the same as actively preventing or inhibiting it.
D. The council’s decision could be reversed if the performance were altered to conform to public standards of appropriateness.
E. The definition of obscenity is something on which most members of a society can agree.
Think you know the answer?
The correct answer is C.
The author equates the withholding of government funding with censorship. (C), which denies that they’re the same thing, destroys the argument. (A) is irrelevant. That the council’s actions may reflect majority opinion wouldn’t justify what the author considers censorship-her definition isn’t dependent on what most people think. (B) complains that the term obscenity is used ambiguously, but it’s the term censorship that’s the problem here. (D) misses the whole point; in the author’s view, denial of funding amounts to censorship, and (D) simply reaffirms this. And (E), like (A), points to majority opinion, but since the author never denies that most people can agree on what’s obscene, this is beside the point.
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