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August 10, 2007


> (e.g., ensuring Google goes really fast on the high-speed lane)

I though it was about paying for the privilege of not having one's bits throttled to death by artificial slowdowns?

Good post. No disagreement. It most certainly is censoring political speech, which I’d oppose no matter who it was directed at.

I’ll be interested to see if anyone is going to try to tie this in to the Dixie Chicks thing, where IMO their audience reacted to what they said, but no one censored them. Censorship vs. Consequences.

but no one censored them

if we're allowing "censor" to include non-government actions, then Cumulus Media certainly censored the DxCks.

The Dixie Chicks looked more like an enforced boycott to me, i.e. a loud minority achieved a partial silencing with he intention of punishment (and deterrence of further dissent). I think the intention in both cases is the same but the means are different.

An ambiguous example that comes to my mind is that of church song books. A number of traditional and very popular songs have so many stanzas that usually only a selection is printed in most editions. It can be quite interesting to compare editions from different eras and to look which stanzas got left out.

This reminds me, I haven't bought a Pearl Jam album since Yield (if you don't count Lost Dogs), are any of their subsequent efforts worth buying? Or a good live show?

Buying an album of theirs seems like an appropriate response to this.

Interesting use of "boycott" to include threats of physical harm...

But on topic, *right now* the big mahoffs like AT&T have no incentive to censor because there would be a reaction. After all, there are so many alternatives -- all sorts of niche programming on tiny websites.

But once they have the power to do tiering, making it easy and cheap (relatively) for large corporate interests to have a web presence, and making it hard and expensive for small boutique sites to maintain a web presence, it will be harder and harder to find that "Rah rah go Stalin" site.

When small websites are priced out of the market (either selling out to big collective umbrellas, or just giving up) there will be fewer alternatives and no consequences.

This debate is really between "trying to keep things as they are" vs. "letting the new communications paradigm develop." When you needed millions of dollars to get your message out, only a few entities could compete. Now, for $50 a year you can have a website.

Remember how the landscape changed when cable became ubiquitous. When there were only the airwaves, you had few choices -- and you can bet a lot of things never got on the air. Then came cable, and a host of new voices and narrowcasts. The web continues that paradigm -- more and more tiny slivers of audience breaking out.

But putting up tollbooths only sends you back to where you came from.

OT - man the U.S. is a wonderful country:

The newly released sections indicate that neither the Syrian government nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation were convinced that Mr. Arar was a significant security threat. They also suggest that the investigation of Mr. Arar was prompted by the coerced confession of Ahmad Abou el-Maati, a Kuwaiti-born Canadian who was also imprisoned and tortured in Syria. And despite claims by the United States government that Mr. Arar’s removal to Syria was mainly an immigration matter, the new material suggests that the Central Intelligence Agency led the action.

It may not be ABOUT censoring political speech - but that sure is a side benefit to these folks.

The traditional media isn't about censoring political speech either - but how often do they take sides and favor the Republicans (corporate America's favorites) against Democrats? Look at the "the surge is working" surge in recent political reporting, and how opposing views just can't be found. Care to bet that in a "self-regulated" environment, political judgments on content won't be made - always by "accident" or an underling's "error"?

I agree with most of your comments on the importance of net neutrality. However I'm not sure this is the poster case that you make it out to be. This is because in this case AT&T (through their subsidiary) is the content provider. To my reckoning the content provider can sensor themselves as much as they want.

Cleek: if we're allowing "censor" to include non-government actions, then Cumulus Media certainly censored the DxCks.

I think that is a good question in its own right – can private companies censor speech? I assume that the answer is yes as my ISP for example could remove a web site I put up if they found it objectionable. Or would that just be enforcing a TOS that I agreed to?

But with the Chicks, I still see it as consequence and not censorship. I mean, their political statements were broadcast and printed far and wide, so there was certainly no suppression of their political speech. Everything else that followed in terms of boycott was a consequence of that speech, and there is no protection from that AFAIK.

AT&T probably doesn’t care about content -- it just wants money. If the Rah-Rah-Go-Stalin-Go website paid up, I doubt AT&T would much care what they post.

True in theory, perhaps. But in the real world what are the chances that the 'unpopular' speech and the 'shallow pockets' fortuitously belong to the same people?

I reference all the anarcho-syndicalist-owned cable networks....

Interesting use of "boycott" to include threats of physical harm...

I just say Germany, First of April 1933.

Don't you all remember when NBC cut Kanye West saying, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food."?

It was at the Katrina benefit broadcast, and it was basically the same situation. The censor was the content provider and broadcaster, not the government, but what they censored was anti-government remarks. One possible explanation that the government is leaning on media in their enforcement actions, and that media are scared to be associated with anti-government speech lest they draw some kind of penalty - not necessarily a penalty for that particular line, just, you know, extra scrutiny of everything.

I find this pretty scary, because it means that the government doesn't have to do much actual censorship to prevent opposition views from getting a real hearing. Yeah, we can post them on smaller websites and blogs and whatever, but dissent is risky (and often unavailable) in the major broadcast media. Similarly, I suspect one reason there's not a lot of pushy reporting on the White House is that the reporters who could do it are scared they'll lose access or press passes, and this administration is far more willing to do that than most other administrations.

Ugh, skip everything after Yield except for their most recent self titled album. It sounds much more like their old stuff, but a bit more mature. Riot Act was ok, but not as good as the newest one. You could also try to pick up one of their authorized bootlegs, or the other live albums released recently (I am looking to get their Gorge box soon), as PJ are a pretty good live band.


North, I always wonder what would happen if the White House held a press briefing and nobody came. I know that the press corps can't just all agree to boycott (the antitrust people at DOJ would have something to say about it) -- but I think the big dogs underestimate their individual power. If AP, or Reuters, or one of the national broadcast channels loudly refused to attend briefings because they had been ordered to withhold certain questions or stay off of certain subjects, the WH would get a huge black eye, and the media company would get some good PR for the rest of its material -- and after all, how many consumers tune in just to watch the WH press briefings? At this point, the media might as well just publish the WH press releases as actually attend, since they're not allowed to be spontaneous or challenge anything. So why not have the fight, what have they got to lose?

Back in my blogging days, I suggested that this is exactly the kind of thing that would occur without net neutrality...

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