The ugly stench of censorship…

One parallel with 1930’s Germany that jumps out for any sane observer of today’s toxic political environment is censorship. This runs the gamut of a mob shouting down a speaker (they should have let the guy in Berkeley speak his mind so everyone could see what a bigot, hater, and idiot he is), to the statement from Stephen Bannon AKA Goebbels’s spawn that the media is the opposition. The latter, and Kellyanne Conway’s statement about “alternative facts” and blast that everyone in the media who criticizes Trump should be fired are only a step away from fascist censorship in this country.

Another example was Fox forcing the lumber company to edit their Super Bowl ad, something that company paid to produce. Why not run it instead of silencing debate? Let people express and discuss the merits of the ad. I suspect that Trump or his cronies pressured Fox to apply censorship. I’ve seen right-wing and insulting ads in the NY Times. They make money off them whether controversial or not, and Fox just made the real ad go viral on YouTube anyway. What did they accomplish?

The Fox example doesn’t even make sense. With respect to Trump’s Putin comment, which basically equated Russia to the U.S. for oppressive actions, Bill O’Reilly called Putin a murderer. Why didn’t Fox censor O’Reilly if Trump is such a friend of the despotic Putin? When censorship isn’t applied evenly, you have to question its application at least. Some censorship is justified, of course—the movie rankings X, R, PG-13, and so forth are a type of censorship, and it’s justified so that parents can make their own determination about whether their kids should see the movie. Excluding erotica and porn from public libraries might be justified too, but I’d hate to be on a panel that determines whether a book falls into one of those categories. I remember the case of some nut in Lexington, MA objecting to his children reading about modern families—maybe he’s moved out of the state by now to Texas.

One fallout from the “fake news” controversy is that people are now calling some fake news truth (Bannon, Conway, and Trump’s press secretary are guilty of that), while others call truth fake news (that goes across the entire political spectrum). Both are examples of censorship—call it the tyranny of public opinion. Generally speaking, despots, Trump and cronies included, want to control the news media so they can freely censor what reaches the public. Because the internet is international and so ubiquitous now, tyrants go after it—Trump’s joining that crowd. In fact, the tyrannical nature of a regime is directly proportional to how much it controls the media and how much it censors information. State-run media from the BBC to Pravda are questionable in this regard unless free alternatives are allowed. I might disagree with Charlie Hebdo about that cartoon, but I believe they have every right to publish it (bit why don’t Christians get fanatical with similar cartoons—seems to be a maturity lacking here?). Hiding information using the excuse of national security can also be a double-edged sword. Mr. Trump, up to now, pretty much tells us what he’s doing to destroy our nation. My worries will blossom when he stops telling us! A Trump in the shadows would be even more dangerous!

Many people who think about censorship think about book-banning for political or religious reasons (in some Islamic countries, it’s both, of course). In general, the concept of free press must extend to books. I might not agree with Atlas Shrugged, for example, but I don’t want to see it banned. I might argue that Fifty Shades of Grey might at least require some kind of warning akin to a movie rating, but I don’t want to see it banned either. When I was a precocious seventh-grader, Lolita and Valley of Dolls were banned in both schools and the public library. I bought the pocketbook versions and read them—found them boring (still do) but couldn’t see why they were banned. And I find unconscionable that Iran tried to censor Rushdie in the most extreme way possible, by threatening to kill him!

Fahrenheit 451 shows how extreme censorship can become. Banning all books is equivalent to banning all Muslims. While Bradbury doesn’t do a complete job of connecting the book-burning to a despotic regime—it’s just there lurking like a huge monster, while Trump’s administration and the majority of Congress is right in our face—it’s a post-apocalyptic story of where fascist thought can take us. The movie The Book of Eli was a cop-out too in some sense, with the banning just limited to the Bible. Ironically, the pastor who wanted to burn the Koran (I never heard much more about him) committed the same sin! Whether the banning is done by religious fanatics or politicians trying to control our lives and lash out against minorities, it’s a game of tyrants.

Censorship stinks in general. Muzzling the media stinks. We might not agree with Washington Post, The Guardian, or Pravda, but having all three available is the sign of a free society. We can always choose not to read them, but when tyrants prevent us from reading them, we must strike back. The Trump administration is far too close to that point.

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And so it goes…

2 Responses to “The ugly stench of censorship…”

  1. Scott Dyson Says:

    A few comments: Trump coming from a corporate background where he could control everything coming out of the corporation, I think he believes that it’s the model that the government should follow. Of course, it isn’t…the goals of a government and of a corporation are completely different, and success at the latter does not in any way give the necessary skills for leading the former. But it’s a mindset that we’ve heard before, notably from Romney, who seemed to think that government should be run like a business. I think Trump’s taking it to an extreme.

    2. I don’t think Iranian people care one bit about the edict on Rushdie’s life, for the most part. They may think Rushdie is an idiot, but it’s the Iranian theocratic government who issued the edict and I doubt that most Iranians would have supported it. If they voiced their disapproval over there, however, they could disappear…

    3. Muslims could still come into the country, as long as they were actual potential terrorists from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. :( Just not from any of the countries that didn’t actually send terrorists to the US or Europe.

  2. Steven M. Moore Says:

    Scott,
    All good comments, but permit me to offer a wee bit of rebuttal.
    1. With Trump, I think the agenda is more than business. Remember he has Bannon, Conway, and Miller in there, his substitutes for Goebbels. Fascism loves censorship!
    2. I don’t think I said the Iranian people were responsible for the fatwa. A brutal, oppressive theocracy is still a fascist regime that loves censorship. Were the Italian people responsible for the Church’s persecution of Galileo and burning Bruno at the stake? Probably not.
    3. I said that elsewhere. One major reason for Trump’s picking those seven countries was that he could fulfill a campaign promise without affecting his business interests. So sad…
    r/Steve

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