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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mind Policing in America

In spite of the Constitutionally protected freedom of speech, mind policing in America has been going on for a long time. This week, we celebrate Banned Books week. Each year libraries remind us that even today there are those who are vigilant in exercising their discretionary view of what you and I should be able to read.

Who are these mind police? Often they are simply mothers and other busybodies who for the most part are afraid of what might happen if one of their children, or God forbid, you or I happen to read something they disapprove of. Some of the books they target for reasons that seem quite silly on the surface. Still, their assault on this protected liberty (freedom of expression) is not silly at all. Here is a statical overview between 2000 - 2005.


In another stroke of irony, it's the 50th anniversary of the legal action surrounding poet Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." The publisher of Ginsberg's poet was put on trial contending the work contained obscene language, but a San Francisco Municipal Court judge ruled that Allen Ginsberg's Beat-era poem was not obscene. Still, half a century later, a New York listener-supported radio station WBAI decided not to air the poem because program director Bernard White fears that the FCC will fine the station $325,000 for every one of Ginsberg's dirty-word bombs. This concern was based upon recent actions by the FCC in numerous other imposition of fines to broadcast outlets. Instead, WBAI will include a reading of the poem in a special online-only program called "Howl Against Censorship." It will be posted on www.pacifica.org, the Internet home of the Berkeley-based Pacifica Foundation, because online sites do not fall under the FCC's purview.


Half a century later and the battle over such censorship continues in America. In fact, in many ways the issue is even greater today and the Government has sought library records of individuals under the Patriots Act to see what we are reading, so they can make subjective decisions if we might be terrorists or who knows whatever else they may fear we are?
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