Alex Jacobs: Self-censorship in the age of freedom and liberty

The Charlie Hebdo controversy. Photo from Newsroompost / Twitter

Mohawk poet Alex Jacobs discusses censorship. religion and the Charlie Hebdo controversy:
Charlie Hebdo has been skewering French political figures and Christianity for years. It’s been fined for anti-Jewish cartoons and nearly shut down. What Charlie Hebdo represents is freedom and liberty, but not fraternity and not quite equality, and what it did was perceived as racist and dehumanizing in some quarters. The narrative we hear from “the Arab Street” is that the Western world is at war with Islam, and such dehumanizing propaganda is part of war. Native Americans have suffered this too, and some consider the Washington Redskins pejorative a continuation of that racist history. While there is concern about rising anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, nationalist right wing parties in Europe, we see the same thing here: politicians promise jobs and economic stability but instead push austerity measures on citizens while pushing profits to shareholders, and donations to politician’s campaign funds.

All this fighting over free speech – corporations can purchase all the free speech they want for political campaigns – while citizens’ voices are being shut down everywhere. Satire is, or ought to be, sophisticated but look at all the inane, unsophisticated claptrap coming from extremists here in this country. They act proudly uneducated, they talk about burning/banning books and whole religions, and they wage proxy wars against women, children, “others” and the environment. They campaign against immigrants and the homeless, they are in denial about science and history, and they complain they are losing their Christian identity as a nation.

Charlie Hebdo did not do the “civilized” thing of self-censoring, so as not to offend sensibilities, but they made a statement—an inelegant, oversimplified and ultimately dangerous statement. We self-censor all the time because it allows society to act as if nothing criminal is being done behind the scenes, don’t upset the apple cart, don’t rock the boat, don’t throw out the baby with bathwater, don’t mess with my social security check, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. We have invented so many terms to mask the facts and cover the smell of corruption. We are being censored daily as corporate-consumer crimes are being covered up, and we keep eating it up as food, entertainment, or some other commodity that we can’t live without.

Get the Story:
Alex Jacobs: Speak Up, or Someone Else Will Speak For You (Indian Country Today 2/19)

Join the Conversation