It’s only censorship, so what’s the problem?

Jim Harper over at TLF displays once again the anti-freedom thread of so-called ‘libertarian’ thought. He seems to be saying that censorship is OK if it comes from a large corporation, but of course, if it comes from the government it is bad, bad, bad!

Somehow I Don’t Think Pearl Jam/AT&T is the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

If Eddie Vedder sat stone silent for 30 seconds, everyone would know that he hated George Bush. Eddie Vedder is hate for George Bush. He is the Jeremy to George Bush’s recess lady. Bleeping out Eddie Vedder’s criticisms of George Bush is censorship in the same way umbrellas censor the sun.

But maybe reheating the tempest in a teapot about some AT&T-owned site bleeping some political comments from a big rock star is a good way to while away the August doldrums.

I don’t think it was the shot heard round the world either, but I do think it is a straw, as in the last straw.

What all the folks at TLF are ignoring is that the instance with Pearl Jam was just one of many many times AT&T was censoring speech. So, now, finally this corporate censorship looks like it might get derailed, and the TLF is saying saying: “Get used to some censorship. It’s really OK as long as censorship comes from corporations, but it’s really bad if it comes from a government”

Well, if it quacks like a duck, it is one. And with big government and big corporations growing into a very symbiotic relationship, I don’t see how censorship by a large near-monopoly corporation is fundamentally any different than censorship by a government.  They both subtract from fundamental individual liberty.
Here’s some of the recent history of bands censored by AT&T.

From the daily swarm, a whole list of censored acts:


Alleged: Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Nightwatchman message board)

Did anyone else watch The Nightwatchman live stream from bonnaroo? Everytime Tom began to talk the audio would cut out. I’m assuming that it wasnt just me.

Alleged: Lupe Fiasco @ Lollpalooza 2007 (Pearl Jam message board)

I actually missed the Pearl Jam set, but I saw Lupe Fiasco’s performance earlier in the day. He has a song called “American Terrorist”, and while the song itself seemed to go by untouched… Lupe’s lead in to the song was. It went something along the lines of “Some of you might know him as George W. Bush… The President. I know him as George W. Bush ___________ (dead air)”. Having seen Lupe in concert before, I know that muted out section was a “American Terrorist”. He pretty much yells it into the mic before launching into the song.

Alleged: Lily Allen @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Lollapalooza message boards)

They were definately censoring what Lily Allen was saying in between songs. When there are technical problems, the picture will stop and sometimes the word playlist above the buttons on the video screen will change to buffering. During Lily Allen my picture would keep playing fine and the sound was gone. The sound while the Roots were talking in between songs just cut out for the first time.

Alleged: Ozomatli (and everyone else!) @ Coachella 2007 (MicheBella on Rotten Tomatoes)

In nearly every band I watched, there was a moment when said band spoke to the crowd. Suddenly, the sound disappeared. I just watched Ozomatli, a very political band, and at the end of a long segment of talking with no sound, the guy turned around and had a picture of George Bush on his back for a split second.

Alleged: Tom Petty (and everyone else!) @ Bonnaroo 2006 (FunknJam Productions messageboard)

A big WTF? to the people in charge of streaming this webcast!! At first I thought that maybe it was a glitch in the streaming or my computer behaving funny. But every so often, the audio would cut out. And it always cut out while there seemed to be some interesting lyrics going on. I didn’t fully realize that the webcast was being CENSORED FOR CONTENT until Tom Petty sang for the third time, and had censored for the third time, “Let’s get to the point, Let’s (dead air) and turn the radio on….” Like that song hasn’t been played on the radio to death?!??! I can’t help but think this all had something to do with…. “Hey Wakarusa Policeman…”

Alleged: Buddy Guy @ Bonnaroo 2006 (webcast setlist)

Talks about Hip Hop/sings about a Cow/Bull/Mule ( censored )

It’s only censorship, so what’s the problem?

3 thoughts on “It’s only censorship, so what’s the problem?

  1. I read your earlier post on this with interest. I typically support limited government and staying away from regulation, but this is an interesting problem. It’s tempting to say information providers shouldn’t be allowed to censor content; however, we are already subjected to censored content through the MSM, which generally presents information with a bias toward some viewpoint. They are free to publish the content of their choice, with special exceptions such as equal time in election campaigns. We are free not to consume their content.

    Now, I don’t know the legal ins & outs of AT&T’s rights to publish webcasts of these artists, but perhaps the artists themselves missed opportunities to direct what liberties AT&T was allowed by contract to take with their performances? I’m just wondering about ways that such behavior could be self-regulated within the market rather than having government involved.

  2. I’m just wondering about ways that such behavior could be self-regulated within the market rather than having government involved.

    That is entirely my preference also, and they way to do that is to have a large and vibrant market, filled with many players. A low barrier to entry helps greatly–that’s why if a newspaper editor got out of touch, another one would step in and the market would solve the problem.

    With certain kinds of infrastructure–internet service appears to be one–there are very few players–In Sain Louis, for example, if you get DSL you get it from AT&T. Cable is not available in all areas. Although you may think you have another provider–I had earthlink for a while–the server was an SBC (now AT&T) server.

    So the case for govt intervention is made when there is:
    1. evidence of harm, AND
    2. there is no convincing market-based mechanicism for the problem to be reduced or eliminated.

    That govt intervention should be as simple and straightforward as possible, passing the least drastic means test.

  3. I see your point. And as far as having many players, I sure wish there were. I absolutely HATE the fact that I have only one choice for cable TV/internet and the cost is (I believe) astronomical compared to what it would be if there was competition. My only other option is a dish + DSL and I don’t want that so I’m stuck paying anything the cable company demands. If my cable company started acting like thought police instead of a big fat pipe I’d definitely take my money to any other option I could, though.

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