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The Media Censorship Government Privacy

Fearing Government Surveillance, US Journalists Are Self-Censoring 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the except-the-ones-you-wish-would-self-censor dept.
binarstu writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for CNN, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
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Fearing Government Surveillance, US Journalists Are Self-Censoring

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  • by qbzzt (11136) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:03PM (#45599539)

    It is too easy to eavesdrop on communication. There is no way to avoid it happening, whether by corporation, the government, or a criminal gang.

    We could decide to keep ourselves safe by self-censorship and accept the loss of freedom of speech. Or, we can continue to act normally. If the government has to contend with 0.1% of the population who are loud malcontents, the malcontents have a problem. If the government has to deal with 90% of the population who are loud malcontents, the government has a problem. They can't put us all in jail or shoot us.

    I'll be damned if I let freedom of speech slip away. We didn't get it because of government benevolence (see The Old Issue by Kipling [fourmilab.ch]), and we won't keep it by being timid.

  • by some old guy (674482) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:05PM (#45599565)

    And the fascist corporatists need the police state to ensure the continued vassalage of the underclass.
    I'll take Bob LaFollette or FDR over Mussolini any time.

  • Re:Deluded ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:14PM (#45599707)

    I normally choose odd pictures as my avatar on Facebook. Yesterday I was about to zero in on one of the spies from Mad Magazine's Spy vs. Spy holding a bomb, and I decided against it. I'm middle eastern and live in the U.S. I shouldn't have to worry about such things, yet worries of surveilance coupled with my background swayed me otherwise.

  • Re:Deluded ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:20PM (#45599829) Homepage

    So, which country do you live in that is more free? Or have you just given up and all you have left to offer is snarky cynicism?

    I think the point is that the US used to be a fine example of what freedom should look like.

    When the US starts down this road, it's terrible news for everyone else on the planet as all of the other governments say "fuck it". And, in many cases, at the request of Americans, they've made the rest of us markedly less free as we get spied on more in order to give the US a sense of security.

    America used to be one of the few free places on the planet, and was what we all hoped for. Now, not so much.

    Sadly, America has almost become an impediment to everyone else's freedoms. Because they're sure as hell undermining them.

  • Re:Deluded ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwehle (2491950) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:34PM (#45600067) Homepage

    I'm old enough to remember what living in "FREE AMERICA" was like.

    Uh, just how old is that? I'm old enough to remember Kent State, being kicked by a middle-aged stranger because I didn't stand for the national anthem at a 4th of July fireworks display, and discussions with the school principal about my right to refuse swearing fealty to the US flag. I'm old enough to remember Eugene McCarthy and the Chicago police riot. Are you old enough to remember Joe McCarthy? HUAC? The Palmer Raids? When exactly were you living in "FREE AMERICA"? What was it like?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @05:44PM (#45601381)

    Stalin killed 50 million of his own citizens. That's a pretty big step up from what's going on in the US.

    So until Obama kills 50 million US citizens, nobody can complain about the US government, is that it?

  • Re:Deluded ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @11:00PM (#45604481)

    I'm not that old, and I was born during WWII.

    I can remember periods that were freer than now. But reports from the 1950s have convinced me that it probably wasn't any freer. (I was a kid, so I didn't notice.)

    History also doesn't treat my illusions of earlier freedom kindly. People being arbitrarily deprived for property, and occasionally their lives, because of race...well, SOME people were free, but others were much less free.

    What we have here is a corrupt government that can't be trusted, and is highly intrusive. (Those are three almost orthogonal factors...each undesireable.) The intrusiveness is incredibly strong, primarily because of technological factors. It's tremendously unhealthy for our traditional values. But if the government weren't corrupt, or could be trusted, then it would matter a lot less. (In that case it would be a potential threat rather than a believable threat.) But there have been times before when newspapers had their independence stifled by the government to a much greater degree.

    The new factor is that the ownership of the news is centralized. Reporters can't now trust their editor to stand behind them, because it's no longer his call. Now it's the call of higher management, that often isn't even interested in the news business, except as a way to push ads. And reporters know this, and if they don't, their editors do, and let them know about it.

    I no longer buy a newspaper, because I don't like paying people to lie to me. Similarly, I rarely listen to what a politician says...only watch what he does.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @11:39PM (#45604723)

    Hey, isn't your capital city the one that's literally blanketed in high-tech surveillance equipment,

    Most of it is privately owned.

    You'll find the same level of surveillance in any city as you would in London if you included all the private cameras in the statistics. At least in London they have to notify you that you're being survived. I recently walked into an LA shopping mall and found 14 security cameras at the entrance.

    For all the cameras in London, nothing comes close to the abuses of the NSA. Cameras might accidentally catch you doing something, the NSA is actively looking for things to use against you.

    The same UK whose government is, right now, running your so-called 'free' press through the ringer for the Snowden disclosures?

    The UK is big on accountability, they're still dragging Newscorp through that very same ringer for the voicemail "hacking" scandal. The thing with inquests in commonwealth countries is that they're run by non political organisations and politicians have to accept the result even if it's the complete opposite of what they wanted.

    But lets compare this to the US government who has for years, conducted an illegal war started with fabricated evidence, imprisoned and tortured people including citizens of allied countries in secret prisons and on the subject of Snowden, has pretty much declared him guilty and sentenced him in absentia.

    As an Australian, in order to gain entry I had to provide the US with more information than I had to provide the Australian government to get a National Police Clearance or the Canadian government to get a work permit. In fact the US has been the only nation I've travelled to where I've needed apply in advance to enter or declare where I'm staying to the airline before I even get on the plane.

    So really, the UK looks like a bastion of freedom compared to the US (Despite the attempts of the Conservatives to ruin it and sadly, they're trying to do the same thing in Oz).

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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