By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Muzzling freedom of speech

Please have a look at The Phoenix’s annual Muzzle Awards, a Fourth of July roundup of local anti-constitutionalism that I’ve been writing since 1998. You’ll see why Nat Hentoff likes to say that the human sex drive is exceeded only by the urge to censor.

Among those who get singled out are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, whose agencies have banned a respected academic, Adam Habib, from the United States. Habib is scheduled to appear at an academic conference in Boston on Aug. 1, but that’s not going to happen unless the ban is lifted.

Habib is supposedly being kept out because he has ties to terrorism. But he denies it, and the government has provided no evidence to back up its claim. What we do know is that Habib, of South Africa, is a Muslim and has criticized the war in Iraq and U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Also getting whacked is Comcast, for firing longtime Boston television personality Barry Nolan over his campaign against Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly. Comcast was within its rights to terminate Nolan, but it was an utterly unnecessary, no-class move.

I’ll be on “NightSide with Dan Rea,” on WBZ Radio (AM 1030), at 9 p.m. today to talk about the Muzzle Awards. If you feel like calling in, don’t be shy.

Illustration is copyright © 2008 by K Bonami.

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  1. Anonymous

    Amazing how the muzzle awards never actually have anything to do with constitutionally protected speech.

  2. Bill Baar

    Pelosi’s pushing for a return of the Fairness Doctrine seems the bigger threat to me.That and Canada’s Human Rights Tribunals. I’d hate to see those move south.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: The Muzzles have to have some sort of New England tie. Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine is a miserable idea, but we should bring back tight ownership restrictions. The rationale is simple physics: there are only so many broadcast frequencies available.

  4. Peter Porcupine

    Why not single out the BC law faculty for uninviting Attorney General Michael Mukasey to do the commencement address last spring?How about Sal DiMasi for not allowing debate on the House floor?Or, if this IS media related, the paucity of press coverage for John McCain’s visit to Boston earlier this month?

  5. John Howard

    Dan, I had hoped you’d have noticed the censorship and media blackout of the issue of same-sex conception.You should see the efforts people go to keep people ignorant about stem-cell derived “female sperm” and “male eggs” while it is developed, and the efforts to suppress my efforts to raise consciousness about it! Its very interesting.The whole “marriage debate” is full of fraudulent “marriage defenders” who are trying to manipulate the debate to keep my voice out of it, and the issue of same-sex conceptino out of it.For such a monumental change to human life, I guess it makes sense there would be a monumental effort to sneak it in on society. But please help keep people honest, Dan. Make them talk about it.

  6. io saturnalia!

    Dan,Great job, as always, with the Muzzies, but I’ve got to call BS on the T/Legal Seafoods flap. Grabauskas actually puts the dignity, or at least esteem, of his drivers and passengers above a puerile ad campaign and that’s an example of “folding like a cheap suit”? I’m not a streetcar driver, but I’m sure their job is tough enough without having to be insulted by a dopey talking fish when they climb aboard.While I’m at it, let me call BS on your simile (unless it was intentionally mixed, a la Norm Crosby): You should have written “folded like a cheap umbrella.” The “cheap suit” is generally paired with “On (it, her, him) like (a)”, similar to “white on rice,” “a bum on a ham sandwich” and “stink on a monkey.”

  7. Anonymous

    Getting wound up over the fish ads is silly. I notice the cabbies didn’t when they had the ads on their cars. Did we hear from the union when the driver got killed in the train accident a few weeks ago, or again with the issue of the driver nodding off while operating a train the other day?

  8. jvwalt

    Oh yeah, those poor guys, Mukasey and McCain, utterly stymied in their efforts to be heard. Sandbagged, muzzled, banished to the Gitmo of our minds. I was just thinking the other day, whatever happened to John McCain? You never hear anything about the man. As for DiMasi, that’s not a free speech issue, that’e legislative maneuvering. It may be tawdry or even despicable, but it has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

  9. Peter Porcupine

    Why single out Rice (who has suffered her OWN free speech controversy in Boston) and not BC’s treatment of Mukasky? This list was not up to DK’s standards, because it WAS so relentlessly partisan. Why not cite move chains which refused to allow the film ‘Expelled’ to be shown? There is a fair amount of stifling on the left as well.After all – who hasn’t heard of Legal Seafoods, just because Grabauskas refused to allow his employees to be insulted in a ‘humorous’ way?

  10. Ari Herzog

    Nice article, Dan. I’m still pondering the lady removing sex books from the library. I wonder if she moved to Main from the deep South or somewhere more conservative.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    PP: His employees? Our employees. The T is a taxpayer-funded venue. As such, it’s vital that it be open to all.

  12. man who was an abfreeradio fan

    I’ve been struggling mightily here, but I can’t resist any more. I’ll understand if you censor this post, Dan. 😉———What? No mention of TouchFM’s noble crusade of free speech on the airwaves against the evil and corporate FCC?Oh, that’s right…it’s not a muzzle because they DON’T have a right to free speech on the airwaves. Oops.Frickin’ pirates.

  13. Abu Al-Poopypants

    Dan wrote: Freedom of expression may be guaranteed by the Constitution. But it’s an idea we have to fight for every day.That has never been more true than in the post–9/11 era. Just ask Adam Habib, a South African academic of Muslim heritage and critic of the war in Iraq, IIIiiinnnteresting. I was henceforth unaware that our Bill of Rights applied to South Africans. Thanks for setting me straight.

  14. jvwalt

    Did movie chains refuse to show “Expelled” because they are godless heathen liberal monkey-lovers, or because the film sucked and had very little commercial potential? Oh, I suppose the presence of media giant Ben Stein was enough to draw millions to the multiplex.

  15. Peter Porcupine

    JVWalt – Yes, a serious documentary certainly can’t compete with ‘Knocked Up’ on three screens….

  16. Anonymous

    Comcast? You got to be kidding me…Barry Nolan (representing Comcast) went out and made a fool of himself by acting like a clown.It has nothing to do with O’Reilly…it has to do with what is expected from an employee.

  17. John Howard

    Dan, I’ve been banned from BlueMassGroup, DailyKos, PamsHouseBlend, FanniesRoom, BoxTurtleBulletin, GaysDefendMarriage, and many others, not for breaking any rules or posting off-topic, but only because they don’t want the issue of same-sex conception to be raised at all, certainly not as an argument in the marriage debate. Where I haven’t been banned, I’ve been carefully ignored (the banning usually happens when one of their regular posters engages in the argument and starts making the only arguments they can: same-sex conception should be legal and not be banned, and a married man and a woman shouldn’t have any more right to conceive together than two men or two women do. That’s the argument that we ought to be having, but it’s being censored. I’m trying (and I’m local, passing out 10,000 flyers in Harvard Square and Downtown Boston and other local communities) to raise awareness of something very significant – scientists are about to move us to the brave new world and replace natural conception (ie, us) with genetic engineering (ie, them). That’s a big story, and they work hard to muzzle it.

  18. John Howard

    Really, how do you explain no one writing about same-sex conception? There have been like five stories in the last four years, that I can find. Zero in the Globe, zero in the Times, zero on ABC, zero on NBC, etc, etc. A person who didn’t stumble across a brief link on Drudge Report wouldn’t know that such a thing was even contemplated, let alone that it was just a few years from being attempted. Most people don’t know what Transhumanism is, and yet Transhumanists have very bizarre and well-laid plans for the future of humanity and zero opposition from the media or politicians.The mere hyper-concern of someone like me doesn’t turn a story into a non-story, does it? If it does, then all it would take is a single paid overly-concerned guy to open the gate to anything. That would be bad if journalists were turned off stories because they were beaten to it by a nutty blogger.Please investigate the muzzling of this story. Why doesn’t the public know that same-sex marriage activists insist on a right to do same-sex conception??

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