A recent published study shows that writers worry about the NSA surveillance, social media, and telecommunications control (85%) and that these pressures may affect the writer’s mission, topic choices, and freedom of expression. In the survey conducted by the non-profit organization PEN America, which primary focus is in advancing freedom of expression and speech in literature, findings are worrisome and it is obvious that the authors are choosing various forms of the self-censorship.
Self-Censorship: Adaptation or Cowardliness?
The survey shows the following forms to be of the most concern:
“a) reluctance to write or speak about certain subjects;
b) reluctance to pursue research about certain subjects; and
c) reluctance to communicate with sources, or with friends abroad, for fear that they will
endanger their counterparts by doing so.” (see the original document bellow, via Pathless Streams Blog Tweet). When this author looked over the study and read a handful of articles discussing the self-censorship among the writers, I couldn’t resist but to tweet expressing my critical observation on the topic.
Pathless Streams , Blog Tweet:
Self-censorship; the byproduct of all political correct times created behind ideological curtains of control. http://t.co/w35qLgZbbg
— Pathless Streams (@pathlesstreams1) November 15, 2013
Find more about this topic:
Why are writers being curbed by NSA surveillance?
Is the Self-Censorship a Form of Personal Protection and Safety?
To some extent we all censor whatever appears to be unpleasant, negative, challenging, and a step out of the social norm–norms created by the institutional power, culturally postulated ethos of one society, and protective cognitive or emotional responses based on a personal merit and subjective perspective. The first responsive motto of the human psyche is to be self-protective, to achieve physical well being, and psychological stability. An exposure to enormous stream of bad and negative information rises the stress and endangers the person’s stability to rationally respond and cope with everyday life in an efficient way.
With the Internet accessibility, the flood of wireless accessories such as i-pads, smart-phones, gaming systems, and constant media bombardment we have an ability to access too much information to be processed in a qualitative way, but at the same time, we are damning ourselves not to see some unfolding critical issues that can hit us in the head in the near future. Perhaps, we focus on relationships, friends, strategies of self-improvement, but we are missing to see a the larger picture of reality in which we live. How to balance out to know enough to be an informed citizen of the world, and to be enough affectionate person devoted to the family, friends, neighborhood, or a local community?
There is no final answer to this complex question. I do think that we all, from time to time, close eyes before the unfolding crisis that we do not want see, address, or really get to the bottom of the problem. This is a form of the self-censorship and escaping from the path for the truth search. Whenever one sees something that appears to be a form of injustice, deeply troubling and ethically wrong conduct brought to awareness by the government controlled media (censored), or something that is profoundly inspiring, no person should step back,
Drone Me With Truth, Let Me Fly on the “Angelus Novus” Wings!
Whatever makes us alive, motivated, and engaged, we should pursue the inquiry further, following step by step. My motto is that freedom always liberates, no matter what. You may say, but what if the freedom of expression becomes bothersome, and many people do not want to hear truth that is challenging, or have been taught to be unaware to see the truth, or just avoid negativity that comes with exposing a complex crisis? This is just a great moment in the essay to recall Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World, “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
Test yourself. Do you knowingly or unknowingly self-censorship critical news and matters relevant to the society in which you live? Do you live in a self-imposed cocoon where you do not allow the suffering of others to freely speak and be a part of your awareness?
For example, do you know about the use of drones in contemporary warfare by the USA government? At current count, more than one hundred sixty innocent children had been killed by drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other middle-eastern countries. Some say this is underestimated.
The drone war is fought in a way that resembles a video game; the military personal is thousands of miles away, at a computer, stationed at a base, and attacking targets from afar. He or she is not looking in the eyes of targets, not seeing, smelling, hearing the blast of the bloody killing, often, leaving beyond (note, the higher level of PTSD being recorded for these computer fighters) the computer screen the image of an innocent woman, man, and child bleeding, suffering, or dying.
If someone would ask you would you ever approve the killing of the innocent people, women, and children on a foreign soil by the USA forces, most likely, you would say, absolutely not. If you are not aware of what does the drone war mean and how many innocent people are affected by drone attacks, here are some resources that will make a difference in raising awareness and focus reader’s attention on this fiery problem. The journalists Robert Greenwald brings his extensive research regarding the drone wars and he makes possible for information to be available to the American readers. His activism and journalism shows that truth matters, his work on critical topics make a difference.
Robert Greenwald’s journalism and activism helped victims to come to the USA and testify before the congress. CNN coverage of Congressional briefing for drone strike survivors:
Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars by Robert Greenwald. Note: Right now you can watch the whole movie for free on the Internet if you click on the link bellow. Do not self-censor important truth. Here is the website link: http://unmanned.warcosts.com/
Check the article by Kelly James Clark
The Psycho Logic of Drones
Jeremy Scahill: A Short History of Drone Warfare
The strategy of the Call of Duty “covert” or “dirty ” wars, operated secretively, behind the scenes of any public accountability are downplayed and often served to the public wrapped in misrepresentations and lies. In the video above, Jeremy Scahill defines the USA involvement in Central and Latin America before two decades ago as the “proxy war mentality,’ “the micro-wars,” based on covert operations, and he states this model is used in the present drone war. The analogy is well matched, with a difference that contemporary drone wars represent the direct actions executed by the USA government orders, and covert element of the wars comes from the ineffective mainstream media lethargy to present critical aspects of these wars. The wars of this kind violate basic human rights, the Geneva convention, and all kinds of the international law statues.
The “micro-covert” model of the war is exemplified in the Central America in the 80s, and it’s enough to remember the USA involvement in supporting Contras in Nicaragua and the civil war in El Salvador. Today, a large amount of information is available about the involvement of the School of Americas (SOA, renamed, 2000, into the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC, but still in existence following the same mission and the manual), stationed on the USA soil, Fort Benning, Georgia, USA, paid by taxpayers money, which graduates receive a high level training in warfare and covert operations. In the 80s the SOA graduates caused various crises in Central American countries. Specifically, El Salvador’s civil war showed the ugliest face involving human atrocities–the killing of the village people (El Mozote, Las Hojas massacres), the Jesuit missionaries and their household staff, rape, torture, killings of the USA nuns and the church missionary women, the killing of the journalist, and the final culmination had been reached in the execution killing style of Bishop Romero. Does the USA people forget so quickly the darkness of the Angel of History?
Even today, the SOA watch movement, founded by Father Roy Bourgeois, features a vivid activist movement against this “school of assassins,” which graduates are responsible for various atrocities in the Central American countries. But the school remains opened even today. You can check the following links, which will give you more information about the SOA Watch Movement and their findings: http://www.soaw.org/; http://soaw.org/november/en/
Here is a short summary of what we know about the SOA’s involvement so far when comes to the atrocities in Central America, especially, El Salvadorian civil war:
Before two years ago, I, myself, became deeply troubled with the limited news coming out about the use of drones in the premised war zones. I saw that drone war was modeling new challenges in war affairs and that civilians were heavily affected. In order to express my view on this unfolding crises I wrote a poem. I used Walter Benjamin’s and Paul Klee’s perspectivism on the “Angelus Novus.” The tragic Angel of History stands as a warning symbol of the modern art for Paul Klee that represents an unspoken horror related to his service in the Army during World War I. Walter Benjamin writes his texts decades later referring to Paul Klee’s “Angelus Novus” painting evoking his profoundly tragic experiences in witnessing horrors in the dawn of World War II. Coming from Croatia, that was a part of the former Yugoslavia, I experienced the war, and was hoping, once when decided to stay in the USA, that I would never see again pictures of wounded, children, women, and men. More than this, I had a deep faith in democracy and the USA political self-governance, but I never thought that I would look in the pictures of ultimate suffering caused the USA government. The Angel of History again shadowed my path, but the Angel is here to speak, not be shut and silent with bandage of fear over the mouth. We are all shadowed by the wings of the “Angelus Novus,” now the new Angel of History that has to be demasked, and presented in the power from the writer’s pen. No true writer should close her/his eyes before the present Angel of History, that “Angelus Novus” that carries on the wings the blood of innocent victims and their unspoken words.
“Angelus Novus”: The Death of the Word
“Every work of art is an uncommitted crime” – Theodor Adorno
“The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” G. W. F. Hegel
bl[e]a[c]k ROSE gore hurls
caught in Mind’s Eye Predator
poppies fingerprints on a touch-screen
vile toy hooked on the fisherman’s pole:
remotely strikes fire shattering
luster of one more innocent play,
a wing shadow passing dessert
over child’s bloody eyes
gasping in a splash of blood–
burns crushing in an absence of the collapsed drone last cry;
lost limb leg and splintered arms
shrapnel seeds spread tailing the Phantom Ray–
Angel’s Gorgon Stare falling of the dusk:
but no Word shines
no Word is to be heard,
no Word is life,
no light to illuminate this matter dark;
stuck on a pin tip of the magnetic needle split spin
Angel’s diving shriek cracks sinking aerial compass mum
before Word, beneath crust,
clad in Iron Eater
dormant in Earth’s mantle zero-hour,
covert flattened stealthy Angel
with risen wings still fettered to the Dragon Eye–
silent is the hemorrhaged image
dripping plasma over Blue Devil Blimp tint
escaping photons on one-on-one-touch-end-er’s-war-game screen
there is just a pile of colors presence
bunk is History
the red stained silicon curtain turning pitch burnt dark
James Jeffrey: Ex-Drone operator:
Poem inspiration lines:
John 1-5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .He was in the beginning with God. . . in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. . . . The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
While writing, I am thinking is it appropriate to publish this picture of the drone attack, a mother and the two children. In doing so, I am aware of the psychological and emotional level that this picture may bring to my audience that expect poetry and writing that deals with sensibility, love, hope, beauty of expression. One can see that a process of self-censorship is ongoing. Do I dare to touch reader’s expectations, sanctity of peace, and bring upon a chaos of war, a bloody wings of the Angel of History hoovering over our peaceful afternoon? I was aware of these victims horrific pictures when I published my poem “Angelus Novus and Death of the Word.” The poem title expresses a powerless silence of the onlooker who finds such pictures while trying to critically evaluate information and sort out through the festering pile of ideologies and see what is actually the case. At the moment when I looked at the pictures of war like this, I remembered Walter Benjamin’s text and his essay on Angel of History.
“There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. It shows an angel who seems about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned toward the past. Where a chain of events appears before us, he sees on single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives him irresistibly into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows toward the sky. What we call progress is this storm.”
–from Walter Benjamin 1940 work, “On the Concept of History,” Gesammelte Schriften I, 691-704. SuhrkampVerlag. Frankfurt am Main, 1974. Translation: Harry Zohn, from Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. 4: 1938-1940 (Cambridge: Harvard University Pres, 2003), 392-93.
There is No Angel of History in My Backyard….
At the end of this flight on the wings of the Angel of History, you may think that the drone war is not the challenge al pari to the world wars, the “Angelus Novus” of World War I or World War II. Furthermore, you may approach to this problem from the utilitarian point of view, very much reinforced by the present government officials, and justify the drone war by reasoning that drones ultimately save lives of American soldiers, and if there are a few victims here and there, somewhere in the Middle East, no big deal, the victims are just a happenstance, unfortunate few, the “collateral damage.”
You may think, drones will never endanger anybody here in the USA, me, or my family and friends. Think twice. Would you think in the same way in an year or two years down the road, when your piece of sky will be crowded with the surveillance drones? What at that moment, when the full cycle of understanding knocks back at your door while staring at the Mind’s Eye or Predator? Will you fear, then. your own shadow whilst shrinking smaller and smaller under the rising noon and soul-camera sun?
Drones over U.S. get OK by Congress,
“Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s … a drone, and it’s watching you. That’s what privacy advocates fear from a bill Congress passed this week to make it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace.
The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015.
Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.”
At the end of this long walk with the Angel of History, share your thoughts with us. Do you feel that the knowledge about the overwhelming surveillance via the Internet and telecommunication systems is hindering the freedom of expression? Do you feel your mouth is shut? Can your freely speak and express your informed arguments, thoughts, and concerns?
While you are thinking, here are more interesting discussions that may spark your interest, “They’re watching us: So what?” featuring Greenwald, Schneier, Bamford, Dorfman”: