Being on Their List

I don’t consider myself a journalist. Nor do I consider myself an influencer. My humble blog is small potatoes, so I’m probably safe, for now. Move along. Nothin’ to read, here. But I must admit, this article in Forbes, entitled Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’ has me clutching my pearls.

Rest assured that when your government starts compiling lists, it generally does not end well for the people therein. Just ask the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslims in Trump America. Lists are to identify people you plan to treat differently.

This could be bad for writers in general. Especially when the current administration hates the media so intensely that it openly encourages violence toward them. Not good. No bueno.

One particularly chilling part of this database is that they plan to indicate one’s “sentiment.” That’s kind of arbitrary and subjective, isn’t it? If I criticize the government in any way, do I get a black mark? If anything, I should get a gold star for exercising my right to free speech like any American has the right to do. But I’m not going to be the one compiling the list, and I suspect I won’t see eye to eye with whomever they choose to do so.

It’s not in my nature to censor myself. I’m not even sure I have the capacity. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a journalist. I can’t just state the facts. My opinions are a big part of my writing. That means some people will agree, and others will not. But it never occurred to me that my government had to agree in order for me to keep blogging. If it truly gets to that point, I don’t suspect I will fare well.

First, they came for the bloggers…

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Hey! Look what I wrote! While you can. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Little Brother is Watching You

While social media may be sucking the life force out of us in many ways, it also has its advantages. I am convinced the holocaust could never have happened in 2016. Those of us who legitimately didn’t know what was going on back then would know now, and those of us who were pretending not to know would have no excuse. And holocaust deniers would look even more idiotic than they already look, if that’s possible.

Everyone who has a cell phone or any internet device is now a potential reporter. That’s why the bad cops among the good ones are getting so much attention. Like cockroaches, they don’t do well in the light.

The Arab Spring would not have spread to so many countries a half century ago. There was no easy way to pass the word. There was no way to let others know that you felt the same way about things as they did.

Before police jurisdictions could share information about unsolved cases, it was easier to be a serial criminal. And while the rich and powerful still seem to be able to do their dirty deeds with impunity, the power of public opinion gets stronger with time. Little Brother is watching you.

The thing that countries that like to censor their citizens don’t seem to realize is that sharing information is always a good idea. Unless, of course, your motives aren’t pure. But censorship is a lot harder when the number of avenues of communication are increasing by the day.

I genuinely believe that the reason we as a society seem more cynical and dissatisfied and put upon than ever isn’t that things have gotten worse. It’s that it’s more obvious now. Even if it has been forever thus, one of the things we’re more readily able to share these days is that we’re pissed off.

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[Image credit: swtnlaw.com]

We Focus on the Tempest

On my bookshelf sits the book “Droll Stories”, a collection of 30 stories by Honore de Balzac. I’ve never read it all the way through. I really ought to. The stories within are mildly ribald by today’s standards. But in the 1800’s they caused quite a sensation, I’m sure. The only reason I have this book is that in the 70’s my mother worked at Heritage Press, the publishers of this particular edition, and when she asked for a copy she was told that as the mother of a small child it would be inappropriate to have it.

Oh, but that’s not something you told my mother. She disapproved of censorship in any form. After that she moved heaven and earth to get a copy of this book. It was the principle of the thing, you see. She gave it to me when I was in college. Not because she thought it was a particularly good read, but because someone had the gall to try to decide what would or would not corrupt me. If not for that I’m certain I’d never have heard of this book.

That’s the thing about censorship. It often has the opposite effect. It draws attention to something that otherwise would very likely sink into obscurity all on its own. For example, I would never have attempted to read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie if it weren’t for the fatwa that was issued calling for his death for having written it. I found the book hard to follow and lost patience with it partway through. I suspect a lot of people read this book who wouldn’t have, simply because of the media furor.

I also strongly suspect that the movie The Interview would barely have caused a blip on the cultural radar if it weren’t for the fact that North Korea protested it so rigorously. Described as a gross-out comedy about the fictional assassination of their insane leader, this movie isn’t going to win an Oscar, let me assure you. Normally I’d give it a miss, but now I suppose I’ll have to get around to seeing it one of these days. It’s the principle, you see.

And how many of us in the world would have even heard of the paper Charlie Hebdo if some lunatics in Paris hadn’t tried to cover up their tasteless and extreme cartoons with the blood of their staff members? Honestly, I couldn’t have been less interested until that fateful day. Now it’s all about freedom of speech and the senseless murder of writers, so it matters to me greatly.

Extremists need to learn that if they don’t want people to see something, then the last thing on earth they should do is create a media storm. Everyone will focus on a tempest. Even one that’s merely in a teapot.

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[Image credit: theclaystudioofmissoula.org]