The land of the free
Congress bans US "military propaganda". According to the Washington Times:
Congressional Democrats want to ban Pentagon propaganda on the Iraq war ... The House passed legislation in May to prohibit the military from engaging in "any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes or behavior of the people of the United States in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly."
The Washington Times says enforcing the ban will be difficult.
"I think it would be difficult to implement," said Anthony Pratkanis, co-author of the book "Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion," of any law attempting to prohibit the military from promoting itself. Interpretations of what constitutes propaganda can vary, and U.S. efforts to influence a foreign enemy - which is allowed under the law - often seep into American airwaves anyway, he said.
In an globalized world, what constitutes a domestic release of information? Is there any form of communication that can be directed at the enemy that lacks the potential to reach an American audience? A video on YouTube? A blog post? A telephone interview given to bloggers? A briefing given before network correspondents and cameras in Baghdad? All of those are likely to be seen by American audiences. Should they be proscribed? The days of short range radio stations and leaflet drops are over.
On the other hand, it is an open question whether enemy propaganda is restricted, even in principle from being broadcast at American audiences. Recently Senator Joseph Lieberman asked YouTube to pull al-Qaeda videos hosted on its site. Here's what happened:
YouTube LLC has refused a request from U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) to remove all videos sponsored by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, contending that most of them don't violate its community guidelines.
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Monday called on the Google Inc. subsidiary to remove video content produced by terrorist organizations that showed assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training, "incendiary" speeches and other material intended to "encourage violence against the West."
YouTube's reason for its refusal is telling. It can't ban terrorist videos because they are entitled to Free speech.
YouTube went on to say that it encourages free speech and defends the right of its users to express unpopular points of view. "We believe that YouTube is a richer and more relevant platform for users precisely because it hosts a diverse range of views, and rather than stifle debate, we allow our users to view all acceptable content and make up their own minds," the company said. "Of course, users are always free to express their disagreement with a particular video on the site, by leaving comments or their own response video. That debate is healthy."
I wish the world would make it's mind up about what constitutes modern Western enlightenment. As matters stand we seem to exist in a universe where Free Speech can held to be both a virtue and crime by equally "progressive" parties. Why, British Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal, which is investigating Mark Steyn's so-called transgressions of Muslim feelings (though nobody asked Canadian Muslims if they were offended) was told by Dean Steacy the principal "anti-hate" investigator of the HRC: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."
Here's what I think. Freedom of speech means exactly this on the Left. "You are free to speak and we are free to shut you down." Now that's a clear concept.
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