Monday, September 17, 2012

When is Censorship not Censorship?

Censorship is such an ambiguous thing. How does one define it really? It’s like trying to give a name to a cloud or a flower or an administration telling a private company that they really need to censor something.

But luckily our free speech allows the media to explain to us why censoring people they think should be censored really isn’t censorship at all. Here’s Chuck Todd of NBC, an abbreviation that people didn’t always laugh at the way they’ve been doing these last few years.

The distinction here should be clear to everyone. The WH did not ask YouTube to pull the video, the WH told YouTube to take another look at the video and find a reason to pull it. I think we can all agree that this is not censorship.
And for example, if Romney decided to call NBC and suggested that they take a look at Chuck Todd’s contract and see if there’s any clause in there that could allow them to assign him to reporting on cricket matches in Afghanistan while his mouth is taped shut and he’s dressed in a t-shirt with a cartoon pig on it, that wouldn’t be censorship, it would be taking a serious interest in expanding the international dialogue on how many minutes it would take for him to be abducted.
“The White House asked YouTube to review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told POLITICO in an e-mail.
Except YouTube had already decided it was in compliance. So what the White House actually did was tell YouTube to take a look at it a second time. And even lefty civil liberties groups are starting to find it creepy. Some of them.
“There’s no indication that the government is questioning the right of these idiots to make that repellent film. On the other hand, it does make us nervous when the government throws its weight behind any requests for censorship,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Ben Wizner said in an interview Friday.
“I am actually kind of distressed by this,” said Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Even though there are all these great quotes from inside the White House saying they support free speech….by calling YouTube from the White House, they were sending a message no matter how much they say we don’t want them to take it down, when the White House calls and asks you to review it, it sends a message and has a certain chilling effect.”
Isn’t it great how the ACLU calls the people behind the video, “idiots” and denies that the government is questioning their right to make the video, even while the government detained the man behind it while investigating his identity, and then sending a request to YouTube to take down the video.
The EFF actually has a proper response while the ACLU has ignored it on their site, focusing on OWS fare. The ACLU roundup has a piece on the death of a Gitmo denizen, but nothing on the biggest freedom of speech issue in decades.
When the White House rings you up and asks you to look into something content-related, that’s what we call ‘regulation by raised eyebrow,’” says Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “It’s censorship through intimidation — and without any due process.”
That is actually a proper response. The ACLU and Chuck Todd have come out in favor of whitewashing censorship. The ACLU has destroyed its credibility and Chuck Todd had none to begin with.

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