Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

Censored 1998 Saturday Night Live Segment about Corporate Control of Media

One of the frequent gripes of this blog is that the US media has become consolidated into the hands of a few multinational corporations. They are attempting to place the public media in a position where it must take corporate funding to exist by defunding public broadcasting.

While the first Amendment provides for Freedom of the Press, those guarantees only apply to government action, not those of private industry. Private industry is not required to present other opinions and can engage in self-censorship to its heart’s content. Likewise, individuals can do what they will to drown out unpopular opinions though astroturf.


More posts on astroturf!

This one comes from Planetsave: Unprecedented Attack on Progressive Blogs, Bloggers, Democracy, Journalists, and Their Families:

The takeaway message: be very conscious of this issue, and realize that the internet is not a model of free speech and democracy at this point — it is increasingly dominated by propaganda campaigns and fake users effortlessly spewing lies.

The Planet save links to an Article by George Monbiot, The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent, from 23 February 2011. George says:

After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.

Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.

It now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HBGary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.

I’ve been wanting to find something about these commercial astroturfing trolls after seeing a post about them about 6 years ago (and not noting it).

See also:
The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent
Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd?
Digg this: Conservative efforts to manipulate the public discussion extend to social media
Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered
From promoting acid rain to climate denial — over 20 years of David Koch’s polluter front groups
The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All
HBGary’s high-volume astroturfing technology and the Feds who requested it
More HBGary Federal Fallout: The Government Wants To Buy Software To Fake Online Grassroots Social Media Campaigns

free speech, critical thinking, editing, censorship, and the internet.

A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both–James Madison

I’ve been wanting to write something on this topic for a while. This comment by Susan at Liberality got my mind working:

Two hundred years ago the founders of the republic would have been deliriously happy at the idea of Americans able to be informed by the sheer volume of available facts the digital information age would produce. The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of reinforcing their particular choice of cultural ignorance.

I am thoroughly in agreement with what she says in that the Internet, like Television can be a force for spreading knowledge and culture. On the other hand, it has become a place where opinions tend to be reinforced by similar viewpoints. Dissenting voices are shot down by astroturf posting.

I am well aware that one of the criticisms about this blog is that I moderate comments, which in no way is a violation of someone’s free speech. The problem is that the opinions that I do not publish are repeated across the internet–some are far overrepresented. Additionally, the comments come from someone who also blogs or has a forum in which to voice their opinions. The concept of free speech is to allow for dissenting opinions to be heard. They are not heard if someone comes in and drowns out that opinion with something that is overrepresented.

What Is Censorship? Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.

Given that definition, and the other ones found here, I am in no manner or form engaging in censorship. Additionally, I have a commenting policy:

These are my opinions and I don’t care if you read this. I blog for myself, but don’t mind if others read what I write. I don’t really want to hear from you–unless you agree with me or unless you can offer intelligent and constructive comments or can say something interesting and informative, don’t waste your time doing such as your comments end up in the electronic dustbin without being read. Quality over quantity is my preference for comments.

Also, any comments left here become the property of this blog for me to do as I wish. So BEWARE!

This takes us back to my comment about astroturf. George Monbiot pretty much sums up my feelings about the repeat, ignorant, and irrelevant comments:

I love debate, and I often wade into the threads beneath my columns. But it’s a depressing experience, as instead of contesting the issues I raise, many of those who disagree bombard me with infantile abuse, or just keep repeating a fiction, however often you discredit it. This ensures that an intelligent discussion is almost impossible – which appears to be the point.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.

I don’t mind comments if they are truly interested in debate, but as most people who blog about gun-control, climate change, and other controversial topics will tell you, the comments they receive are there to shut down debate. For example, when I made my posts on inalienable rights, it was very clear that most of the posters had no idea of what I was talking about in those posts. Additionally, the tone is that of religious reverence for a philosophical position which is very much up for debate and hardly a “settled matter”.

I routinely delete comments that repeat questions or ask questions about material which can be properly researched. I will also add that I have investigated some of these topics and written blogs posts which outline my conclusions. Again, if the repeat posters would take time to RESEARCH, they will probably find the answers to their questions. I do not force my opinions on anyone and prefer not to have people force theirs upon me.

Which gets to critical thinking, which is defined as:

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.

Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills (“as an exercise”) without acceptance of their results.

The founders assumed that people would be properly educated and be able to use critical reasoning skills to assess points of view not merely say:

“It’s all over the internet, it must be true”
“It came from — facts, it must be true”

Part of this is being able to use one’s experience to verify what is being written, and the other is the research skills to further investigate what has been asserted. I will admit that I like going into depth on topics that interest me, which is something you may have noticed if you read this blog on a regular basis.

The Founding fathers were indeed supporters of education, which seems to be lost on the current generation. For example, the two quotes from James Madison can be found on the left side of the main entrance of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress:

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

On the right side of the entrance:

What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of liberty and learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support?

And these quotes from Thomas Jefferson on the Jefferson Building:

Educate and inform the mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of the body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and John Witherspoon was President and head professor of what would become Princeton University, which demonstrates that education was important to the founders in order to have the type of debate necessary to run the republic. Which is an interesting aside and somewhat germane to the topic since Susan pointed out that “The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of reinforcing their particular choice of cultural ignorance”.

The American War for Independence was an idealistic act, and with most idealistic acts and philosophies, its beliefs have run into hard reality. Beliefs such as Anarchy, Democracy, Communism, Socialism, Libertarianism, and so on sound good in theory, but don’t works so well in reality. For example, Anarchy believes that government is not necessary since people know the rules and pretty much obey them, breaking them only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, Anarchy tends to descend into nihilism. I contend that one of the failings of the Independence movement was that the voices of the Tories and more moderate forces of independence were shouted down, which means that the guarantee of free speech was a little too late (but that’s another aside).

Anyway, debate and open discussion is a wonderful thing, but it does seem to be a rare commodity on the internet.

And I just liked this quote:

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.–James Madison 


The Liberal Media are as Liberal as the large corporations that control them.

This rant was caused by a comment made elsewhere about my So much to be pissed at post as well as a shitload of other things.

” I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. ”
Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805 – 1859, French political thinker and author of Democracy in America

I am curious about why the founders put the First Amendment in the Constitution in light of the de Tocqueville quote above:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It pisses me off that the first time I came to Philadelphia in 1980 and went to Independence Hall to see the US version of “speaker’s Corner” that (a) no one was speaking, and even more disappointing, (b) a young lady made a comment that “if anyone said anything bad about the US she would punch them in the nose”.

Compare that to Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park which has a vibrant history of oratory, discussion, debate, humour and madness. Rarely do people make comments about punching others in the nose no matter how much they may disagree in London. Of course the remark about London’s Speakers’ Corner that “the older generation of Socialists who have battled for their ideas here many for more than half a century” might go a long way to explain why the US version of Speakers’ Corner is silent.

While looking up material on Media Control and Propaganda I came upon the Third World Traveler’s Media Control and Censorship page. THIRD WORLD TRAVELER

is an archive of articles and book excerpts that seek to tell the truth about American democracy, media, and foreign policy, and about the impact of the actions of the United States government, transnational corporations, global trade and financial institutions, and the corporate media, on democracy, social and economic justice, human rights, and war and peace, in the Third World, and in the developed world.

My interest is the point that the US media are controlled by a very small group of people. Five companies control 80% of what you see on TV, and 10 companies control two-thirds of what you hear on the radio in the United States! We can get into how this affect the accuracy of US Commercial media, but you can find that in very fine detail at this site.

“As long as people are marginalized and distracted [they] have no way to organize or articulate their sentiments, or even know that others have these sentiments. People assume that they are the only people with a crazy idea in their heads. They never hear it from anywhere else. Nobody’s supposed to think that. … Since there’s no way to get together with other people who share or reinforce that view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball. So you just stay on the side and you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on. You look at something else, like the Superbowl.”
Noam Chomsky, American linguist and US media and foreign policy critic

The concept of freedom of speech is to get out ideas which normally wouldn’t be heard. Unfortunately, the US media tends to play up and dwell on stories that are sensational – murders, car crashes, kidnappings, sex scandals, and so on. This is why the idiot preacher in Florida was able to get a vastly disproportionate amount of attention. Likewise, the Media chooses who it wants to support. As I mentioned in my Feeling “Left” out post:

the Tea Party Convention this February received more coverage than the U.S. Social Forum convention held last June, five days of strategizing, organizing and activism inspired by the 2001 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The Social Forum, in Detroit, drew an estimated 15,000–20,000 progressive activists from around the country, while the Tea Party Convention in Nashville hosted a meager 600 attendees. Compare the two “activist” gatherings striving for political and social change, one at least 25 times larger than the other—but the smaller one received the larger share of the media coverage. Across 10 major national outlets in the two weeks surrounding each event, the Tea Party got 177 mentions to the Social Forum’s three. Per participant, the Tea Party got 1,500 times as many mentions!

The Internet, in some ways, is just as bad since googling “gun control” nets you more pro-gun sites than ones that address the issue of gun control. The amazing thing is that the “gun rights” message is heard vastly out of proportion to its level of support.

“You have presented to stations around the world a model for freedom of speech and the unhindered availability of information… You have shown that despite media monopolies and manipulations it is possible to preserve a spirit of tolerance, freedom and truth and to allow dissenting voices to be heard… Your struggle to preserve your autonomy… has revealed an unexpected similarity between the media in the US and Serbia today, the freedom of speech is being stifled in a similar manner, journalists are being .. intimidated and progressive radio stations are prevented from operating. The character of media repression is virtually the same under openly totalitarian dictatorships as it is under democratic systems which are increasingly influenced by conservative structures.”

A message of solidarity from banned independent radio station B92 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia to Pacifica Radio Stations in the US, expressing support in their struggle to preserve progressive community radio in the United States – July 1999

The problem is that with media control in the hands of a few and no outlet for opposing viewpoints, the First Amendment guarantees are basically shit blotter. It’s roughly like the Second and Third Amendment guarantees against a standing army being trampled by an out of control military machine. One wonders in retrospect why did the founders bother to write all this down if it would become meaningless in a few years?

There’s quite a lot to be angry about here, but I am not sure of where to direct all this anger.

I will add a couple of links here for non MSM news:

Censorship, DRM, and the news

Fat Headed White Moron made the comment over at MikeB’s about someone’s not being able to see a video since they were out of the video’s region.

He said something about Censorship.

Sorry, it’s not Censorship, it’s DRM: Digital Rights management.

It’s also not about the government, but business practises.

If one wants to watch the TV show Timewatch in the UK on iPlayer, the BBC’s Internet TV and Radio service, you will see the following screen:

On the other hand, if you are outside the UK, you will see the following screen:

The BBC isn’t censoring Timewatch, but telling you that you need to watch it on a source which is within your local media market. There are two reasons for this. One, BBC TV productions are paid for by the UK television licence fee. The second is rights agreements with third parties. For example, BBC programmes in the US are co-produced with Public Broadcasting and the Discovery Channel (BBC America is run by BBC World Wide, but is Distributed by Discovery Networks and Timewatch was coproduced with the Discovery Channel). On the other hand, most radio programmes can be accessed universally, with the exception of a few programmes, mainly some sports broadcasts, that are affected by rights issues.

I gave the example of Desperate Housewives, which is broadcast in the UK by Channel 4. The British Government is not censoring Desperate Housewives in the US, it has to do with rights agreements.

You see this if you are in the US:
Desperate NonUK

And this in the UK:

Now, you can watch Desperate Housewives in the US, which means that Desperate Housewives isn’t being “censored”. The viewer is being shunted to the “appropriate” media market.

See also DVD region coding. This is an aspect of DRM designed to allow motion picture studios and other rights holders control aspects of a release, including content, release date, and price, according to the region. DVD video discs may be encoded with a region code restricting the area of the world in which they can be played.

On the other hand, it seems that the BBC is now adding additional lines to the news to make it harder to download! Now, the BBC is using 640×372 lines instead of 640×360. This causes playback issues for at least AppleTV, XBMC on XBOX, and even the official iPlayer. The problem appears to be there for all modes flashstd and better. The new flashlow mode strangely does not have these extra lines and therefore plays back OK. Although, I have been having problems with downloading the news even on official iPlayer.

Personally, I am against DRM.

So, there you go!

Posted 03/06/2010 by lacithedog in BBC, BBC iplayer, Censorship, DRM, iplayer


You have no right to read this.

The First Amendment gives me the right to write it, but doesn’t necessarily give you the right to read it. While the right to free speech certainly infers a corresponding right to hear what is being spoken or written, the First Amendment doesn’t explicitly grant such a right to read anything you want. So theoretically, it could be argued that no such right exists.

The key word being “theoretically”. As a practical matter, the freedom to read whatever we choose is such an intrinsic part of the US or British national character as to make legal theory superfluous. People would rise in outrage if government ever attempted to proscribe what they read. Theory and reality are often two different things.

Add in that my ability to write or say what I want will allow ideas to get out, even if there are attempts to censor them.

Now, I just moderated some comments about my Mitt Romney piece which may have come from some Mormons (Mormons and Jews tend to proselytise in a similar manner). They are happy to see people accepting their beliefs and defending them as well. I will defend their ability to practise their beliefs even if I have some personal qualms about their faith as an ardent believer that the war of independence and the US Constitution are a disaster and not divinely inspired.

The American War for Independence was satanic in my opinion, but I don’t see Mormons as satanic. Their beliefs are not satanic. I would like to think that the Mormons believe in the Spirit of the Constitution and what it means than what this country has become. But I also think most of the founding fathers (and mothers) would probably think this country was a disaster as well if they were able to see what it has become.

On the other hand, as I have said before, I don’t see any reason to give the RKBA crowd more of a soapbox to push their opinions upon us. They flood the internet with repeated lies. Repeating these lies will not make it the truth. And the RKBA position on guns is detrimental to society. which is made especially clear after waking to yet another mass shooting in Illinois.

As a lawyer, my job is to state what the law IS, not what I would like it to be. And, until the Supreme Court states otherwise, the Second Amendment protects only the militias which are organised under Article I, Section 8.

I have to update this to say that Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008), is a piece of political hackery which he should be ashamed of if he truly believes what he professes to believe. So, I remain unconvinced of the validity of this decision as legal precedent.

So I see no reason why District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) should not be overturned and replaced with something which makes proper legal sense or why Washington, DC’s locally enacted law should have been judicially repealed. Isn’t that judicial activism anyway?

Not to mention tyranny.

I am glad to see that I have readers and I am glad to support people’s right of conscience if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Quite frankly. I have absolutely no problem with any of Mormonism’s beliefs. As I said before, I think that they are absolutely dead wrong about the Declaration of Independence and Constitution being devinely inspired. Along with finding retroactive baptism a bit odd, which I am sure my dead Jewish relations who are retroactively baptised do as well.

But, My Mormon relations tell me that my Jewish relations who are retroactively are free to accept or reject Mormonism as they please. Not to mention that the Mormons have helped me in my genealogical pursuits. I have also donated genealogical material to the Mormons who will protect it. So, I have absolutely no problem with Mormons and their beliefs since they are not forcing them upon me.

The Mormons aren’t the Branch Davidians, yet I see some of the religious right defend the Branch Davidians even though the BDs were engaged in illegal activities. This is because they were a “Church”.

The Mormons are law abiding and not prone to force their beliefs on others, which is what the First Amendment right is about.

And, I really don’t care if anyone reads this blog, but it is my right to write it. This is the real first freedom which protects all other freedoms. The Second Amendment’s significance is so lost in history and polemic that it is meaningless.

But, it does feel good if my writings make a difference.

RKBA comments

The RKBA crowd takes over the discussion of the Second Amendment whenever possible. Their arguments are like weeds in a garden which are allowed to take over. Weeds of ignorance and illogic.

There have been RKBA people who wish to comment on this blog, but I don’t allow it. I will not post their comments.

The Bill of Rights only protects you from government interference, not private. I am not a governmental body in this blog, so I can censor to my heart’s content.

You have more than enough fora to post your bullshit. I don’t really want to hear your opinions. Nor do I need to allow them to be published more than they are. So, I am under no obligation to post your nonsense.

As for my discussions of Heller. No, they are not a red herring. The precedent in Sandidge v. U. S., 520 A.2d 1057 (D.C. 1987) which was the law in The District of Columbia and followed the “Collective Right” interpretation. The Parker court admitted that it ignored the precedent of Sandidge.

Nowhere in the Second Amendment are the words “self-defence” written. And, until you can show me they are written there, which you cannot, the Second Amendment does not apply to self-defence. It does apply to membership in a militia organised under Article I, Section 8 and only in those circumstances.

Heller has no right to own a gun on his own property any more than I can have a meth lab on mine or sex with a child if the firearm is illegal, which they are under DC law. Private property does not allow for sovereignty to commit illegal acts.

Is that clear enough for you Mr. RKBA moron? Please do not come here with your fallacies and poor arguments.

Posted 08/02/2008 by lacithedog in Censorship, RKBA