Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom on July 4

The simplest definition of freedom is the right to live your life without undue restraint. The United States likes to believe it is the "land of the free." Often, that is not the case.

Freedom of Speech/Press
In most regards, there is such freedom. I can say or write that President Bush is an ignorant asshole whose brain has the constancy and intellect of a bowl of tapioca pudding and not fear jackbooted thugs breaking down my door and dragging me off to a prison where the electric outlets are at a convenient genital height. Yet, censorship, the antithesis of free speech, is unofficially common.

Project Censored has published 25 news stories that have been censored by the American news media. They are not secret stories; I know something about many of them. They are facts that reporters know, they might even work in a reference in a clause to a sentence in a paragraph buried deep in their story. But, most will not directly talk about it because they are afraid of being labeled disloyal. It is not legal censorship but societal censorship.

The tracking of the Abu Ghraib story is a good example. Many reporters in Iraq at the time knew that some American soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners. Some had heard stories, others had seen it for themselves. Pentagon reporters knew that the top Guantanamo interrogator, Gen. Geoffrey Miller, had been sent to Iraq. They knew he was bringing his "aggressive" tactics to Iraq. They knew, and chose to forget, that prisoner abuse had become official policy in Iraq. The reporters also knew that prisoner abuse is torture and is illegal. For a year, from May 2003, the story of prisoner abuse in Iraq was rumored and known. Only when visible evidence appeared, those pictures, did the story gain coverage. Had a reporter tried to write about it earlier, without the pictures as evidence, he would have had a near impossible time getting it published in the United States.

Book Banning
There is quite the cottage industry banning books in the United States. American classics like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, the great Harry Potter, unassuming children's stories like A Wrinkle in Time, and even adult novels like The Color Purple and A Handmaid's Tale have all been attacked as inappropriate for public consumption. The reasons vary. Huck Finn is attacked because it contains the word "niggar" even though it may be the greatest novel ever written in America. The Color Purple has a few sex scenes (so does the Bible). Harry Potter has witches!

The worst charge I can make on this Independence Day is that the United States has become a Police State. But, that will have to wait for tomorrow.

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