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Someone in this townTo wind a piece of string around
Is trying to burn the playhouse down
They want to stop the ones who want
A rock to wind a string around
But everybody wants a rock
—They Might Be Giants, "We Want a Rock"
Art has always been an outlet of dissension. These days, this reputation is most strongly associated with rock music. And where you get dissension, you get people trying to stamp it out. That's where the Culture Police come in.
The Culture Police are bad guys who try to stamp out art (most commonly rock and pop music and/or dancing) for whatever reason. Mundane versions may simply be exaggerated versions of real-life Moral Guardians operating on a local level, or trying to drum up support to expand their pro-censorship campaign. Fantastic versions may be a SPECTRE-esque organization or Scary Dogmatic Aliens whose scheme to Take Over the World involves stamping out freedom of expression. The fantastic variety will usually come with armies of Faceless Goons who go around confiscating or destroying books/records/paintings/what have you, and arresting (or killing) people who so much as whistle. The canonical alignment for these bad guys is Lawful Evil.
Can easily be perceived as a Take That against any art deliberately allowed by the Culture Police.
Truth in Television as several nations have police who do this. One of them is Saudi Arabia, which has the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Among their duties is seizing banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). The Soviet Union regularly purged writers for deviating from Socialist Realism. In addition, just about every nation on Earth has banned various things, including sexual, religious, cultural, and other stuff.
- The first episode of the Excel Saga anime parodies this. Lord Il Palazzo believes manga is corrupting the youth of Japan, and sends Excel out to assassinate manga authors, starting with the author of the Excel Saga manga. She succeeds, and is promptly bitched out by the personification of the universe -- essentially a living Reset Button -- for breaking reality by killing her own author. It's that sort of show.
- Library War is about a future Japan where the government institutes a policy of book burning and culture policing. An intentional loophole built into the law by its less enthusiastic signers allow public libraries to 'confiscate' books and save them from the bonfires, which has led to an elaborate system of ritualized warfare between culture police and the libraries.
- In AKB0048, we have the DES who have banned any kind of artistic expression that "disturbs the heart". They consider the titular Idol Singers to be terrorists, and will open fire on them and their fans.
- The Spanish comic Fanhunter involves all of Europe being taken over by self-proclaimed Pope Alejo Cuervo, a deranged ex-librarian who believes himself to be channeling the ghost of Phillip K. Dick. After Cuervo bans all forms of subculture, an organization of sci-fi, comic, anime, and other fanboys known as La Resistencia organizes to fight Cuervo and his crack teams of "Fanhunters".
- In Marvel Comics' The New Exiles, Dr. Doom, after taking control of the world, not only bans culture (comedy in particular), but also people's ability to show any strong emotion other than love and adoration toward him and hatred toward Reed Richards.
- The facist Norsefire government does this in V for Vendetta, confiscating or stomping out most forms of art and music; V, as a contrast, uses the suppressed materials as an iconic symbol.
- Probably the most famous example of the mundane variety is Reverend Moore from the film Footloose. In fact, they act like pop music is banned. Like, against the law. Ren (Kevin Bacon's character) is able to work around it by appealing to the town by explaining the historical use of dance to celebrate life.
- The most famous example of the fantastic variety would be the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine.
- Utilized in Pleasantville as the presence of two kids from the real world starts making a small town from a sitcom set in an idealized version of The Fifties more and more real. One particularly non-subtle scene visually feature an angry mob breaking into a store and tearing paintings apart -- then moving on to burn books. The town establishes a Code of Conduct prohibiting all recorded music except "Pat Boone, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Jack Jones, the marches of John Philip Sousa or 'The Star Spangled Banner'."
- The Grammaton Clerics of the film Equilibrium were an elite police force tasked with destroying all art and killing anyone who possesses art. This was because the dystopian government was attempting to stabilize society by completely eliminating human emotion (why the government needs an elite, Gun Kata trained task force to carry this out is never really explained).
- The surreal Swedish comedy Picassos äventyr (The Adventures of Picasso in the States) have Prohibition being not about alcohol, but art. Secret galleries work as speakeasies for people who want to see art, and are raided by the police; smugglers bring in paintings and sculpture from Canada, and Picasso gets a job producing, essentially, the art equivalent of moonshine for art-starved Americans...
- In CSA: Confederate States of America, the Confederacy's morality laws severely stunts the country's cultural growth. According to the movie, Confederate culture never evolved beyond state-inspired propaganda. Many take their talents to Canada, which benifits greatly.
- In Duck Soup, Groucho Marx, as the newly installed ruler of Freedonia, lays down the law in a jaunty tune:
No one's allowed to smoke -- Or tell a dirty joke -- And whistling is forbidden!
If chewing gum is chewed -- The chewer is pursued -- And in the hoosegow with him!
If any form of pleasure is exhibited,
Report to me and it will be prohibited!
I'll put my foot down
So shall it be-e-e...
This is the land of the free!
- The classic example is Plato's Republic; which advocates censorship and control of poetry and music, to eliminate unhealthy and undesirable beliefs and attitudes.
- The world in the book Fahrenheit 451 has outlawed books, and employs professional book burners called "firemen".
- Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn wrote a novel revolving around this concept.
- In Larry Niven's short story "The Return of William Proxmire", a Fictional Counterpart of the real-world Luddite Senator William Proxmire finances the creation of a time machine just so he can go back and cure the disease that got Robert A. Heinlein a medical discharge from the Navy, on the grounds that every "pie in the sky" scientist and technologist he's ever met (and hated) cited Heinlein as an influence. Without Heinlein as a writer, he reasons, science fiction will be crippled, and none of those people will be influenced by his works. To be sure, he does go back to a "present day" where Heinlein hadn't become a writer -- but true to form, it's not the world he wanted.
- In the Piers Anthony short story "Nonent", an alien wants to destroy human ingenuity by destroying science fiction. He decides to send an unsolicited manuscript to all science fiction short story magazines, the second page of which will destroy the mind of anyone that sees it.
- In the Orson Scott Card short story "Prior Restraint," a group of time travelers calling themselves the "Censorship Board" manipulate history by preventing certain great writers from publishing their work. Note that this board wasn't portrayed as completely bad -- they did this because the author in question's works would result in the death of millions of people. They actually kept a copy of the work in their library. A rare (slightly) positive portrayal.
- Perhaps the pinnacle of this trope is 1984, which has essentially banned all music except patriotic anthems, and any other form of media except propaganda. As the story ends, the government plans to delete the very words for rebellion out of the language.
- Rudyard Kipling's In the Neolithic Age
hammersstoneaxes home his view on the question.
- Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend satirizes this sort of thing in the character of Mr. Podsnap: "The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person?"
- Hard to Be a God by the Strugatski brothers takes place on a planet where books of any kind, and even literacy, are banned. "Progressors" from Earth are trying to ameliorate the situation, but the main problem is that the planet's culture is broken, and simply replacing the government will result in an old crapsack in new clothes -- hence the name.
- In the Stephen King short story "Children of the Corn," the titular children have destroyed a pipe organ and plugged it up with corncobs. On the music stand they have placed a presumably biblical passage regarding the sinfulness of artificially produced music (i.e., by instruments, rather than pure vocals). But then, He Who Walks Behind the Rows has some strange ideas about sin.
- As detailed in the quote at the top of the page, The Book of Lord Shang advocates making music and learning illegal so the average person will devote his attention to farming.
- Society in The Giver is strictly regulated under a policy of "Sameness," in which life is carefully regulated to eliminate strife and division. Music and media have been eliminated. Weather is kept constantly pleasant, only raining at night to water crops while the people sleep. Sex drives, or "stirrings" as they're called in the Community, are suppressed by mandatory drugs (except for the few whose job it is to breed), as are other strong emotions. Even positive emotions like familial love have been carefully eliminated so as to avoid making waves. Animals of all descriptions have been eradicated, at least in the areas where people might actually see them, and even the ability to see color has been carefully removed from the general population. Everyone is kept in blissful ignorance of the fact that life has ever been any different, with the exception of one individual per Community called "the Receiver of Memory," who is entrusted with the memories of life before Sameness in case a situation arises that requires such knowledge to resolve.
- In the Discworld novel Soul Music the Guild of Musicians (specifically Mr. Clete) are opposed to Music With Rocks In, because it's a type of music they can't control.
- In Matched by Ally Condie, there are only 100 of the best artworks of the past allowed to be appreciated, and people are not taught to write or draw.
Live Action TV
- The Quantum Leap episode "Good Morning, Peoria" had Sam leaping into the body of a DJ during The Fifties and fighting a movement by the local government to ban rock music.
- An episode of Xena: Warrior Princess had a town outlaw dancing and music while simultaneously passing a law that forced all children into military service. Xena was conscripted to train the children, and she undermined the changes by teaching the children dance and rhythmic music masked as military drills.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Happiness Patrol, ruler Helen A insists her subjects be happy at all times and her enforcers, the Happiness Patrol, try to stamp out all depressing artforms, such as blues music.
- In the Crusade episode "The Needs of Earth", a refugee thought to have information about a cure for the Drakh plague turns out to have recordings of his planet's cultural heritage, which is being systematically destroyed by its governing Moral Guardians.
- The final episode of Max Headroom features a battle between the heroes and the Censor Board.
- In 1983 Styx released a concept album called Kilroy Was Here (which gave us the song "Mr. Roboto"). The titular Robert Orin Charles Kilroy was a rogue musician using The Power of Rock to lead a revolution against the Majority for Musical Morality, a fascist Media Watchdog organization backed by The Government.
- Rush's album 2112 had a similar theme -- but Rush, at least, got it from Ayn Rand's Anthem (which also lent its title to one of their songs).
- "Le Trente-Huit Cunegonde", on The Firesign Theatre's album Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him, details a society in which the hippie counterculture of the '60s became mainstream. It opens with two police officers accosting a girl because she's not wearing a mini-skirt, and when they discover she doesn't have any drugs on her, they send her in for "re-grooving".
Cop #1: Dig, Larry: aspirin.
Cop #2: Do her a favor, phone her in.
Girl: I'm telling ya, I took all the uppers! You wanna hear me rap? "I saw the best minds of my generation..."
Cop #1: Put her in the car.
- The Clash's song "Rock the Casbah" is about a shareef who bans rock.
- The music video for DJ Kentaro's "FREE" is about a world where vinyl is banned -- specifically, vinyl records.
- The Nine Inch Nails concept album Year Zero features a dystopian future where the "Bureau of Morality" has eroded American civil liberties and generally act as a Culture Police against any form of expression, particularly music, that dissents against the powers that be.
- Professional Wrestling example: The WWF Heel stable Right to Censor was a group based on the Parents' Television Council, and were dedicated to stamping out sex and filth in the WWF. Their presence was used to lampshade a lot of changes to the product to make it less racy, such as the removal of Val Venis and The Godfather's smutty gimmicks (both of them renounced their "evil" ways and joined the RTC), and the loss of Billy Gunn's nickname, "Mr. Ass" (he lost the nickname as a stipulation in a match against one of the members).
- The Inquisition and Adeptus Arbites of the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40000 are pretty laid-back about culture, so long as planets revere the Emperor and pay tribute to the Imperium. However, if they see anything that could possibly be interpreted as a sign of Chaos, the purge will be swift and without mercy.
- And culture can easily be one of the inroads for Chaos, through the cults of Slaanesh. So they can actually have cause for extreme reactions.
- The Serious Police in the Toonpunk 2020 1/2 setting for Toon. In a game based on wacky Looney Tunes type stuff, they're The Comically Serious with assault weaponry.
- The Coalition States in Rifts makes literacy itself a crime. This is the primary reason why the number one person on their Most Wanted List is an outspoken 65-year-old woman who mostly writes books about her travels and freely teaches and encourages others to read.
- Normality can be argued to represent the final total victory of the Culture Police.
- Starchildren: The Velvet Generation (which could best be described as Ziggy Stardust: the RPG) takes place in a future where an organization colloquially known as "Mad Mother" has ridden the wave of public distrust and stamped out rock music.
- Killer Queen and Globalsoft in We Will Rock You, the rock musical based on the music of Queen, are bent on eliminating all music and, thus, free thought, on Planet Mall, aka Earth.
- Ironically, Killer Queen sings a song about half way through the play. This is excusable, though, because it's a musical. And who else but a villain could do "Another One Bites The Dust"?
- After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, all western TV, film, and music was banned in Iran. When liberalizing political attitudes in the mid-2000s lead to some western music being authorized for sale in the country, ironically enough, a Queen's greatest hits album was the first disc approved for sale. This was due to Bohemian Rhapsody containing the phrase "Bismillah."
- The final stage of Elite Beat Agents involves a showdown with the Rhombulans, aliens who conquer the Earth and ban all music, shooting petrification rays at anyone who defies them.
- The New Order Nation from Midway's 1994 Light Gun game Revolution X, an anti-youth culture organization consisting essentially of Kerri Hoskins as Mistress Helga, a hot authoritarian woman in a dominatrix-esque leather outfit, and her throngs of machine gun-wielding Mooks in yellow jumpsuits, which takes over the American government, bans television, rock music, and video games, and kidnaps Aerosmith.
- The Jet Set Radio games have regular police and later trained assassins playing this role, trying to suppress a skater counterculture. Pompadoured police chief Onishima employs an oversized revolver loaded with rubber bullets, hordes of riot-shield wielding goons, and even tanks and helicopters armed with anti-riot gear to take your character down. All this turns out to be the plan of an evil corporate mogul so he can smother Tokyo in nothing but homogeneous, mediocre mainstream entertainment, as the first part of his plot to conquer the world with dark powers. No, really.
- Semi-obscure first-person adventure Normality plays this pretty straight; music is banned, joy is banned, most color is banned, and people have to turn their TV on (with only crap on air, of course) at all times. Later, you smash walls apart using a guitar.
- The INKT corporation in De Blob bans music and color. They take a more proactive approach on color, sucking it away with robots... which they then leave around for the protagonist to slam into and gain color to go spread around Chroma City once more.
- Several storylines in Fans played this trope hilariously straight. Apparently, the only thing standing in the way of would-be world conquerors is science fiction fandom. Ban sci-fi, or go back in time and kill someone big like H. G. Wells, and Earth is all yours.
- The Mayor in The Word Weary has a Grand Jury indict Yorick for his performance art.
- In the Chaos Timeline in Technocratic Germany. Censors the book "Das Paradies der Goldis" by Katherine Geller (apparently a bit like Valley of the Dolls) for the depiction of mental diseases, drug addiction and lesbian love.
- Shows up a lot in A World of Laughter, A World of Tears.
- In an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, a popular song about Sonic (written more or less to the show's theme song) prompts Dr. Robotnik to attempt to forcibly ban all music.
- In fact, in the Archie Comics, it is repeatedly stated that Robotnik hates all music and has technically banned it. Because he's a jerk.
- The cartoon Madballs had Commander Wolfbreath and his men, who had banned music, dancing, and other forms of entertainment on their home planet and were trying to capture the protagonists (a rogue rock band that fled to Earth).
- Kyle's mom Sheila on South Park is the freakin' CHIEF. In the episode "Death", she convinces the parents of South Park to commit mass suicide in order to get the networks to pull an offensive Terrance and Phillip episode, and in South Park The Movie, she ends up starting a war with Canada (and eventually The End of the World as We Know It) over the Terrence and Phillip film Asses of Fire.
- The cartoon Oscar's Orchestra takes place in a dystopian future, and revolves around a plucky band of anthropomorphic instruments lead by a talking piano (the titular Oscar) and their efforts to fight Thaddeus Vent, the "Emperor of the World" who has banned all music.
- In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Washingtoon", Buster and Babs had to appeal to then-President George HW Bush and the United States Congress to keep a stick-in-the-mud moral guardian from turning Acme Acres into the setting for a saccharine Edutainment Show.
- Used in a Breather Episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which Aang attends a strict Fire Nation academy where it is revealed that apparently their culture, or at least their upper class schools, don't approve of dancing, or self-expression in general (this is completely unrelated to the Dai Li whose official job description is "Cultural Police"- they couldn't care less about cultural decay, they just want to make sure no one finds out about the hundred-year-old war that's still going on outside the city walls, and to maintain their secret stranglehold on power).
- Other views into Fire Nation culture show more approval toward art and self-expression, such as General Iroh and his men playing music on board their ship or having the Gaang infiltrate a Fire Nation festival. This might mean it's mainly in formal institutions like school or military bases that expect such strict behavior, although one constant is that propaganda is everywhere (the festival had children watching a puppet-show with the Fire Lord as the hero).
- Of course, things are also a lot less strict in the Fire Nation "Terrirories" in the Earth Kingdom.
- In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra cultural revolutionaries the Equalists want to eradicate the Supernatural Martial Arts of Bending and extend this to opposing its most popular culture, the Fictional Sport of pro-bending, on the grounds that it leads to idolizing benders, while The Magocracy's anti-Equalist task force target the Equalist's chi-blocking dojos in turn, stamping out Muggle martial arts in the process of fighting terrorists.
- Mocked, like all tropes, on The Simpsons with the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". After Maggie hits Homer on the head with a mallet, Marge creates a Culture Police group to protest the hyperviolent Itchy & Scratchy cartoons that inspired Maggie's attack. She successfully convinces the studio behind the cartoons to clean up their act. Later in the episode, when Michaelangelo's David is brought to Springfield as part of a coast-to-coast American tour, the group Marge started is appalled to discover that she doesn't want it banned despite the exposed genitals. When grilled about it on a local talk show, Marge is called out on her hypocrisy and is forced to admit that it's wrong to censor one form of art but not others.
- This is basically what Iconoclasm is, making this trope Older Than Print. (Or even Older Than Feudalism). The Byzantine Empire was keen on purging any "graven images" (that is: religious art, like icons, paintings, sculptures and tapestries) from churches and destroying them as sacrilegous. It was only the Empress Irene who resolved the Iconoclasm on basis that religious art is OK as long as it is treated as art, not religion.
- The Reformation saw another wave of Iconoclasm, this time in the Western Europe. Martin Luther was horrified of the wholesale destruction of the beauty and art in churches, while John Calvin actively advocated for it.
- Mao Ze Dong's Red Guards suppressed or destroyed much of traditional Chinese culture in the name of the Cultural Revolution. They were so good at this that there are more Confucians and Taoists outside of the People's Republic of China than within now.
- Centuries earlier, the first Chinese Emperor also ordered the destruction of all works that did not pertain to practical life. He preserved the copies of those works inside his palace. Unfortunately, a rebel leader decided to set the palace on fire.
- After the Cultural Revolution ended and China began opening itself to the world, they found out that many people were interested in classical Chinese art and culture. The government ignores the fact that many of the remaining artisans were essentially committing "treason" for decades with their hidden knowledge.
- The USSR didn't just try to wipe out religion entirely, they smeared churches with faeces, knocked down most of them down (including some very beautiful cathedrals), instituted a school system that forced atheism and truckloads of anti-religious propaganda on children, banned the teaching of religion and did everything in their power to prevent people going to church. Believers were harassed, many were rounded up, particularly priests. Very many were imprisoned, 'vanished', assassinated, intimidated, locked in mental hospitals, and forcibly converted to atheism. Vicious and unpleasant propaganda posters were pasted across the country - and that isn't even the half of what went on. Bear in mind that it is now pretty-much confirmed that the attempted assassination of Pope John-Paul II was organised by the KGB....
- Meanwhile in America, the first Red Scare was coming to a head, with the state deporting or arresting Anarchists, Communists, Socialists, Union members, Wobblies, and a host of other leftists, under the guise of protecting the American and Christian way. This culminated in sending over 200 Anarchists and Communists on a ship with an armed guard off to Finland and Russia. Not surprisingly, the stock markets crashed a decade later.
- The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed a lot of people for many things, like speaking a European language, or, say, dancing. It is rumored that by the end of their four-year reign, only three people in the country knew how to dance the complex, stylized form of ballet derived from the Khmer empire.
- The Taliban banned music in Afghanistan, and destroyed a lot of artwork, especially ancient artwork relating to earlier religions. Including, most famously the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
- As seen in the photo at the top of the page, the "Spirit of Justice" statue on display at the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Department spent $8,000 on blue drapes to hide it and a male statue during speeches. It has been suggested that photographers were taking deliberately mocking photographs of John Ashcroft, and stated that the curtains were meant to be permanent replacements for rented curtains that Ashcroft had no part it. Still, the statues were being covered up.
- Some Protestant high schools and colleges don't hold dances because the administration considers dancing sinful. Taken a step further, some religious colleges prohibit their students from not only dancing but listening to music at all, as well as drinking, engaging in any physically affectionate behavior, or wearing "gender non-appropriate attire" (women can't wear pants). Some schools actually ban "inappropriate" eye contact. Breaking these rules often enough can get a student expelled.
- Popular joke among Catholics:
Q: Why are Protestants opposed to shagging while standing up?
A: For fear that it might lead to dancing!
- One high school suspended a student for dancing... at another school.
- There are also some insane regulations governing hair length and style, not a few of which are implicitly racist -- applying language like "distracting" or "political" to ban, say, afros or cornrows. There are schools -- including public schools -- where black girls in particular are essentially forced, by process of elimination, to straighten their hair. There was a case where an Apache boy was denied entrance to a kindergarten for having his hair long -- and this was a school that was willing to make exceptions on "proven moral grounds," for which Apache tradition apparently doesn't qualify. And there are schools where, in addition to boys' not being allowed to have long hair, girls aren't allowed to have theirs too short.
- A few of the stricter Protestant schools in the Netherlands (there's quite a few actually) caught flak a few years back when not relaxing their no-pants-only-dresses-for-girls rules. This was during a particularly cold winter. And many girls came to school by bike.
- During the age of West-Indian chattel slavery, the Africans were purposefully separated from their tribes to try and prevent any sort of unity amongst them. This meant that there would be no one else around with the same culture, leading to erasure of some degree. Of course, this meant that everyone would be speaking a different language, and when added to the already foreign languages of the European planters, very little would be understood.
- African religions were also outlawed by the colonial government. In the case of the Spanish colonies, all slaves had to be converted into Roman Catholics by law, and in the French colonies, this was stressed but not really enforced. English planters did not put a lot of effort into giving their slaves a new religion, and instead kept destroying anything they thought 'heathen'.
- Shortly before Emancipation, Non-conformist missionaries (Baptists, Methodists, etc.) were often successful in converting the slaves to their denomination. The English planters were more than just annoyed by this, and the preachers were often incarcerated for giving the slaves 'ideas'. The missionaries also helped to educate the slaves, something that was also frowned upon.
- African religions were also outlawed by the colonial government. In the case of the Spanish colonies, all slaves had to be converted into Roman Catholics by law, and in the French colonies, this was stressed but not really enforced. English planters did not put a lot of effort into giving their slaves a new religion, and instead kept destroying anything they thought 'heathen'.
- In Italy, Prime Minister Berlusconi's staff went further and vandalized an 18th century painting that was to be the background for a press conference, painting clothes over a bare breast. Fortunately, it was just a copy of the painting and not the original.
- Even worse: the female character who had her breast covered is an allegory for the Truth, and the whole painting is the usual background for the government's press conferences.
- A great number of artworks of Rome, Greece, Egypt, and more were defaced by removing or covering exposed genitals.
- During the Japanese colonization of Korea, the colonial government put into practice the suppression of Korean culture and language in an "attempt to root out all elements of Korean culture from society". In other words, destroying Korean culture to "Japanize" it.
- The previous Korean regime, the Joseon Kingdom, being a Neo-Confucian ideological dictatorship, had done the same thing to its own country's culture, brutally suppressing shamanism and Buddhism and enforcing traditional sex-roles with Taliban-like zeal.
- During The American Civil War, the government released propaganda on both sides claiming that the other was (insert horrible trait here).
- Although the world will not let Americans forget about the movement temporarily renaming french fries to "freedom fries" and french toast to "freedom toast" during The War on Terror, it wasn't the first time this happened. During World War I, sauerkraut was known as "Liberty cabbage," German measles became known as "Liberty measles", and dachshunds as "Liberty hounds". One name change that stuck in some parts of the country was the change from 'Frankfurter" to "Hot Dog"
- During the 1918 pandemic at least one American doctor used that very argument to claim that "Spanish Flu" should be renamed "German Flu". It didn't take (not that either name is appropriate, since the virus was first detected in Kansas).
- And hamburgers were renamed "Salisbury steaks," which now refers to a completely different meat dish.
- World War One was the most flagrant example of American Culture Police at work. Woodrow Wilson created government branches to specifically monitor the media, and it encouraged citizens to turn in their neighbors if they appeared to be anti-American (or just anti-war). Wilson's media police even had a federal bureau dedicated to monitoring cartoons -- making sure that the political ones all slanted the right way and releasing pamphlets with suggestions of patriotic, anti-German themes artists could work into their cartoons.
- A lot of people forget this, but Wilson's behavior, as described above, is actually the reason why Warren Harding ran on a platform promising a "Return to Normalcy." And true to his word, Harding's "Return to Normalcy" actually did involve ending Wilson's policy of political imprisonment, and returning the private properties Wilson had seized.
- Of course, Americans are hardly the only people to develop Culture Police of Patriotic Fervor during wars. World War One, in fact, was rife with Renames of Patriotic Fervor:
- Canadians renamed a city out of anti-German sentiment.
- Hilariously, Swastika, Ontario refused to be renamed Winston, because they were Swastika long before the Nazis came along, and retains that name to this day.
- The French renamed many foods that shared a name with Austria-Hungary or its territories and cities; for example, Café Viennois (Coffee from Vienna, the Austrian capital) became Café Liégeois (Coffee from Liege).
- The Brits pulled their own version of the "Liberty hound" and renamed the German Shepherd into the Alsatian. They also renamed German biscuits into Empire biscuits (also known as Belgian biscuits). Out of all the name changes, the Brits probably trumped everyone when their own royal family, by decree of George V, changed their own surname and house name from "Saxe-Coburg" to "Windsor" to remove any relation to Germany.
- In Russia, this happened several times in the 20th century with St. Petersburg. During World War I, it was renamed to Petrograd because the original name sounded too "German." Ironically enough, Peter the Great was originally influenced by Dutch when he came up with the name. The city was renamed to Leningrad after the death of Vladimir Lenin, and then back to St. Petersburg (strictly speaking "Sankt Peterburg") by local referendum shortly before the USSR collapsed.
- Due to the number of German colonists, South Australia had a lot of towns with German sounding names. They all got renamed during WWI. Some got their old names back in The Seventies, but the Klemzig Football Club facilities were built back when the suburb was known as Gaza.
- During The French Revolution, the Committee of Public Safety went so far as to banish all words associated with royalty. A major example of their work was taking Kings and Queens out of playing cards and replacing them with Committee members (they're also an anti-religious form of the Culture Police, as they closed churches and tried to remove Sunday from the days of the week).
- Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Because he depicted naked figures, the artist was accused of immorality and obscenity. A censorship campaign (known as the "Fig-Leaf Campaign") was organized to remove the frescoes. The Pope's Master of Ceremonies said "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns".
- For years after the founding of the Irish Free State (not the same thing as the Republic of Ireland, though the practices continued therein), strict censorship laws were in place, governed by a body called the Committee on Evil Literature. They banned literature (encompassing novels, plays, poetry, magazines, newspapers and advertisements) featuring anything to do with homosexuality, abortion, birth control, detailed descriptions of violence and indecent clothing. The Committee itself ceased to exist in 1926, though its influence was widespread, and ultimately led to, among other things, the banning for eight years of Life of Brian from Irish cinemas.
- South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson deciding his own dislike of adult video games overrides the near-unanimous express wish of the Australian gaming community to introduce an adult classification to the medium.
- Truth in YouTube: While YouTube's "Community Guidelines" have been accused of deliberately vague and broad extension of the Terms of Service YouTube could use to remove videos that offended anyone or may include copyrighted material, a number of (former) YouTubers can tell you their videos have been removed on the most frivolous, anal retentive reasons. And take a look at the wording in this: "Don’t create misleading descriptions, tags, titles or thumbnails in order to increase views. It's not okay to post large amounts of untargeted, unwanted or repetitive content, including comments and private messages." Not only can (and sometimes will) your video get removed for using an Overly Long Gag or not treating the descriptions, tags, etc. as Serious Business, your video can be removed for not being not wanted and not targeting any audience.
- Apparently, you can now only broadcast yourself if you're generating traffic for YouTube.
- English rule of Ireland was rife with this. Apart from measures undertaken to utterly destroy the Irish language (which barely survived), there was the transplantation of colonists from Scotland to help "civilize" the island. This is one of the main originating causes of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland.
- Not to mention the measures taken to extinguish the Welsh language, down to tagging children caught speaking Welsh so that they could be beaten at the end of the day. The only way to get out of it was to pass the tag to another child caught speaking Welsh, and so on, and so on... Nowadays Welsh is taught in every school in Wales, and is flourishing, with subsidised broadcasting and a lively culture. People with no sense of history complain about this a lot.
- A similar thing happened to Native American tribes under U.S. rule during the Dawes era: From 1880-1930, the Code of Indian Offenses banned such things as native dances, native religious practices, and plural marriages, and Indian agents were tasked with enforcing these bans on the reservations, imprisoning and/or fining anyone who flouted them.
- During the reign of Austrian emperor Franz (Francis) I, his censors censored one scene in Friedrich Schiller's Die Räuber ("The Robbers"), i.e. the sentence "Franz heißt die Kanaille" (Franz is the name of the scoundrel), because they thought it might refer to the emperor - despite the fact that the play was written long before Franz came to power. The emperor himself commented: "Our censorship is really stupid." (Didn't mean he'd abolish it after that, though.)
- In 2009 the American CDC told media outlets to refer to "Mexican Swine Flu" as "H1N1" instead because according to them, too many people were using it as a snipe against immigrants. this was either a positive move or irrelevant either way.
- German philosopher Oswald Spengler claimed in his non-fiction book The Decline of the West that in Ancient China (that is, before the first emperor united the country), Confucianist thinkers destroyed all sources of the old Chinese religion, which is of course hard to impossible to prove.
- Monasteries and cathedrals, as well as much of the religious art they contained, were destroyed in England and Scotland during the Reformation as radicals declared religious art "idolatrous" and attempted to sweep-away, with a great deal of success, any traces of Roman Catholicism.
- The USSR State Committee for Cinematography, or Gos Kino, was responsible for extensive censorship. Directors such as Andrei Konchalovsky and Andrei Tarkovsky got into trouble for works that Gos Kino deemed too critical or depressing.
- Canadian and Australian authorities are still apologising - and rightly so - for having sent thousands of Aboriginal children to residential schools whose curriculum was essentially to destroy the various First Nations languages and cultures by teaching the students English and converting them to Christianity, "for their own good."
- As Godwin demanded: the Nazis condemned what they called "entartete Kunst" - "degenerate art." It was mostly Complaining About Art They Didn't Like. In addition, they set about destroying art made by Jews, except for classical music that Hitler liked. They downplayed the importance of the Jewish Lorenzo Da Ponte to Mozart's operas and the ancestry of the Johann Strauss's, but Hitler seemed to feel this was less important than the destruction of "degenerate art" famously declaring "I decide who is Jewish.".
- The Media Research Center. Their latest antics includes bashing The Muppets and Cars 2, for allegedly "teaching the kids to hate corporate America". You can almost smell The Man behind them.
- Romania was doing this actively to the native Hungarians in Transylvania, during the communist administration. When the communists were chased out of Bucharest, they attempted to instigate a civil war and briefly came back to power but they are gradually losing influence. Many of their spiritual successors are currently in government and are continuing with the culture police.
- Censorship departments in several countries of Latin America during their dictatorships were this - Though, to be fair, they mostly censored political content.
- In Saudi Arabia (Mutaween), Iran (Basij) and other middle eastern countries there are police forces that strictly enforce Sharia Law. They flog people for listening to western music or wearing western fashions.