OK – not sure about

OK – not sure about posting this, but I wanted to see what other people felt about it. I’m prepared for some flak.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that AOL Time Warner are to prevent the broadcast of some Bugs Bunny cartoons because they might be deemed as offensive in their portrayal of black and American Indian characters. They have decided this in spite of a pledge by the Cartoon Network to broadcast them late at night and with a warning.
This has long been a problem with cartoons – they are a reflection of the attitudes that prevailed at the time. There is, famously, a cartoon made by the Warner Brothers cartoon studio (and directed by Bob Clampett who also made many of the Bugs Bunny cartoons) that was a parody of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – it was entitled “Coal Black an’ de Sebben Dwarfs“. I kid you not. And many of you must have sat watching Tom and Jerry cartoons and wondered why the musical score seemed to skip – the reason is that the BBC cut sections from the cartoons that they think might offend (though usually only the visual portrayals of black people – they leave in the Maid saying things like “Thomas! If yoos is a mahs catcher, then ah iz Lana Turner, which ah ain’t!”. And they leave in all the gratuitous violence. Two faced?).
My question is this: is censorship of this nature necessarily a good thing? Don’t get me wrong, I am not a racist and do not condone racism. But (to paraphrase), if others can control what we see and hear, surely it is only a matter of time before they control what we say and think. Exactly what is “obscenity”? What is “offensive”? By what standards do we judge? And is there not something to be gained by looking at the attitudes that prevailed before us, and not sweep it under the carpet? Isn’t there the danger of some sort of revisionism?
I should state that I adore vintage cartoons – I possess a number of books on the subject (there is another on my wishlist at the moment) and a pretty good knowledge of them. I think they are a great record of life at the time, showing the more everyday side of life (prevailing language, lifestyle, humour, attitudes) that was rarely shown in mainstream cinema of the time, as well as some brilliant slapstick humour, great scripting, amazing artwork and…well…they are just great fun. As a child, I was always called in from playing outside whenever a cartoon was on – we would pore over the programme schedules and all stop to watch them. Even now, I can still laugh so hard at a cartoon from that time (the early 1940s) that I ache and there are tears pouring down my cheeks.