What’s Worse than Government Censorship?

The novice government becomes the master of censorship.  They refuse to let journalists publish articles on topics that are controversial, stir public unrest, or portray the government in a poor light.  They have no problem imprisoning writers that run afoul of reporting the approved narrative—even going so far as to “disappear” people that are chronic problems .  Like I said…all the stuff of novices.

The expert government knows how to maintain the perception of a free press, while at the same time instilling fear into writers so that they will self-censor.    Consider a recent report from PEN America, a leading group on literacy and human rights, which examines the effects of pervasive surveillance in the United States–the FDR Group surveyed 520 U.S. writers and found:

28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities, and another 12% have seriously considered doing so.

24% have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it.

16% have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic, and another 11% have seriously considered it.

85% say they are worried about the current levels of government surveillance of  Americans.

76% believe that increased government surveillance is especially harmful to writers because it impinges upon the privacy they need to create freely.

What good is free speech and free press if those who conduct investigative journalism are afraid to do their jobs?  One of the bedrock ethics of journalism is to protect your sources–but how does that journalist do that if their phone calls are being listened to, if their emails are being read, their library records are being monitored, and their online searches are being recorded?

I’m not claiming that the United States is an expert government at forcing journalists to self-censor.  On occasion, they’re willing to internationally pursue whistle blowers and sources to the point that the rest of the world laughs at us.  However, all it takes is a couple of “actual threats,” and some outrageous NSA monitoring to make even mainstream journalists paranoid that the government is watching.  Then again, is it paranoia, if it’s true?

…I probably shouldn’t have said that.

To read the full results of the survey, as well as check out the methodology, go to:  http://www.pen.org/sites/default/files/Chilling%20Effects_PEN%20American.pdf



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8 thoughts on “What’s Worse than Government Censorship?

  1. What’s worse is that our near complete, government/corporate partnership (fascism) is the reality behind the appearance of mere, “government,” censorship of the press, exercised frequently through the over-classification of information as secret or top secret for reasons of national security, i.e. corporate profitability objectives enforced through US military, private mercenary and spying means.

    I may have just re-stated the same practice described in your post, Brian, but most USians simply don’t understand or won’t admit that this is the state of fascist affairs in this country presently, and simple refuse to call it by its name.

    Example: Most major corporate news orgs, including NPR, acting in their own financial self interests, have largely ignored covering the fact that WikiLeaks brought us the latest full chapter of the TPP on Wednesday.


    In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

    1. Corporations instituted in countries all over the world are seeking world markets and assets for those markets. The USA is among the most prominent of those, but certainly not the only one. To deal in different countries you have to deal first with the governments of those countries. Most are much more protective of their assets, markets and environments than the USA is currently.

      For the USA not to be involved in TTP is simply economic suicide. You always have to give in order to get. We spent a lot of money and blood getting access to the Iraqi oil reserves as well as Afghanistan mineral rights, and are spending still…you don’t hear much about that either. But it’s going on.

      It’s a tough world, but we’ve still, thank the Lord, got our watchdogs sniffing and barking and our windmills blowing the scent around when things get too dicey.

  2. Do you have any links to support your theory? As you responded to my comment, I assume you disagreeing with Mark Pocan and I believe (@ latest count) of about 200 US Congress persons against the secret and corporate driven give away to the corporations themselves, the end run around all US law and economic and environmental regulation and US sovereignty.

    We spent a lot of THEIRS, i.e. Iraqi blood, and money, OURS, to enrich military contractors and unscrupulous leaders of Iraq so that we could steal THEIR natural resources in order for oil companies and military mercenaries singularly to profit. All at the cost of the poor, the elderly, the environment and our nation’s infrastructure and at the continuing NEGLECT of our military veterans, to the exclusive benefit of the top capitalists operating under cover of lies that this is somehow keeping us safe from terrorists?

    A million plus, Iraqi’s killed and millions in the various parts of the ME displaced, and at home grandma gets cat food. Get fucking real Cat, the implications of your statement are plain stupid. Give more to be able to steal natural resources that don’t belong to us, the US citizens who bear the costs of corporate profits that are not trickling down to well, last I heard.

    It is hard to believe that anyone could spout your economic suicide statement. Our US negotiators are in full agreement with 600 plus corporate lobbyists who are writing their own corporate profit in perpetuity tickets at the expense of everyone of us and Obombem is cheering them on.

    You can’t even find a t-party site to back up your idiotic war mongering, environmentally destructive perspective, much less one from a scholarly POV. Stupid on a f**king stick. It would sell well to the deep-fried butter on a stick crowd, at the next state fair.

    1. Our leaders have to be at the world table. It’s up to us to put the right leaders at the table.

      1. There would be no tables, had not Clinton, Bush and and now Mr double-down on them, Obombem, built them and invited/forced other nations to join in the, “discussions,” to sell out the last of US labor rights, environmental protections and self-rule of the people and by the people, to their financial backers who put them in power with the willing efforts of US citizens caught up in the fixed system duopoly that is the US national elections.

        600 corporate lobbyists writing this thing (TPP for one instance) marketed as free trade (i.e. corporations are freed of costs or obligations to anything human or environmentally responsible) as opposed to fair-trade deals which could be worked out among nations to the benefit of each signatory country. The US can still build the table, but not hidden from the eyes of everyone but those fixing the corporate bottom line.

        Back to censorship, maybe someone can tell me which MSM outlet has reported on this story, yet. I’ve looked and not found any here in the US.

  3. Corporate self-interest censorship will likely prevent discussion of these sorts of topics being raised as policy to ponder.


    Or political satire, least not in my part of the state:


    And accurate reporting (censorship of messages) of protest and dissent.


  4. Pertaining to the topic, the government is not only attempting to get reporters to self-censor, they have tied investigative reporting to terrorist organization for suppression and imprisonment of these reporters and their sources.

    Chris Hedges interview at The Real News Network…

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