PBW is going to get political for a minute. Please return your tray tables to the upright position.
Freedom of speech in America is always a serious issue, not just for those of us who depend on the First Amendment to protect us and our craft, but now the everyday average citizen who keeps an internet weblog.
To back track a little, censorship is basically about crowd control. Before the internet and the information age in which we live, politicians, the media and, by extension, religious leaders and big corporations decided what information was made available to Americans, and what was withheld. They pushed their own agendas and suppressed those which they opposed. They told us what to like, what to hate, and what to think. It's the traditional way leaders run a country and exercise power and influence over their populace.
Despite our laws separating church and state, a troubling amount of religious factions were/are involved in this censorship and media manipulation. Religious factions are the reason why the AIDs plague, for example, was not dealt with when it should have been, in the initial stages of the epidemic. No one wanted to talk about a disease that primarily affected gay men, because religious leaders labeled gay men as evil and the disease that was killing them as a punishment from God.
Ronald Regan, the much-loved U.S. President who received such a wonderful obituary when he finally dropped dead, wouldn't even say the word AIDs until April 2, 1987, when he issued this unconcerned statement: "How that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government. But let's be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call 'value neutral.' After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons."
Many people wept when Regan died. I wasn't one of them.
AIDs had already been identified six years before Regan spoke. One of his family friends, actor Rock Hudson, died of AIDs the year before the president made the little above mention. By the time our government acknowledged there even was a disease, nearly 100,000 people were infected with HIV. It spread beyond the gay community. People were infected through blood transfusions, IV needles and hetero sex. The God-punishment disease started killing housewives and Little Leaguers and newborn infants.
What was the price tag? The CDC has published online statistics in America only up to 2003, so these figures aren't even accurate:
"The cumulative estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2003 in the United States is 929,985. Adult and adolescent AIDS cases total 920,566 with 749,887 cases in males and 170,679 cases in females. Through the same time period, 9,419 AIDS cases were estimated in children under age 13."
How many lives could we have saved if information about AIDs had not been suppressed by our own government? Here's the CDC death toll stats:
The cumulative estimated number of deaths of persons with AIDS through 2003 is 524,060, including 518,568 adults and adolescents, and 5,492 children under age 13.
The internet has taken access to information away from the media and the politicians, and made great progress in destroying censorship control. Anyone who followed the last Presidential election saw it happen in real time. Today anyone can be and is a source of information, opinion and debate on any subject. Having those resources accessible and available is why I consider myself to be living in the most enlightened time in American history.
That time will quickly come to an end if the internet is regulated. That could happen as early as next week.
Everyone should read Tech Central Station.com Editor Nick Schulz's interview with FEC Commissioner Brad Smith about regulation of political speech on the Internet. (Link nicked from ProfessorBainbridge.com.)
The FEC hearing is scheduled for June 28-29 in Washington D.C. To see what you can do to help fight the proposed FEC regulation, go over to the Center for Democracy and Technology's Protect Online Political Speech page. If you're still not sure why you should help fight this regulation, read this page.