Tag Archives: Iraq

Censorship and Press Freedom: at home and away

Today marks the celebration of International Day of Press Freedom. Like many celebrations that we are called to recognise, rather than feel joy at how wonderful things are, we are reminded of just how much goes haywire. Reporters Without Borders lists those killed in 2007. They write that there has been: 129 journalists, 7 media assistants and 63 cyberdissidents jailed, 8 journalists killed since the beginning of the year, the latest in the list of horrors, Fadel Shanaa.

While all normal people with conscience recognise that it is essential to insist upon obtaining justice for the operators of information who are killed while doing their work in areas where violence is manifest, we notice that there are other ways to prevent the dissemination of information, and this restriction of freedom is nothing less than censorship.

I remember thinking that censorship was something done in the 40s by priests who had to approve the films that the Italian public was allowed to watch. When I was young and naïve, I thought it was something that only totalitarian or ultra-repressed societies would dare to use. I now know much better, and it’s not only the Big Media that simply does not allow content in that they disapprove of, it is far more sinister. It seems as though the journalists are aware of what is expected of them and they produce it without needing to be steered. In 2004, I translated portions of a book by Giulietto Chiesa that I consider to be fundamental reading. An excerpt of it states:

It is very evident that these dutiful defenders of America will not allow the powerful, or should we say “the Power”, to be criticised in any way whatsoever. These are people already well versed in the art of bowing and scraping to “the Power”, wherever it may be, so just think what they’ll be like when “the Power” actually becomes “the Empire”! So, quite often, they find themselves in the inglorious position of defending those who already have ample defensive (and offensive) capabilities of their own. And there are lots of these defenders: the majority of political commentators, for example, would never have got where they are without giving cast iron proof of their absolute loyalty to “the Power”.

All this needed time to come about. It was a long, complex and contradictory gestation. It didn’t all go smoothly, as always happens when the forces in play are real and not the abstract schemes of utopians that just happen to be in power. You make your plans as you go along, on the spur of the moment, but then you need intellectuals to give them form, glorify them in the eyes of the public, ennoble them and explain them. These propagandists have to be trained, convinced and, if necessary, bribed and corrupted. And then all obstacles, doubters, non-believers and wise guys have to be got out of the way. Playing it clean if possible, but dirty if necessary. For those of you who’ve forgotten, an instructions manual has already been written for this and it’s enough to follow it. It’s called The Prince by Nicholas Macchiavelli and it’s free, because it’s out of copyright.

The aim, therefore, is to stifle the discussion and silence the adversaries, an aim that is much more ideological than you would care to think. It also explains perfectly, for example, why the whole of the Italian press (and not only the Italian press) often say the same things. The rule is that the people controlling the media have to be totally reliable: they don’t even have to be told what to say. They already know it by heart. They have already internalised the rules of the game. Being reliable is something that requires lengthy training and considerable single-mindedness. On every level of the information hierarchy you have to prove that you have a total disregard for the truth, a complete readiness to deceive and an absolutely impenetrable cynicism. This, as a rule, is the only way of getting up to the next level.”

Yes, absolutely impenetrable cynicism is the key to containing any adversaries to “the Power”. And, what is quite interesting is that in our day and age, anyone with access to a computer is allowed to enter at some level of the information hierarchy by contributing to forums, leaving comments to articles, writing letters, and the latest and most popular form of this is to create a weblog that reflects one’s own musings and at times the information one finds and would like to share.

Weblogs are the ideal for the technically inept as well as being cost free or with very limited costs. This is why there are millions of them. A social network has grown out of these weblogs, and that is the blogging community. Most of us with a blog have a blogroll, listing blogs that are about topics that we or our readers are interested in, blogs by our friends and links that we would like to share with someone else in a public way. Sometimes we add the links with distraction (and putting them up doesn’t mean endorsing all content or even knowing who the owner is, as some try to use as an excuse to attack bloggers whose own content stands up to attacks by critics who would love to see the blogs shut down), sometimes because we read an article on the blog that we liked and add to the blogroll so that we can check out the rest later. At any rate, the blogging community has grown into a unit where we are dedicated supporters of other bloggers and we stand united in moments of difficulty.

The Palestine – Iraq blogging world has been recently under severe attack. Our blogs are being targeted for destruction. In the past few weeks, many of us have seen a spam note from Blogger. Machetera wrote about the censorship in a series of articles (also here). This spam note has driven Desert Peace’s Steve away (and his contribution to this post follows), and I shortly followed suit, not without having undergone the violence against the principle of Voltaire brought upon me by Tony Greenstein.

In fact, there are many who call themselves progressives or leftists who love censorship. In the very words of Tony Greenstein, in an article he wrote, bragging that my blog was “dead”, he stated that he had worked to exercise the power of censorship. He decides what is appropriate. He is the arbiter of the truth and the judge of the limits of discourse. He determines single-handedly who has got to be flushed down the wastewater system. But, he is wise enough to recognise his limits. He can’t do it alone. No one listens to him, so he has to enlist the help of “the Power”.

“It is gratifying to announce that the anti-Semitic sewer, going by the name of ‘PeacePalestine’ has now died a death. After I had it taken down for a day or so, because of its libellous comment, Google decided in any case it was a ‘spam’ blog. Who are we to disagree?!!!”

Apparently, he doesn’t know not only did Google not find it anti-Semitic OR libelous, which were his claims, resulting in its immediate reinstatement, but Tony doesn’t know that Spam Blogs are computer generated blogs to sell things or increase profit in some way.

Yet, Tony himself claims that he too received the spam notice, bringing him into that honourable category of the enemy of the Zionists who are operating to close their opponents down.

“But I’ll let fartypants into what I think is the story and it’s not one of censorship. I wrote to Google not so long ago saying that there was stuff that was personally libellous and yes they should take the whole of the cesspit down. However they decided not to and Rizzo was the one who crowed over that.

Now she has moved the blog anyway because it was deemed a ‘spam’ blog. The secret is that this blog was also blocked for the same reasons. What that meant was that nothing could be posted here for a day or two. It was an automatic process triggered by the software Google use, nothing to do with censorship. Clearly Rizzo had had enough and maybe wanted to put the past, including all the racist rubbish behind her (here’s hoping) and make a fresh start. let’s hope so.

I don’t know whether Google is particularly pro-Zionist, after all when I tried to get the blog taken down they refused. However I’m indifferent as to whether or not they take an anti-Semitic blog down because it’s libellous.To be blunt I couldn’t care less if one section of the Right censors another section. I regard Rizzo’s blog and the activities of those like Atzmon around it as doing nothing but a service for Zionism. It is no accident that when it comes to the historica division in diaspora Jewry between the anti-Zionist Bund and the Zionists, that Atzmon clearly and explicitly takes the side of the latter. If this is pro-Palestinian then fine.”

Now, let’s look carefully at what’s behind his claims.

First of all, he admits that he acted to get me shut down, and it is because of the content, deeming at any rate (falsely) that it is in the Right, as if that alone were reason enough to have it shut down: Hmmm, take a look at this quote by Noam Chomsky-

“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

And John Pilger writes:
“If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Obviously, Tony hides behind the white flag of it being libelous, which was deemed untrue by Google. Then he claimed it was anti-Semitic, and there again, they ran it through their machines and they disagreed. So, it comes down to the matter of it being “on the Right”, which to him is good enough reason to have it closed, and I do dare him to show even ONE post that is on the Right, we remain with the real reason. It’s just his personal despising of me and of those whose right to free speech I ardently defend and support. Tony does not believe in my right of expression, nor in that right being allowed for a long list of people. If he were in a totalitarian State, what would his actions be? He would be the censorship boss of the Minculpop at the very least, which is the activity he engages in more than any other and it has been widely documented on my blog. In fact, he would be just another weird figure in the cyberspace if he were not so hellbent on censorship, which is what my blog community fights against. Those who do not believe in freedom of expression don’t even know when they are acting as censors or even that they do so. They find an ideological and “progressive” reasoning for it, without ever having to support that there is any truth behind their gagging. If he can’t shut them down or have them kicked out of town, he writes articles against all of his critics and at times, we even have to waste precious time to correct his myriad errors.

Yet, it is interesting to note, that while he thinks Blogger and Google are not particularly pro-Zionist, why is it that when he claims he has gotten the same spam note, and it was resolved in a jiffy, Steve’s blog, my blog, Layla Anwar’s blog, Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order and now Laila El-Haddad’s Raising Yusuf and Noor (A mother from Gaza), have all together found this “robot” so unkind and deliberately rude. It doesn’t respond to our letters, it lies that in 4 days it will take care of everything. Tony is certain it’s all bona fide… What more proof do we need that it’s a pro-Zionist for real?

Google has some more to answer for as well. Google has stopped indexing Uruknet as a news source. This is not the first time. I must have at least 10 letters in my archives to them regarding this matter, none of them had received any kind of feedback, although I encourage all to write to them (Uruknet has a form prepared on this link so that you can easily let Google know you are on to what they are doing to the most important source of information on Iraq). The webmaster of Uruknet is of an intelligence and dedication that are not rare, they are unique. She has indicated some interesting statistics to me about the indexing:

Google news has not only stopped indexing Uruknet, but it has blacklisted articles of other sites that cite Uruknet. For example, it indexes UN Observer, but it has not put in this article: http://www.unobserver.com/layout4.php?id=4725&blz=1 because, obviously, it cites Uruknet. http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&tab=bn&scoring=n&q=site%3Awww.unobserver.com&btnG=Search. If an article of any site cites a word of Uruknet, it is immediately pushed off by google.news. (Now I see why my stuff has vanished from there! Not only is Uruknet my favourite site, I think we would all be lost without it).

Google.com censors not only 90% of Uruknet, but also the sites that cite it as can be detected by the results of google.com search for the word “uruknet”: 188,000. The same search by yahoo.com 1,240,000.

Do we need any more proof? But, don’t go thinking that they don’t want any news about Iraq to get out. The webmaster of Uruknet tells me that a US-Friendly blog about Iraq was initially given the ‘spam’ treatment, but, like Tony’s site, it was quickly reinstated once the content was judged as being just fine with “the Power”.

Following the contribution of Steve, who, as another victim of this campaign, I will list a few things that I consider advice for other bloggers.

Steve writes:

Musings from one whose freedom was denied….

 

 


How dare I, a Jew living in Israel criticise the injustices practiced in my country. How dare I speak out against the genocide of my brothers on the other side of the wall of apartheid.

 

Try to censor me if you must, but I assure you I will not be silenced.

Daily Kos was the first to cut me off with a ban…. I dared to defend my brother and friend Benjamin Heine. He too dared to criticise the inhumane policies of zionism…. he too was banned from Daily Kos. The post that got me banned can be seen HERE.

Just what is Daily Kos afraid of?

Blogspot was the next culprit that attempted to silence me. Early in January I logged in as usual only to find that ‘Robots have determined that my Blog is a Spam Blog’. I was given the opportunity to challenge this ‘charge’ via an automated response. I was assured that I would receive an answer with 4 days. In 4 days I received another automated answer with the same ‘charges’. This ‘game’ continued for FOUR months until finally, without notice, my Blog was unlocked. By then, I had moved on to greener pastures and choose not to use Blogger any longer, feeling that their censorship game was not worth the hassle and I would rather Blog than engage in a fight with closed minded Websites.

Attempts to silence others continues. The zionists actively engage in desperate ways to have Blogs closed down. Most notable among these is one Tony Greenstein, a resident zionist in Britain. He has made it a full time job writing letters, falsely accusing pro Palestinian bloggers of anti Semitism, among other things. His prime targets are Mary Rizzo of PeacePalestine, and Gilad Aztmon, an ex Israeli also living in Britain. He claims to be an anti zionist himself, but I have yet to see him attempt to close down their vicious sites or attack them. His actions are contemptible, as he himself is.

The censorship continues; Google not only owns and controls Blogger, it also owns YouTube. A video depicting the crimes against the people of Palestine and five minutes later it is removed from YouTube. Again I ask, what are they afraid of?

As I mentioned earlier, ‘try to censor me if you must, but I assure you I will not be silenced!’

I say this on behalf of all of my Brothers and Sisters who went through the same hassles as I did. We will all continue to spread the truth and the truth will make us free!

HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE!

Mary’s tips for bloggers:
1) Back up all your material. I learned this the hard way, and if not for my faithful group of friends, I don’t know how I would have salvaged almost 4 years of material.
2) Create a mirror blog with a completely different provider. It takes moments to open a new blog, so register your name and convert your content. You never know when you may need it.
3) You CAN still work with your Blogger template, so leave a message for your readers that you have moved. I found this out weeks later, and in the meantime, many readers were disoriented. Two had done an international phone search (unsuccessfully) and in the end reached someone close to me to get the number, because they thought I was dead. Now how is THAT for readership loyalty!
4) If possible, go for private hosting options. This week, Haitham, Gilad and I are going to unveil our newest creation. Not that private hosts are failsafe, but they are certainly not going to be arbitrarily censored by the provider or those who the provider serves.
5) Build and maintain a network community. They will come to your aid when you need it, they will inform others of your tribulations. This means not only that you share readership and exchange tips and material, but you can depend upon them when push comes to shove. I have not been let down by these people, and their generosity and kindness is only equalled by their intelligence. Not only bloggers are part of the community, but commenters and readers.
6) Open a blog or site yourself. The more voices we have out there, the harder it will be to censor us all.
7) Defend the sites under attack, and don’t be afraid of not being “indexed” if you link to a good site. If and when Google dies, another site will come to replace it. There is an alternative to everything, but there is no alternative to the right of freedom of expression of an individual, of the unique character of his or her site, and that is what we MUST defend, in order to support the causes we care about.

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