What do Howard Stern and Muqtada al-Sadr have in common? Both were censored by the US government, Stern for “indecency,” Sadr for “insurgency.” The “in” words.
Both are charismatic egomaniacs revered by loads of young, testosterone-pumping guys who, for various reasons, don’t get laid enough. Both haven’t been taken too seriously by their professional peers. Now, thanks to the brass-knuckled hand of American expurgation, both are enjoying the dubious honor of being living martyrs in their respective cultures.
Censorship works in mysterious ways
The methods used are, of course, slightly different. Sadr required Censorship by Force. Just bring in the troops and shut his rinky-dink paper down, officially because “it didn’t print the truth.” Unlike most American tabloids and Fox TV News, Sadr’s lies were “anti-American.” So Bremer’s boys stopped the presses. This proved to be an important lesson in American-style democracy for Iraqis and the world. It was also a rallying point for bloody Shiite uprisings from Baghdad to Kufa.
With Stern, it was Censorship by Fining. Fine the distributor (in this case, Clear Channel) enough cashola (in this case, $475,000), and it will drop its most popular performer like a radioactive douche-bag. Then presto-chango: Clear Channel dumps Stern from its six stations. All gone!
Amazing how easy censorship is when you can Fine & Force your way around town. Intoxicatingly easy, not to mention empowering and fun! After a few “successful” shutdowns, any industrious bureaucrat would be eager for more. It’s hard to say which is more fun to silence: indecency or insurgency.
So, who’s next? Tony Soprano or Al-Sistani? Or maybe your private telephone calls.
Censorship is *in.* Whether you call it suppression, spin control, lies or bullshit, Americans at home and abroad are gobbling it up as the cure to all our terrors. The buzz is that it’s also a sure-fire way to get incumbents re-elected, not to mention make homicidal maniacs appear moral, stop crime, support the troops, heal the sick, win the peace, and keep our children innocent forever.
Used to be that censors had to be kind of sneaky. No more! We’re at a point when many can say: I’m for censorship, and I’m proud! I believe in the healing power and glory of massive repression, and I am not ashamed! Hallelujah!
Pat Boone is so proud; he’s singing it loud. “Censorship is healthy for any society,” Boone boomed while in Washington recently, “and that goes for arts, entertainment, anything. (Of course) it must be majority approved.”
Boone doesn’t get that the purpose of Freedom of Speech is for the sake of the minority, not the majority. Or maybe he does.
As for championing Freedom of Speech, well, that’s downright un-American these days. After all, America is up against terrorists, predators and perverts!
“I don’t think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty,” Boone continued in defense of Americans’ right to be repressed. If “censorship has become a bad word”–like that naughty Anglo-Saxon gerund that ejaculated from Bono’s foul peace-mongering mouth on our sacred boob tubes from those Godless Golden Globe– then perhaps we need to censor the word “censorship.” Why, let’s call it “liberty” instead. After all, war is peace, Saddam is Osama, liberation is occupation (actually, with Bush’s New POW Porn release, liberation is humiliation), and we’re destroying our freedoms in order to save them.
Of course, Boone and Bono are small bananas in the censorship game. Shortly after 9/11, “The Day that Made Civil Liberty Loss OK,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer blew the lid off the Lust to Censor when he warned comedian Bill Maher and his ill-talking ilk, as well as “all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.”
At first, the White House censored Fleischer’s remarks, a bold move considering there were umpteen journalists with various recording devices in the room when he made them. Then, they seem to have decided, what the hell, let this be a warning to traitorous libertines and terrorist comedians everywhere.
Many Americans have accepted Ari’s warning as a mantra. We watch what we say. We watch what we do. Some of us have even taken it a step further: We are watching what we think. Or maybe we’re just not thinking. The evidence is in the polls that show that a large percentage of American registered voters are self-censoring the news that WMDs have not been found in Iraq, nor have any links been made between Saddam and Osama, even though these facts have been broadcast everywhere, even on Fox. In other words, they believe that WMDs have been found in Iraq, and that Saddam’s connections with al-Queda have been proven. This is self-censorship at its zenith.
For such Americans, it seems that pride is more important than truth. Pride feels good, solid, empowered. Truth is a lot more dicey. If you want to be proud to be an American, you simply ignore the facts, give up a few measly liberties, and “stay the course.” Ignorance may or may not be bliss, but it is full of pride. Far better to be dumb and proud (like Dubya!) than smart and depressed or, even worse, vilified. We all heard how the “President” disdainfully dismissed that reporter who dared to compare one war (Iraq) to another (Vietnam) as traitorously loose-lipped. “That analogy is – sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy” the President said, his small but proudly deceitful smile reassuring Americans that they will never have to face the truth as long as he’s in charge.
Watch what you say.
After all, our government is. Ayatollah Asscraft has more power to watch and listen in on what we’re saying, thanks to the Patriot Act, and he’d like to watch some more. Being a bit repressed themselves, censors tend to be avid voyeurs.
Asscraft’s been censoring since he was knee-high to his daddy who rubbed the Spirit of Censorship into his dandruff along with the Crisco. He already used some of that Crisco to craftily screw Americans in the ass with Patriot Acts I and II. Now he’s throwing a dollop in a pan and preparing to fry up the porn industry, starting with Extreme Associates. This is what he promised to do before he got slightly distracted by catching people who look like terrorists and covering up the right breast of the Spirit of Justice.
But he’s got competition for the Anthony Comstock Award for Stifling Free Speech from younger, hipper, born-again censors like FCC Chairman Michael Powell (also obsessed with covering right breasts) who used to call himself a Libertarian and now is Stern’s nemesis. Since Little Powell couldn’t cover up the boob Janet had already flashed, he’s satiating his thirst for censorship with fining radio “shock jocks” for flatulence jokes that just a few weeks before were considered in tune with “community standards.”
When attempting to defend our Freedom of Speech, we in the Sex Industry have often warned: First they censor sex, then its politics. But they’re already censoring politics. Why can’t we see the flag-draped coffins of America’s military dead? Because the Bushites believe it’s not good reelection politics to show them.
Of course, we can see the flag-draped coffins, thanks, in part, to Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of bright, festive, beautifully-wrapped gift boxes of dead U.S. soldiers was published in The Seattle Times and then quickly made the rounds of the rest of the world’s media (except Fox). The Times received Silicio’s photo from a stateside friend, and Silicio then gave the paper permission to publish it, without compensation. Silicio’s boss at Maytag Aircraft fired her, as well as her newlywed husband David Landry (presumably for guilt-by-marriage). We the People should thank Silicio for risking her livelihood to show us a basic truth of this war that the Pentagon wouldn’t permit us to see.
The Information Age has zero tolerance for censorship. It’s very nature poses serious challenges to the current lust for full-on suppression. Internet technology, created (ironically enough) by the U.S. Military, now moves much faster and smoother than government censorship.
But then, it’s not just the government. The Spirit of Censorship is sweeping the land, accompanied by its muses, Pride and Faith. Vigilante censors have sprung up around the country. Some smear for the Wall Street Journal. Others just send nasty emails or make threatening phone calls. They use whatever weapons they can in their Censorship Crusade. After all, there is so much to censor! So many “disgusting” pictures, so many “bad words,” so much awful truth.
As those of you who know me know, the vigilante censors went after yours truly, (see “Saddam’s Sex Therapist & the Rape of Free Speech”), trying to terrorize me into silence. Ironically enough, when I wrote “Rape of Iraq” back in April of 2003, I was just using “rape” as a metaphor for the wanton brutality of the Anglo-American invasion. My would-be censors accused me of writing that American troops were literally raping Iraqi women, which I hadn’t, in fact, written.
But silly me, little did I realize they were literally raping the men! Now that I’ve viewed some of the “shocking” scenes from Bush’s POW Porn, I see that the Rape of Iraq is happening not just in a metaphorical sense, which is bad enough, but in small prison cells once used by Saddam for rapes and other abuses. Now, in pictures which the Pentagon tried to censor but ultimately couldn’t, we see that in those same cells, U.S. troops have been stripping, torturing, humiliating and raping Iraqi detainees, making them “assume the position” as their fresh-faced all-American captors grin and flash the thumbs up-just like their jauntily flight-suited Commander-in-Chief gave a thumbs-up on board the U.S.S. Lincoln one year ago: Mission Accomplished indeed. More graphic pictures of real rape and torture are still being censored. Maybe those will be released later-in the Director’s Cut.
They might not have been released at all, if not for the Internet. As CBS’s “60 Minutes II” was mounting their feature on these bizarre, pre-interrogation, “softening up” techniques, the Defense Department asked them to delay the broadcast, “given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq.” Cravenly, CBS agreed. They “honored” the government’s lust to censor over the public’s right to know. Then, to the Defense Department and CBS’s horror, the photos began to “circulate” through other media that, unlike “60 Minutes II,” didn’t “honor” the US government’s desire to censor images of our adorable young boys and gals in the Armed Forces getting indecent with insurgents. Honor? Why honor the people in charge of these “appalling” hooded naked prison orgies?
So here we are, spending our hard-earned tax dollars to try to censor Howard Stern at home, while splurging on Bush’s U.S. Army Reality-Show abroad, produced by the US Army.
Bush’s POW Porn may have escaped the censors, but the Man Who Calls Himself President censors himself seamlessly. Self-censorship feels strong, smut-free, doubtless and pure. Hitler was the Master of the Art of Self-Censorship, otherwise known as delusion. Self-censorship helps you stay resolved, because when you censor yourself, you don’t do a lot of thinking, or explaining.
“I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation,” Bush II revealed to his favored scribe Bob Woodward, and that was in the positive book. Then in the second, more critical Woodward chronicle, we learned that the Bushites were diverting funds earmarked for Afghanistan to preparations for an invasion of Iraq without mentioning this to Congress.
Watch what you say. This is the kind of self-censorship that moves billions. The Shrub’s rendition of his idol Teddy Roosevelt is: Speak Equivocally. and Carry a Big Dick (Cheney)-and no recording devices–when you have to talk to nosy folks like the 9-11 commission.
Censorship does come at a price–obviously to the censored, but also to the censors. It makes enemies where once you had friends. Take Stern and Sadr. Stern was once a cheerleader for the Bushites. When the Twin Towers collapsed, Dick One and Dick Two, cut down by the fiery sword of the Malevolent 19, Stern, like so many American guys, felt more than grief-stricken; he felt castrated. He directed all his wounded anger against the towel-heads of terrorism and threw his support squarely behind the Bushites, especially during the invasion of Iraq.
Sadr also started out as a potential Bush supporter, at least to an extent. After all, Saddam killed his dad (like he tried to kill Dubya’s!), and murdered or drove into exile several other close relatives. Maybe Sadr and Stern were considered snot-nosed, smart-mouthed punks, but they weren’t sworn Bush’s enemies, not at first. Then both committed the cardinal sin of criticizing the Great Pretzel Swallower and his imperial emissaries. Thus, the guillotine of censorship came down upon their tongues. Now they are enemies of Bush and creating heaps of trouble in their respective neighborhoods of angry young men.
Earlier this year, pausing for a telegenic moment between bloodbaths and lies, Bush announced that he’d like to add a new Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It’s a long shot, yes, but this administration has pulled off some astounding sleight-of-law stunts. So hey, if we wind up adding a new one, why not just dump the first one? Who cares about the First Amendment besides a few perverted Jews and crazy Arabs anyway? Let ’em fight it out with bombs and bullets instead of filthy, dangerous diatribes and smut.
Yeah, yeah, today’s smut could be tomorrow’s “Tropic of Cancer.” To which a good censor would say, “Recuse me? Who wants cancer? ”
And yes, yes, the combination of vague, virtually unknowable FCC rules and crippling punishments is already having a chilling effect on American news and entertainment. To which the censor replies, “So what? We need a nice cold shower after all that hot smut.”
Say it loud, America: I’m ignorant and I’m proud.
Pat Boone could sing that one. Or Ted Nugent.
Speaking of smut, Stern is only the most famous sex talker to be muzzled right now. But all kinds of talk about sex is being silenced these days. Women’s health workers in clinics all over the world are being censored by the Taliban Bushites. They can’t tell their patients about contraception, let alone abortion, let alone give them a little basic, life-saving, sex education. They can only recommend “abstinence,” lest their American funding be cut. Hey, clinics are even easier to censor than radio conglomerates!
I’m not weeping for Stern or Sadr, not yet. Stern is still on 35 stations, and Sadr’s squatting on some prime real estate in Najaf (which the Americans are now afraid to enter openly), as of this writing. In fact, both dudes have gotten some excellent political mileage from having their outlets shut down. American censorship has actually rendered each a lot more respectable than he was before. Sadr and Stern are manning their battle stations, one group brandishing rifles, the other, their own dicks–and maybe their votes. Hey, if guys think with their dicks, why shouldn’t they vote with their dicks?
It’s the rest of us that suffer a little more repression every time something is censored. After all, we’re the ones who are denied the information or entertainment. And though we may not miss Stern’s sophomoric sphincter jokes or Sadr’s foaming-at-the-mouth religiosity, the next voice to be censored could be yours.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr. SUSAN BLOCK Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com Send all hate mail, love letters, commentary, questions and confessions to her at email@example.com
© April 18, 2004, Dr. SUSAN BLOCK
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