A Subtile Difference

James Taranto notes, and appropriately mocks Duncan Black’s (aka “Atrios”) asinine suggestion that a letter to the editor of the Washington Post constitutes a form of censorship. Black’s point… well, Black’s point is particularly facile, even by his standards, so I’ll just let him speak for himself:

It of course isn’t strictly censorship, but any time a member of the government complains in this way, behind a government podium or on official letterhead, it does indeed get closer to official censorship.

For the benefit of Brave Sir Duncan, and in the hopes that his clue bag won’t be quite so empty henceforth, here’s what actual censorship looks like:

Following last-minute cries of protest from Muslim leaders last week, a Public Broadcasting Service affiliate in Dallas canceled the premiere of a documentary on the roots of Islamic terrorism.

“The Roots of War: The Road to Peace” was scheduled to air on KERA-TV on Sunday, January 29, but the premiere was postponed by the station’s managers after a local Muslim group alleged that the program contains inaccuracies and anti-Muslim bias. The documentary’s producers, Niki and Dennis McCuistion, have defended their work; they have refused to make changes.

Try and note the difference, would you?

24 Responses to “A Subtile Difference”

  1. Robin Goodfellow Says:

    It is not censorship at all. Indeed, I think it should be more common. Representatives and officials in government SHOULD be engaged actively in our society and culture. That is healthy, that is the way things should be. What is unhealthy is a wall of separation between “government” and “the people”, elevating one above the other and enshrining the power structure. I’d rather see more officials in government writing letters to the editor, posting on blogs, talking with people. In other words actually ENGAGED with our culture, society, economy, etc.

    Moreover, I find Black’s idea (shared with much of the rest of the leftocracy) that “dissent against my dissent is censorship” to be abhorent, wrong, and precisely counter to the sentiments that ought to hold in a free society.

  2. Duffy Nichols Says:

    I don’t suppose it would ever occur to him that restricting political speech within 60 days of an election might also constitute “censorship” as well. And I’d bet Lefty himself that Dunc is voting for Feingold in 08.

  3. Steve Skubinna Says:

    Dissent is patriotic. Disagreement with dissent is censorship.

    Duh. Why is that so hard for you right wing Nazis to understand? Because, you know, disagreeing with people is exactly what the Nazis did. Which George Bush is worse than, by the way.

    Oy. I feel stupider just having typed the above. Still not stupid enough to post at Kos or DU, though. Is there any possibility that these people, from Howard Dean through Ted Rall and Micheal Moore to Barbra Streisand, are just kidding around? Are they going to one day stop in mid yowl, grin at the camera, and say “Gotcha!”

  4. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Will Collier
    RE: Try?

    “Try and note the difference, would you?” — Will Collier

    Trying to get people like Atrios to notice reality, as opposed to their politcial agenda, is like trying to get Vox Day to drop his shickenchit ‘chickenhawk’ argument.

    It ain’t gonna happen until they experience an epiphany of reality, i.e., something supernatural smacks them right between the eyes. E.g., Paul on the road to Damascus. In other words, no time real soon.

    They twist the English language to suit their political agenda. As opposed to using the English language to come to a consensus.

    I’m not sure about Atrios and cenorship, but there IS hope for Vox Day. I understand that the Army has changed its enlistment criteria and NOW Vox could actually enlist and serve his country. Then he could actually talk about when it is proper to go to war. As it is today, based on his OWN arguments, he cannot talk to such. Although he does.

    Back to Atrios….

    …the poor guy has serious issues with reality. But that is, part and parcel, an indicator when they start perverting the language.



  5. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Steve Skubinna
    RE: What A Crock

    “Dissent is patriotic. Disagreement with dissent is censorship.” — Steve Skubinna


    If I shut you up by eliminating what you say, or rather in this venue, Will or Stephen do, THAT is censorship.

    And I’m still seeing your comment here, for some strange reason.

    However, if you were to go over to http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=1167

    And check out the Comments of that thread, you’ll notice that Stewart spends a LOT of time talking to someone he addresses as “Chuck”. He seems to be answering Chuck in his comments. But NOWHERE, last time I looked, can you find anything that Chuck has said that Stewart seems to be answering.

    Just an prime example of ‘censorship’.

    And I thought atheists were supposed to be so ‘open-minded’….


    P.S. However, for some strange reason, my last two comments are there.

  6. Bostonian Says:

    Steve Skubinna was joking, Chuck.

  7. Imperator Says:

    On the same note, should some avante garde ‘artist’ display a work depicting the cross in a jar of urine or the Virgin Mary covered in feces, he would be applauded for his ‘brave’ and ‘provacative’ work.

    Any attempt by Christians to prohibit such a display would immediately be decried as censorship. Muslims on the other hand seem to get a free pass on the grounds that such things as *gasp* a documentary on Islamic terrorism would offend their sensibilities and that we should be more respectful of other culture’s relgions.

    Somehow the moonbats seem to find perfect logic in that. I haven’t quite perfected the combination of mind altering drugs to see it though.

    P.S. Nice to see the Danes standing up to the Islamic temper tantrums over the Mohammed cartoons. Good for them. Guess there is still some Viking spirit in there after all.

  8. LNS Says:

    Hmm. I’m no fan of the Dallas station bowing to pressure, just as I wouldn’t be a fan of a movie theater bowing to pressure and deciding not to show The Last Temptation of Christ or Brokeback Mountain. Those of us claiming to be proponents of free expression (and I consider myself one) should take care to be consistent: we shouldn’t deplore a business for caving in to pressure groups and then turn around and applaud another for caving just because we didn’t like what they were going to broadcast.

    And I too support the Danes–just like I supported the Brooklyn Art Museum.

  9. richard mcenroe Says:

    It’s not censorship when Muslims do it. Can’t you tell the difference, Will?

  10. par Says:

    While I agree with Will’s sentiment, namely that Atrios is a fool and that the Dallas station probably shouldn’t have cancelled the program, I’m not sure ‘censorship’ is the most accurate term here. I see censorship as a government directed policy. When a tv/radio station/printed publication refuses to run something it generally falls under the category of editorial discretion. Think back to that Reagan documentary CBS was going to put out a couple years ago. It was deemed biased by Les Moonves (CBS Pres) as well as by the hordes of Reagan faithfuls who promised boycotts. CBS ended up pulling it. I don’t think that was censorship, but rather, editorial discretion. Had the government (FCC, White House, etc.) prevented its airing then that would have been censorship. While agreeing with Will’s sentiment, I only make this point because I think the language we use is important. Atrios was clearly wrong, and I think Will was less clearly wrong.

  11. Fernando Says:

    Hmmm. I’m politically much closer to you than to Atrios, but in this case I think that he has point which, in typical fashion, he overplays. It is not censorship at all, but I think it is unseemy for six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to engage in politics. The military has significant coercive power behind it, and it’s best that they not be heard in the political arena, lest their motivations be misunderstood.

    In many countries polite letters such as this one sent by the most senior military officers in the country would be taken very seriously indeed, to the point that if I was to receive it I’d pee in my pants. This may seem silly to you, confident as you are in the strength of the Constitution and your well-placed trust in the American military, but you want to keep that trust for the long run, and you want your children to acqure it.

    The Chiefs of Staff obviously want to change behavior they consider objectionable and are willing to use their official appointments in order to apply pressure. If they are successful they will do it again. Where will it stop? I think that their boss should give them a stern but private reprimand.

  12. Disillusionist Says:

    Fernando: The fact that we don’t worry about having our doors kicked open in the middle of the night after receiving a polite letter from the military is one of the many reasons that we live in America rather than in one of “many countries.”

  13. holdfast Says:

    Fernando – I see your point, and there is something to the notion that the military ought to avoid all forms of politics. It’s not cencorship, but may be viewed as inappropriate. On balance, however, I think that six individuals with something like 200 collective years of protecting this country ought to be allowed to politely express their view.

    Of course, that’s just my view – you all are free to say that I’m an idiot – ’cause that’s free expression too.

    Follow the links to another example of when it’s time for a military man to speal out.



  14. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Bostonian & Steve Skubinna
    RE: Okay…

    “Steve Skubinna was joking, Chuck.” — Bostonian

    “Oy. I feel stupider just having typed the above. Still not stupid enough to post at Kos or DU, though.” — Steve Skubinna

    My mistake. Got through the second paragraph, not having seen a smiley, and had had enough.

    I better get my sarcasm detector recalibrated.

    My apologies….



  15. Fernando Says:


    That’s the reason why I live in this country too; I want it to stay that way.


    You are right that there comes a point in time when the military must defend itself against calumnies if nobody else does. But in a healthy society, the executive and the other branches of government, as well as the media would come to their aid when they are attacked unfairly, freeing them to do what they are trained to do.

  16. monkeyboy Says:

    The military as an institution always has prided itself on remaining a-political. One of the sad byproducts of the democratic policy of “insult good people on the hope that some of it may stick to George Bush” (white phosphorous=chenical weapons, troops breaking down doors and roughing up women etc.) is that is forces the military to defend itself polictically.

  17. Major John Says:


    You have pointed out the problem, and why the JCS felt they had to say something. Where was the media, the Executive branch, Congress, anyone else? If it wasn;t for the blogosphere, I might not have even heard of any reaction to this. Sad really…

    Don’t worry, hoever, I think the JCS is still free to prosecute our wars 🙂

  18. holsfast Says:

    Monkeyboy – exactly – Toles and the Canadian Libs don’t really care about the military one way or another – they just see it as a stick with which to beat Bush or Harper, as the case may be. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the attack, the Administration / Tories aren’t in a position to defend the military without making the military seem like their tool; thus the military has to speak out through their leaders in as democratic and non-threatening way as possible. It’s also why Hillier (the first good CDS Canada has had in a looooong time) waited until after the election.

  19. Steve Skubinna Says:

    Hmmm, maybe I am ready for Kos and DU. Or maybe it’s just that the hard left is impossible to parody – you cannot fabricate a straw man so self evidently ridiculous that some earnest MoveOn junkie isn’t at that very moment typing the same thing in all seriousness.

    For me, they have become analogous to the Flat Earth Society – I can’t really accept that they really mean it, and are putting us all on. I have the sinking feeling that we’ve all fallen for an elaborate hoax designed to pander to our worst prejudices about those on the other side of the political chasm.

    But that’s nothing to the sinking feeling I have that they are not kidding, and that they really do believe that George W. Bush bites the heads off impoverished transgendered Third World puppies of color.

  20. Bob Says:

    Fernando et al.

    While there are certainly some rights one signs away when one joins the military, I don’t think we ought to be completely removing the Chief’s rights of citizenship.

    Think about it as bosses sticking up for their subordinates.

  21. daver Says:

    Mixed feelings on this:
    1. I did not interpret the Toles cartoon to be about a wounded soldier, but about a “wounded” Army (not that I think it actually is), so I did not find it so offensive as some did. OTOH, I do not think it beyond possibility that military folks WOULD find it offensive, and they have that right. I also feel that the Joint Chiefs’ letter stayed pretty on-message in expressing concern about the impact on soldiers, and not on making a political statement.

    2. I have seen many depictions of Generals and/or the President as evil people who enjoy war and suffering. This IS offensive, and is designed to undermine the peoples’ faith in their leaders and institutions. The depection of Rumsfeldt in the cartoon is mildly such – I have seen much worse. Unfortunately, that is the nature of free speech -sometimes we strongly disagree with it and are offended by it. And I don’t think it is censorship to say so.

  22. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Steve Skubinna
    RE: Perhaps…

    “Hmmm, maybe I am ready for Kos and DU. Or maybe it’s just that the hard left is impossible to parody….” — Steve Skubinna

    ….you’re TOO familiar with them. But there is some useful potential, even in that.

    You could hire yourself out to Carl Rove as a mole….



  23. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: holsfast
    RE: The Libs and the Military

    “Toles and the Canadian Libs don’t really care about the military one way or another ” — holsfast

    As I cited, down the hall, from T.R.Fahrenbach’s classic, This Kind of War, libs ALWAYS detest the military. Even when they are praising them. And they WILL NOT ABIDE their being what they HAVE TO BE. Hence the PC cleansing of the running and marching jodies I remember from the 70s.



  24. Chuck Pelto Says:

    P.S. For example….

    …a Ranger marching jodie…

    The last thing we pray for;
    We pray for a war.
    Beautiful, glorious, wonderful war.
    If we have one;
    Why can’t we have ten?
    God drop us on Moscow;
    ‘Cause Rangers are men.

    The preceeding verses involve beer, whiskey and women.

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