The American government has always done its fair deal of censorship, whether in 1835 or 2006. In this regard, the two periods are not unique. The most obvious and memorable the Sedition Act of 1798 which made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Although the Sedition Act was terminated by the turn of the century it provided a prelude to further censorship at the hands of the government in the following years.
During of War of 1812 much of individual stateâ€™s power was diverted to the federal government, creating a foundation for further censorship and manipulation of information. Freedom of speech and the press was terminated during the Civil War. It was not uncommon for those with deviating opinions from the executive to be arrested by presidential orders. To make matters worse the government began to screen private correspondence so communication in general was severely curtailed and information blackouts were not unusual. Since the President assumed the Constitutional powers of congress (1861-1865), since habeus corpus was suspended and since military and government officials could make arrests without warrant, any political dissidents were immediately silenced with no possible outlet for defense.
During World War I the new rage was the Espionage Act which ensured strict and reactionary punishment to those who were critical of the war. The Sedition Act was reinstated and freedom of speech and press was once more extremely limited, as anything less than propaganda was looked down upon by the federal government. The Supreme Court granted the government the legal mandate to compromise freedom of speech when necessary. The same level of censorship and government interference was present during World War II. Both wars witnessed massive government interference within the media and information dissemination in general. The government was instrumental in indoctrinating the appalling racism and intolerance that still haunts todayâ€™s Americans by producing hate and terror propaganda against the supposed enemies of the American culture.
In the 1950s the United States transformed from a print and limited television media to a full video and image-centric media. Although the thousands of newspapers still were in print, as they are today, they became reserved for the thinking man. Your everyday citizen soon became dependent on the â€œnewsâ€ as portrayed by only a few nationally syndicated television channels, with local stations simply lacking the resources to bring relevant international news and falling back primarily on superfluous local news stories.Â With the advent of cable came the ability to easily sensationalize, manipulate and creative poignant spins on any desired topic. Today many peopleâ€™s thoughts, politics and philosophies are defined within them by the television tube. Juxtapose a montague of the burning twin towers with dancing Afghanis and you have the birth of ethnocentrism, emotional justification for a war predicated on a misplaced vengeance and the embroiling of an entire people to a unified, bovine mindset which recoils in fear the moment their security blanket which is Fox News is taken off the air. This level of information tampering and dissemination was impossible with a printed page.
The government doesnâ€™t need to censor the nationally syndicated news channels today as it did newspapers and other press in the past because it seems that, for the most part, national news is in alignment with national politics, never finding the need to present iconoclastic reporting. The last instance of widespread honest reporting occurred during the Vietnam War. Although the government did not directly censor much during that war it did release â€œ5 oâ€™clock folliesâ€ which were basically disinformation reports to the American news agencies as provided by the The Joint United States Public Affairs Office in order to make the war more publicly acceptable than was being reported by independent media.
What we have on the nationally syndicated news channels such as CNN and Fox News is an exercise in sensationalism catered to indoctrinate and dazzle so that our eyes never sway to the critical yet ignored: domestic issues and the festering social foundation. Always we must be given a fireworks spectacle, a living drama that has no consequence and no understanding of death and life, instead obscuring the truth with labels and buzz words like â€œterrorâ€ and â€œfreedom.â€ These things are subjective and irrational. These images become our definition of self and thought.
Luckily the internet has evolved to be unburdened by material restraints. You donâ€™t need millions of dollars to syndicate your news channel, or more appropriately, blog, because the electronic media is much less expensive to both advertise and publish information. Soon the internet will lead to the taking back of free information, free thought and free, unbiased and rational discourse. The future will be shaped by the individual mind, not a central channel or newspaper, but by collective consciousness, a collective voice and collective spirit.