Breaking up with your favorite racist childhood classic books

A good article analyzes the strong cultural reactions to voluntary changes made by the companies that manage the “Potato Head” toy line and the books of Dr. Seuss. Cries of “censorship” and “cancel culture” rallied passionate citizens who defended their nostalgic memories of childhood and sought targets for their rage. I just read an article on new allegations against Peter Yarrow. I knew that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14yo, though I didn’t remember he was pardoned by Jimmy Carter. When I teach Shakespeare I emphasize that yes, he was a product of his times, but that his…

Our Publication Stands By the Decision to Give a Platform to the Sea Monster Trying to Devour Our Entire Town

We understand many readers find the kraken’s point of view dangerous, but that is why we offered it for public scrutiny and debate. Though Trallonous’ position may have seemed clear from the moment he regurgitated thousands of sailor bones to block every exit out of town, it is always important to critically examine where the other side is coming from. Doing so allows us to better understand the sea demon’s perspective (we should be his food) as well as our own (no we shouldn’t).

Twitter changes strategy in battle against internet ‘trolls’

Reducing the reach of abusive tweets is better than censorship on the one hand, and nothing on the other. Of course, this is another reminder that the social media titans can and do manipulate what we see. Reducing the impact of bullies benefits Twitter’s bottom line, which is the same reason for every change to the Twitter algorithm. Twitter Inc on Tuesday revised its strategy for fighting abusive internet “trolls,” saying it would use behavioral signals to identify harassers on the social network and then limit the visibility of their tweets. | Tweets from those accounts will appear lower in certain…

Good example of ‘do NOT remove things from photos.’

Hat tip to my former student Kiley Fischer, who brought this story to my attention saying “Good example of ‘do NOT remove things from photos.’” Longtime City Paper reader Edward King-Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh’s Stanton Heights neighborhood was among those who alerted Deitch that his publication included a photo of a woman tattoo artist wearing a T-shirt for Aggravated Assault — a white-power band he’s observed “trying to infiltrate the punk scene in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh.” | “I’m a very tolerant person, and I’m not a huge believer in censorship,” King-Smith said. “My concern is the normalizing of neo-Nazi…

“The threat is no longer simply from government censorship.”

After using examples from Warsaw and Prague, the 2007 edition of my journalism textbook predicts: The threat is no longer simply from government censorship. With new technology, government is more likely to subvert the press by trying to discredit its integrity and dilute its influence. It has more tools to do that in the twenty-first century, creating pseudo-journalism in the form of faux news websites, video news releases, subsidies to “media personalities” willing to accept money to promote policy, and more. –Kovach and Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism (2nd ed)  

How Facebook – the Wal-Mart of the internet – dismantled online subcultures

Facebook wants you to spend more time on Facebook, so why should they promote links pointing to content that exists outside of Facebook? Facebook’s approach to content control means that communities that use Facebook have to play by Facebook’s rules. Users have limited ability to communicate with Facebook’s administrators when there’s a problem, as we’ve seen when drag queens demanded changes to the “real name” policy, when nursing mothers rejected censorship of breastfeeding photos and when LGBT activists insisted that photos of same-gender couples kissing shouldn’t be blocked for being “obscene.” In all of these cases, Facebook attempted to enforce a…

Facebook’s Censorship Problem Is What Happens When a Tech Company Controls the News

Facebook makes editorial decisions that affect its presentation of news through its “news” (?) feed. But Facebook is in the business to make money for Facebook, and the trending topics feed is just a tool to keep people on Facebook. Someone needs to assign Facebook a faculty adviser. In the space of a single day, Facebook has managed to: Draw condemnation from a Norwegian news organization for censoring a famous work of photojournalism from the Facebook News Feed. Delete a Facebook post by the prime minister of Norway in which she reposted the photo and criticized Facebook for its censorship.…

Terminated for Reading an Allen Ginsberg Poem?

In February two students complained about an Allen Ginsberg poem that, at the request of a fellow student, was shared in Olio’s AP English class at South Windsor High School in Connecticut. A media uproar followed, and Olio was essentially forced to resign. Most of the facts do not appear to be in dispute – and are more nuanced than the ‘students forced to read shocking homoerotic poem’ media narrative. The overriding question is whether a celebrated teacher with nearly two decades of experience should be forced from the classroom for a single decision – even if one views that decision as a…

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How Facebook and Twitter control what you see about Ferguson

On Twitter, I see tear-gassed civilians, heavily armed cops, and reporters being arrested. On Facebook, I see people dumping buckets on their heads. The Washington Post offers a good overview of a complex, and important, issue. “The study found that, because Facebook friend networks are often composed of ‘weak ties’ where the threshold for friending someone is low, users were often negatively surprised to see their acquaintances express political opinions different from their own. This felt alienating and, overall, made everyone less likely to speak up on political matters (and therefore, create content for Facebook).”For University of North Carolina sociologist…

Phoenix journalist admits ‘bad reporting’ in claiming White House press censorship

NEWS FLASH: If your sources are an off-the-record comment and a thing you chose to do, and you claim that everyone is forced to do the thing you chose to do, then your news item will probably fall apart. “I took a conversation about the preparation for a press briefing and muddied it with my own experience of wanting to provide a question for the press briefing. I incorrectly applied the process to everyone. That was wrong and it was bad reporting,” she said in a statement.–Phoenix journalist admits “bad reporting” in claiming White House press censorship – NY Daily…

Sale of Philadelphia newspapers raises bias concerns

If political powerbrokers want to buy newspapers, what are the obligations of the journalists involved? What if the journalists, as a group, tend to agree with the politics of the purchasers? “Nobody wants to stifle news,” said Mr. Rendell, a two-term mayor of Philadelphia in the 1990s. Journalists at both papers are so concerned that nearly 300 of them signed a public statement last week calling on the current and any future owners to protect the integrity of their reporting. They said the current owner, Philadelphia Media Network (PMN), has censored their coverage of the sale. “As The Philadelphia Inquirer,…

Relax: Twitter’s New Censorship Policy Is Actually Good for Activists

The new censorship technology announced by Twitter allows the company to block tweets or users on a country-by-country basis. Previously, blocking tweets had to be done globally, meaning if an oppressive regime asked Twitter to remove a tweet or block a user, it had to be done for everyone in the world. Now, Twitter can remove that tweet in that country, but allow the world to see it. But wouldn’t it be better for activists if Twitter just refused to comply with requests from oppressive regimes? Actually, no. If a government asks Twitter to remove an offending tweet, the company…

Muslims speak out against NPR's political correctness

While a Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), was instrumental in getting National Public Radio (NPR) to fire Juan Williams, some Muslims are speaking out against succumbing to the censorship of political correctness. —Caroline May, The Daily Caller “But it’s just Facebook gossip,” my students sometimes say — even my journalism students — when I point out the rules of libel, defamation, and common courtesy apply everywhere, all the time, for anyone who plans a career in the media. Should Juan Williams have been fired by NPR for saying he feels uncomfortable when he’s on a plane with…

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‘Sexual Depravity,’ Student Fees and the Student Press

News about a free-speech dust-up in the department where I used to work at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire: This fall, the English department, the publication’s then “administrative home,” voted unanimously to sever its ties to Flip Side, citing, in a statement, interest in “fostering the responsible use of free speech and the mutually respectful community envisioned by the university’s Centennial Plan.” The move left Flip Side in a precarious position in terms of renewing its university funding until Monday, when a new adviser – a geology professor – stepped in. “That very controversial article that was in the Flip Side, it definitely led to…

Above the Law?

Inside Higher Ed: Student newspaper advisers are something of an endangered species these days. They often get caught in the middle when administrators and student journalists clash over content, and in more than a few cases on college campuses in recent years, advisers — sometimes faculty members with tenure or tenurelike protections, but often vulnerable staff members — have found themselves losing their jobs. (High school newspaper advisers are even more vulnerable.) “All you have to do is look around the country to see how many conflicts there are,” said Mark Goodman, the Knight Chair of Scholastic Journalism at Kent…

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Religious, artisitic, economic, and political aspects of the York Corpus Christi Plays

From an article I published in 1997, back when I thought I was pretty hot stuff to include postage-stamp-sized video clips on a website. The website also featured a Java simulation of the outdoor pageant that celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi (which is today). The outdoor theatrical event in the medieval city of York, England, known to its performers and audiences as the “Corpus Christi Play,” is a collection of brief religious plays that together represent the story of Christian salvation. The York cycle is one of four that have survived in more or less complete form. The others…

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Disemvoweling

New to me… disemvoweling: a compromise between preserving free speech and letting trolls take over a public online forum. In the fields of Internet discussion and forum moderation, disemvoweling, (also spelled disemvowelling) which appears to model the word disemboweling, is the removal of vowels from text either as a method of self-censorship (for example, either “G*d” or “G-d” for those whose religious beliefs preclude writing God in full), or as a technique by forum moderators to censor unwanted posting, such as spam, internet trolling or political opinions.[1] The net effect of disemvoweling text is to render it illegible or legible only…

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Jolie accused of hypocrisy over press 'gag'

The New York premiere of the film, on Wednesday, was held to support the organisation Reporters Without Borders, which defends journalists against persecution and combats censorship and laws that undermine press freedom. But several journalists covering the premiere objected when Jolie’s lawyer demanded they sign pre-interview contracts limiting exactly what they could and could not ask her. —Catherine Elsworth —Jolie accused of hypocrisy over press ‘gag’ (Telegraph) Bravo to the reporters who refused to sign the contract and declined the opportunity to promote the movie.

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Ray Bradbury: Farehheit 451 Misinterpreted

Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands. This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship. Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial…

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Do Video Games Kill? (PDF)

Politicians and other moral crusaders frequently create “folk devils,” individuals or groups defined as evil and immoral. Folk devils allow us to channel our blame and fear, offering a clear course of action to remedy what many believe to be a growing problem. Video games, those who play them, and those who create them have become contemporary folk devils because they seem to pose a threat to children. Such games have come to represent a variety of social anxieties: about youth violence, new computer technology, and the apparent decline in the ability of adults to control what young people do…