Recently a coworker outed one of my Facebook groups, Drawbridge Lovers, in a department-wide e-mail chain. He stated that I shouldn’t discuss drawbridges or the Seattle Department of Transportation without getting SDOT permission. To say I was incensed is putting it mildly. For starters, I’ve never made it a secret that this group exists, and anyone is welcome to join. The more, the merrier!
His issues with the group makes me think that he’s referring to my blog’s Facebook group, The View from a Drawbridge, not my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group. If you’re going to attack me, get your facts straight. Sheesh.
Even so, uh, sorry, Buddy-roo. Believe it or not, this is still a free country. I am not holding forth as a representative of SDOT. I don’t purport to have any authority, and do not speak in any official capacity. I certainly don’t discuss things such as co-workers’ social security numbers. I don’t give out the alarm codes. But I’m still an American who is entitled to an opinion. And that’s exactly what I said on that e-mail chain. No one has said a word about it since then, and that was over a month ago.
I’m thinking about this today, and about censorship in general, because I just read a fascinating article from the New York Times Magazine entitled The Case of Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers. It seems that mainland China has started to severely crack down on these booksellers and publishers because they have been the providers of books that the Communist Party’s Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideology has banned.
The books in question contain alternate versions of history. For example, they actually talk about what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989. They discuss corruption and perversion in politics. In essence, these bookstores are the sources of all the “fake news” the Chinese government does not want you to know. Needless to say, they were quite popular.
But now, people are being whisked away on dark nights, and held in unknown locations on the mainland for months on end, and interrogated without charges. They are told to give up the names of their patrons. If released, they are forced to close their store’s doors forever, and have to live in fear.
How terrible it must be to survive in such a harsh system.
But wait. Censorship is alive and well in the United States, too. Trump has made an enormous effort to discredit the media because he wants to control the message. He has banned several media outlets from the White House because he did not like what they had to say. If there’s nothing but “fake news”, then his base will rely on his tweets for the truth. That’s rather terrifying, especially since his tweets are becoming increasingly reactionary and irrational.
Government websites have taken down all reference to global climate change. That’s insane. It’s actually potentially deadly. So is the whitewashing of our wars. Photographers are no longer welcome to photograph our flag-draped coffins. The FCC regulates “indecent” (read “antiquated”) language on the radio and television. And as we are now painfully aware, internet freedom is constantly under siege.
Given the current political atmosphere, we have to be even more vigilant about our freedom of expression. Every little censorship victory is a defeat for all of us. So, yeah, just try and mess with my silly little Drawbridge Lovers page. You’ll draw back a virtual bloody stump.