Monday, June 25, 2001

Week of 06/25/2001

Censorship IS Personal
- by David Matthews 2

"None can love freedom but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license, which never hath more scope than under tyrants." - John Milton

There are several cult-like mantras that are uttered by our anti-American moralists. The first, obviously, is that they do what they do in the name of "the children" or of "decency" or of "family values". They never want to admit that they are doing what they do for themselves. It’s always for some obscure, vague, entity that they feel needs protection above everything else in the cosmos.

The other mantra they love to utter is that what they are doing is "not personal."

For instance, when police in Monclair, New Jersey, arrested award-winning photographer Marian Rubin and charged her with child endangerment for taking pictures of her two grandchildren in the nude, it supposedly was "not personal." (By the way, what parent or grandparent HASN’T taken pictures of their kids in the bathtub?) Even though she was arrested, had her photos seized, and her name plastered all over the news for suspected of making "kiddie porn," she wasn’t supposed to take it personally. By the way, those same photographs were deemed "not pornographic" by a judge and the charges were dismissed.

When the Federal Communications Commission slapped KKMG radio in Colorado Springs, Colorado with a $7000 fine for playing a "clean" version of Emenem’s song "The Real Slim Shady" it supposedly was "not personal." Even though the FCC supposedly spent seven years trying to write down what they deemed "indecent" broadcasting was so they can have the justification to censor it, and then ignored those "standards" so they could issue that fine. Not personal, huh?

Or how about the ranting of one Patrick Trueman, of the wrongly-named "American Family Association"? As their chief lobbyist and a former federal prosecutor, Trueman wants to see Yahoo executives thrown in prison for the content in the popular online portal’s discussion clubs and Geocities web servers. Trueman and his theocratic Gestapo ilk want their buddy, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to prosecute Yahoo’s new CEO Terry Semel and co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo on charges of supposedly violating federal obscenity laws.

Oh, and Trueman says it’s "not personal."

Neither is it supposedly "personal" that other anti-American groups like "Morality In Media" (hey, at least they’re honest about their name) want their buddy Ashcroft to prosecute cable and satellite providers for offering adult-oriented material at the request of their adult subscribers. They claim they want the federal government to simply "follow the law", even though the law they want enforced was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in the 1980’s.

Not personal, huh?

Not personal my ass!

Let’s get brutally honest here, censorship IS very much personal!

Any time you censor a writer for what he or she has written, it is personal. That is their words, their dreams, their visions, their talent on display. Any time you censor an artist for what they paint or what they photograph, it is personal. Any time you censor a singer or an entertainer, it is personal.

What they say, what they see, what they express is an extension of themselves. How could one NOT take such an assault on their expression personal? Especially when the self-righteous get the government to storm in like the Gestapo and take everything that person has BY FORCE, and then imprisons that person. How could they NOT take that personally?

Prosecutors may not take such actions personally, but then again, they’re protected by this outdated notion of "sovereign immunity." Even if they are in the wrong, they cannot be touched. They cannot lose their homes, their jobs, their pensions, their possessions, or their family. They can afford to take things with an impersonal tone because they risk nothing.

Moralists can lie to themselves and claim that what they do is not personal either, but it is very much personal to them, because they act to impose THEIR standards on the rest of the world. Every time they sit in judgement of entertainers like Emenem; when they sit in judgement of photographers like Marian Rubin; and when they sit in judgement of content providers like Yahoo, they are judging these groups by THEIR standards, and by laws that THEY and their predecessors have not only lobbied for, but in many cases have personally written and the government has simply rubber-stamped into effect.

Even if moralists don’t take what they do personal, they can also afford to do so, because like the prosecutors, they risk absolutely nothing in the exchange. They don’t go to jail if they’re found to be in the wrong. They don’t risk losing their homes, their belongings, their families, or their income if they are wrong. That’s why they’re unrepentant and defiant to the very end, because it cannot affect them personally. All they really lose is some court case. Big flipping deal.

That’s the real reason why we have things like the First Amendment. It was designed to protect the individual from the wrath of fanatical persecutors and overzealous prosecutors. The only problem being those protections are only as good as those who are charged with enforcing those protections. Should the judiciary fail to do their part, or should the prosecutors fail to heed to the decisions of the judiciary, there is nothing in the world short of violence that will protect the individual from the wrath of the persecutors.

What is missing in this equation is a form of real justice, a way to truly corral the actions of the government, and keep the rabid persecutors from taking charge. Would police officers be willing to violate a person’s civil rights if they knew that doing so would mean they would lose their jobs, their pensions, their possessions? Would a district attorney be willing to even listen to the rabid ranting of persecutors like Trueman if they knew that if they screwed up, THEY would be held personally responsible? Obviously, they wouldn’t.

Then again, if there really was some kind of real justice, such persecutors would be gathered up, stuffed on a very slow boat, and shipped to some country where their kind of repression would be appreciated. Countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and China come quickly to mind. There, they can learn what is like to have their kind of justice enforced by people who have been doing it much longer than they have. Heck, they might even enjoy it there. I’m sure many of us freedom-loving Americans would love having them shipped there.

But, hey, don’t take it personal.

No comments: