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propaganda or censorship
it's all the same
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
9.18.07
news

Once upon a time in high school, I was in an American Government class. I remember very vividly the freedom of speech bit of the class. Mr. Bradley, the teacher, made us watch a documentary from the 50s or 60s about freedom of speech.

It featured a man, apparently a Nazi, who stood in a crowded city square and began to sound off with Nazi rhetoric. A crowd of angry passers-by began to form around the man, and after a few verbal exchanges, a large punching and shoving fest took place right there in the square. The police got involved with the angry mob and the man at the heart of all this was arrested. All he had done was express his point of view and/or beliefs on an obviously touchy subject in an unexpected place at a time when people were still feeling World War II's effects.

The questions that the video as well as the teacher raised to the class were: Should this man be able to practice his right of freedom of speech if what he had to say was so offensive that people became violent in response? Is a public city square an appropriate place for giving such inflammatory speeches?

I don’t quite remember the verdict, but my philosophy was and is that when exercising your freedom of speech (or any other right really) causes more harm than good; your rights ought to be over-ridden.

When the place isn’t ideal for addressing a harmless topic, however, a person’s right of free speech should be upheld with utmost care.

A good example of such a case is Sunday night’s Emmy awards show, where a blatant act of censorship took place. The news has been cluttered with nothing but the Emmy’s best dressed, who won what, and Sally Field’s speech. I didn’t watch the show, but in reading up on the Emmys’ happenings, I see just how clueless those in power are about what freedom of speech really means when there is no harm aside from possible government-related consequences.

Apparently, while Sally Field was giving her acceptance speech for her best actress in a drama Emmy, she suddenly went political, expressing in not so many words her anti Iraq war sentiments. From what I gathered after reading up on the incident, it seems that no one knows what Field said after beginning the topic with a simple “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no damn wars in the world.” The word “damn” might merit a bleep or other type of censorship on primetime television. But that’s not the only censorship that took place on Sunday night during Field’s speech. It seems that the award show’s producers had itchy censorship fingers and ordered their camera operators along with sound techs to cut away from Field, and mute the sound altogether. That's an example of how freedom of speech is handled nowadays.

If you go back a few years to when Michael Moore gave his famous Oscar speech, he was booed off the stage for speaking out against Bush and the war in Iraq. We as viewers heard the whole thing, even though the show’s producers tried to muffle him with music. They weren’t successful, because we still heard his speech. At the time people were covering everything with American flags and looking up to Bush as their leader against a dangerous world full of terror that wants nothing more than to destroy Americans and the freedoms they enjoy; including freedom of speech. Propaganda as maintenance was the way to go back in those days. The Dixie Chicks, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are just a few names that come to mind, who were attacked by the media for their anti-war sentiments.

Today, things are different. Bush’s popularity is down, while the war in Iraq has proved to be a disaster and an absolute failure in countless ways. Most of the American public is fed up with the war in Iraq and the loss of lives on both the American and Iraqi sides. Not to mention the other nationalities fighting alongside the US against what is essentially, a phantom force no one can put a face on.

Though people might not boo Michael Moore off the stage today, he will be muted by the show’s producers. Music doesn’t cut it anymore. Something more aggressive than propaganda is the answer for today’s heretics, and that is changing the view and muting the sound, even when what is being said echoes the voice of the majority.


ABOUT REEM AL-OMARI

Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari

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