Funny Pages

I was recently looking on the net at the various comics I enjoy reading each day when I came upon one that was trending toward political commentary. As the trend became obvious to the reader the final square of the comic was totally black. The next day the entire comic consisted of four black squares with a message in a small box in the center telling us that the Federal Bureau of Media Content had determined that the content of the comic was “inappropriate” and would therefore not be shown. My heart skipped a beat as I went to other comic pages to see if censorship was now the order of the day; but it was not. I realized that the artist was making a comment about the possibilities facing us all of a repressive government deciding for us what we can and cannot read or hear. The following day the comic strip focused on an innocuous “knock-knock” joke that was, we are told, approved by the Bureau.

Needless to say, this was disquieting since I, like all of us I suppose, simply take for granted that we can say, read, write, and think as we wish. It is other societies that must worry about censorship and the closing of lines of communication among dissidents. But then I reflect on the distinct possibility that this could very well happen in this country in spite of the First Amendment. Machiavelli taught us those lessons years ago.

I then realized that my own urge to write about the things that matter to me together with my ability to read others who agree or disagree with me have to say is something I simply take for granted. But I should not. We live at a time when those in power have the ability — and the desire I daresay — to shut down lines of communication and silence all opposition to the doctrines they regard as appropriate, to wit, those doctrines that support their political agendas and help them maintain control over the minds of the citizens of this country —  increasing numbers of whom are becoming docile and are apparently willing to go along with the political forces at work wherever those forces may happen to lead.

At the same time, I realize that I must guard against paranoia. My example was merely one comic strip which was making a bold statement. I must beware the tendency to leap to the nearest conclusion and suppose that censorship is waiting in the wings to be ushered forth on the stage of my realities.  In saying this I recall the sage comment: “just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” It is wise to be cautious but it also behooves us all to keep our sense of balance (and our sense of humor) while we count our blessings that we live in a country that allows dissent and encourages disagreement with one another and with those in power. So far.

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14 thoughts on “Funny Pages

  1. I’d love to see that comic! Yes, censorship becomes a greater problem; Ecuador’s president has often reacted quite strongly to those who criticize… people should never lose their power to speak and be heard, no matter what they want to share. thanks, hugh!

    • Surprisingly, the Comic is “Baldo,” which tends to be rather bland — though it features an Hispanic family and the artist obviously has important things to say from time to time.

  2. When our representative as President says that anyone who says bad things are either lying, crooked media or fake news, we need to remember there is only one constant in this equation. Thus far, the Trump Presidential legacy can be summed up in three words – chaos, lying and incompetence. And, those are not my words, they are words of conservative columnists.

    So, to your point, the man censors governmental scientists where they are worried about not being able t0 access world class research. He bullies reporters and anyone who stands in his way, or in some situations, just is there. Plus, he wants to divert money from fighting anti-government extremists in the US, which are the far greater problem, to fight Islamic extremists. So, why would he stop at wanting to censor comic strips.

      • Hugh, I watched last week’s John Oliver show “Last Week Tonight” yesterday after the inane Trump press conference. Oliver could do the same show this week. One of the themes was where does DT get his news. He traced a couple of his comments back to Alex Jones and Breitbart, two alt right entertainment sites. The 3 million illegal voters issue was promulgated by Jones after picking it up from a blogger who made it up, e.g. Plus, we should all remember that Jones feels Sandy Hook’s massacre was staged.

        What most interested me yesterday is a while beating up on the media, Trump was caught in a lie about the margin of his electoral college being the largest since Reagan’s. An NBC reporter said that is not true, cited the real data, and asked “How can we trust you?” He of course said one of his staffers told him that, but he had heard it as well.

        Oliver said what happens is a circular false narrative. Trump reads it or hears it. He repeats it. Others repeat it. And, now Trump says others are saying it. They are only saying it because you did, which obviously does not make it right. This is how his followers take what he says hook. line and sinker, when he lies far more than anyone, politician or otherwise.

        Keith

  3. Hugh, thank you for this. While most of us do, indeed, take the First Amendment for granted, it is something we always have to stand up for, ensure all the rights in it are protected. This hits close to the bone for me, of course. I twice took public officials, including a district judge, to court — once to the Minnesota Supreme Court — over First Amendment rights. And several times I took local public officials to the Minnesota administrative law judge/panel that rules on Data Privacy disputes. There’s always a risk in doing so; would my paper or I face retribution from the public officials, would there be reader backlash, etc? But standing up for the First Amendment means doing so even with the risk. And we never lost. Something like 11-0 in the cases we filed, so that always gave me hope that wise minds in positions to decide would do what was right.

    But that’s never a guarantee, especially in such a chaotic moment like we have now, and with not only the president but many of his minions — White House aides and dipsticks like Iowa congressman Steve King — constantly harassing journalists and judges. There are also, I believe, about 10 states in which Republican legislators have introduced bills to try to curtail protests, another way in which the First Amendment faces a threat.

    There are lot of ways to stand up, too. Your blog is an excellent one. So is that cartoon, which, by asking us to imagine what it could be like with a blackout, gets us to shiver, to say, no this will not happen here.

      • Ironically, after I posted my comment, Trump held his insanely strange news conference where he tried to pin much of the blame for his administration’s failed start on the media. If he can’t outright censor, he’s trying to undermine by hammering the “fake news” line and accusing the media of breaching national security by printing what’s been leaked (of course, printing leaked information has often been done in the interest of national security and the national good. But in a world of alternative facts, that is never considered.)

        After the news conference, I looked up some footage from a news conference in 1973 where Nixon assailed the media for its insistent reporting, saying it had shaken the confidence of people in his administration. About one year later, Nixon was no longer president. Something to keep in mind.

  4. A chilling post, my friend. This is, perhaps, my biggest concern among many … that we will ultimately be robbed of our freedom to communicate openly, to speak and hear the truth. It is why I so often look toward Turkey, where that very thing has happened … is still happening … and realize that it could, indeed, happen here. I understand your comments about balancing the paranoia … I sometimes wonder if my own musings have gone beyond the edge of reality, and I try to avoid ‘doomsday scenarios’, but these days it is difficult to know exactly where that edge of reality is … much of what we see today would have been unfathomable two years ago. Strange new world we are living in, and it makes it difficult to know where the limits are.

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