December 15, 2010

Get that danged word outa there!

Tonight I remembered something that I hadn't thought about in years: my first "published" work. It was an article I wrote for my college newspaper. I went to a Catholic college at the time. Don't ask. Anyway, they actually blocked out the word "sex" in my article and replaced it with "s - -". Can you imagine? As if the word itself was unfit, unclean.

Censorship is such an ugly thing. Of course, in this country there is no dictator who prohibits newspapers from printing the truth. Here we do it another way: the news is quelled through self-censorship. It's an insidious disease that has decimated American journalism and come close to destroying the institution. It's not just that no one wants to read physical papers anymore. It's that there's little benefit to reading them.

American "journalists" literally oppress themselves, believing they must not offer certain viewpoints because they will displease the overlords -- at the paper, in government and in powerful corporations. They've also got an editor who will put a stop to any accurate story that tries to shoot past him, but it never gets that far. Since the journalists never attempt to write true stories there's no need for Big Brother. He's built into the writers now. Journalists bow to the overlords and cuff their own wrists before they approach their keyboards. It's quite amazing.

We live in a society where we can say anything we want to. In the end, that's the most precious freedom. Nothing good can happen without it. But if journalism won't stand against the powerful we will lose our freedom in the long run. It all breaks down once the Fourth Estate fails to do its job. It's happening now. No one is standing up to power and freedom is disappearing by the day. If you're not following the Wikileaks affair, you should be. The course the US is pursuing could end not only the era of Wikileaks, but the era of real journalism.

If information isn't free then freedom has no meaning. We are living in precarious times.

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