In many countries, writing the truth can get you thrown in prison, tortured, or killed. In America the powers that be have better methods: they marginalize you, or threaten you with lawsuits until you quit.
Censorship is usually subtle and personalized in the United States. The control of the hearts and minds of a people has been achieved through the internalization of cultural, commercial and patriotic propaganda. It isn’t just Fox News that hews the line. The media is designed, like everything else in this country, for consumption.
My first experience with blatant censorship occurred with the Chico Enterprise-Record. When I moved to town in the mid-90’s, I landed a contemplative and philosophical column in the local paper, the ‘E-R.’ There was one condition, which I should not have agreed to (though I would not have gotten the column if I had not): I would not write about politics.
Over three years I built a strong readership across economic, educational and ethnic lines in this college town, and received letters every week to my post office box, the vast majority positive. (Email was still fairly new, and secondary.)
Readers would often say, “I can’t believe that column is in the E-R.” In a liberal town, the E-R was scorned as conservative paper with Christian fundamentalist leanings. So I made sure that my editor had ample evidence that my column was being widely read. But I knew I was skating on thin ice.
Though it seems like ancient history now, in the late 90’s, a scathing report came out about the corrupt “Food for Oil” program in Iraq. It was supposed to prevent starvation and needless medically related deaths, but in fact thousands of children and women a month continued to perish under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, and the US economic sanctions since the first Gulf war.
(Sound familiar? The same basic pattern is being repeated in Venezuela now, with a diabolical combination of long-term economic sanctions by the US, and mafia-like corruption by the Maduro regime, causing mass starvation.)
Since the American in charge of the program had quit in protest, going public with the entire scam, I thought it was safe to write about the Food-for-Oil program. But when the paper came out, my column wasn’t there. When I called my editor, she said I had violated our agreement by writing about politics. “Contemplations” was cut soon after, also without notification.
Perhaps some higher intelligence was at work, because I found other outlets for my work–in New Zealand, Europe, even Saudi Arabia and Tanzania (the Saudi site last a few years, but the Arusha Times published my column for 18 years, until the paper went under a few years ago.) And I wrote often about politics.
Fast-forward to recent weeks, when the Costa Rican site for ‘Meditations’ was threatened with a lawsuit for a column I wrote entitled, “What Is Apple Up To?” The warning of legal action was put in purely personal terms, as “libelous,” though a friend offered the information, I hadn’t used her daughter’s name, and I cast her in a positive light.
Why was the largest company in the world be threatened by an obscure column of an obscure writer publishing in a Central American country? It’s a testimony to the power of the individual and the Internet in our age. I thought I was ‘flying below the radar,’ but the online radar picks up everything, and no one and nothing escapes the Net.
As Jeff Bezos said, “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” The threat of a lawsuit by a huge company to suppress questions I was asking, under the guise of groundless libel, is an ugly and harmful thing that gives a lie to the blather of transparency in America.
When individuals and corporations behave in this way, we should not be surprised that our political discourse has become so toxic. Americans are taught from childhood that they create reality. Why should we be surprised that we have a president that believes the truth is whatever he says it is?
The larger issue is the power that huge, transnational companies have over our lives, a fact that they assiduously conceal and camouflage. The MSM talks endlessly about ‘truth,’ but truth to them means acceptable and respectable lines of thinking. They are motivated by a desperate need to uphold the status quo.
There are two completely different kinds of power. One kind rests on fear and force, coercion and control, propaganda and conditioning.
The other kind flows from questioning, insight and the passion to find and convey the living truth.
Lefevremartin77 at gmail.com