Freedom of expression is under attack more now than at any other time in the country's history - even World War II when it was a necessity. The media is being "reined in" and even being told what they should report on. The Gannon-Guckert affair [pun intended] shows how desperate powers that be are to direct what is reported/talked about. This is flagrant propaganda at its worst.
In the New York Times today, Sunday, March 13, 2005, Frank Rich writes in his column entitled "The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told" about the "censors" who actually come across as thought police.
Ted Stevens, the powerful chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pronounced himself sick of "four-letter words with participles" on cable and satellite television. "I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over the air," he said, promising to carry the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Never mind that anyone can keep pay TV at bay by not purchasing it, and that any parent who does subscribe can click on foolproof blocking devices to censor any channel. Senator Stevens's point is to intimidate MTV, Comedy Central, the satellite radio purveyors of Howard Stern and countless others from this moment on, whether he ultimately succeeds in exerting seemingly unconstitutional power over them or not.
The word in the quote that strikes me as crucial is "intimidate." How many people do you think have actually been afraid to say something during the last three years for fear of offending someone or of being thought to be un-American, say, for example, standing against the Iraq incursion? Or something anti-Christian? I have thought twice some times and I consider myself someone who has always said what I'm thinking aloud.
The right is quick to damn "political correctness" but uses it most explicitly to intimidate people and institutions. What ever happened to questioning what your government does? This is supposed to be a democracy, after all, yet while trying to push a specific form of democracy on the Middle East, our freedoms are slowing being eroded under the guise of protecting us from terrorism. It strikes me that the new terrorism is actually the terrorism of the right. Sensational reporting on what the right considers the erosion of values, for example, same-sex marriage, nudity, foul language, or questioning the current administration, is more intimidating.
More than acts of violence, terrorism is a psychological phenomenon. To keep people in constant fear of the unkown is total control. Not knowing what is going to happen next and the fear that the next minute could be the last is tantamount to taking hostages. When I have to go to the Central Office for a meeting I park in the lot right by the Sears Tower in Chicago. Just after 9/11 I actually thought twice about parking there! Fear of a parking space?
I work with children and the incidence of fighting has increased dramatically in the last three years. People ask, "What's going on? Where is this coming from?" My answer is simple. Kids hear about the "fighting" going on in Iraq; they have relatives who are serving over there; they sense the tension in adults' voices and actions; and they see the results of terrorist bombing on television. Children don't have the capacity to process all of these things and are usually told by adults not to worry about it. But they do! The "war" mentality has permeated all the way down.
This last week Spain celebrated the first anniversary of the train bombing in Madrid. I remember right after it happened a friend telling me that her 11 year old granddaughter asked her if they could never ride the "L" into downtown Chicago any more and if they had to worry about bombs llike the one that happened in Madrid. This from a girl who in some respects is considered to be a bit of a scatterbrain. She was actually afraid. What else could be going on inside their heads?
If I thought twice about parking by the Sears Tower and she was afraid of riding the "L," what are others thinking? If the administration is color coding alerts, what level of uncertainty is real? If I have to think twice about what I say, where is the true democracy in the voice of the people? If the rule of thumb is "majority rule, minority rights," why are people trying to take freedoms away from American citizens by rewriting laws and the Constitution?