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Monday, April 26, 2010

Crossed by the censor

The consequences of censorship are starkly illustrated by the Roman Catholic pedophilia scandals.

In past decades -- even centuries -- such problems were swept under the rug for "the good of the church." Priests, like cops, protected each other. But coverups only worked because law enforcement and the press "didn't want to know." And in those days, individuals feared to file civil suits because of the unspoken political power of the church.

And, of course, the church could justify quietly concealing such matters by arguing that a priest, just like anyone else, could be forgiven by God and perhaps rehabilitated with psychotherapy.

The result of all these coverups was unknown numbers of children betrayed, violated and often emotionally scarred for life.

The informal, but effective, system of censorship by consensus did great damage. Now that these matters are being publicly discussed, the church may work on the matter of whether the celibacy condition attracts certain personality types who perhaps should not be given such responsibilities.

A few decades back the church attempted to censor books considered bad for the faithful. But censorship is not the best way to deal with moral problems. Let anyone seek the truth as he may. The truth sets free.

This brings to mind the time my son stirred up a hornet's nest that resulted in heavy-handed censorship of his high school newspaper. In an opinion column, he mentioned corruption in the medieval Catholic church. A teacher and a number of other people complained of "Catholic bashing." A local radio personality called him up to berate him but he had no answer to my son's question: "Did you read the column?"

Nevertheless, school board members made an issue of this terrible deed and caused a strong censorship system to be imposed, which included a panel of teachers who censored the students' efforts to say that the paper was censored. The paper was also forced to censor my letter in defense of my son (though the local newspaper did run it).

An important issue: The truthfulness of his aside. Those who objected simply would not accept the historical record. So emotionalism was permitted to control what a young man could write. This tendency of censorship by emotionalism is everpresent and must be guarded against.

And this gag order occurred well before the church pedophilia scandals began making headlines. Those who were "defending the church" had no idea of what was yet to be revealed.

A reaction to the South Park censorship of a comedic skit offensive to certain Muslims has set in. An "Everybody draw Muhammad" day has been set for May 20, according to a Washington Post blog and to the site Israelnation. (Link blocked by Google Blogger.)

Israel's military censor has told Der Spiegel that "I will censor anything that is useful to the enemy." (The easiest way to reach that article is to Google "I will censor.")

So I'm wondering whether his influence extends outside Israel? Not so absurd. Some decades ago, the New York Times prefaced its dispatches from Israel with a note saying the report had been passed by military censorship. After a few years, that note to the reader was dropped. But the dispatches were still being cleared by military censors.

For political reasons, the fact of censorship was censored in an American newspaper. Other American media accepted this special favor for Israel.

Thai officials should share with Japan all facts related to the investigation into the death of Japanese newsman Hiro Muramoto, says Reporters without Borders. The group also urged Thai authorities to respect freedom of the press and the work of journalists and noted that an increasing number of news web sites were being blocked.

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