Lindsay Newland Bowker

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“Is Political Censorship of Art on The Upswing in Free Nations Around the World? Is this a Danger Signal In Modern Democracies?

Freedom of Artistic Expression is a hallmark of democracies whose constitutions protect freedom of speech. to which freedom in art is integrally linked . Suppression of art for its political content is associated with the reign of dictators. and yet it seems that post 9/11 especially political censorship of art is emerging in democracies around the world.. Film seems to be a special focus of this emerging political interference:

A few recent examples:

Canada: in its tax code revisions eliminated tax credit for films “contrary to public policy.” http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=1ffd1b0f-5437-471b-9da9-02106d42057b

South Africa: Andreis Botha’s sculpture of the three elephants , commissioned by a municipality was ordered taken down under political pressure about its possible political meaning http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=155835

Australia: Azlan McLennan has been repeatedly subject to political censure since well before 9/11. For example one of his pieces, Fifty-Six, which featured an Israeli flag accompanied by statistics about the plight of Palestinians since the 1948 formation of the Israeli state, was removed by Melbourne City Council. http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/34618

United States In a globally famous case Citizens United, a conservative extremist film maker was accused by the Federal Elections Commission of “electioneering” for its film “Hillary the Movie” http://jonathanturley.org/2010/01/21/supreme-court-rules-5-4-against-campaign-limitations-in-the-hillary-the-movie-case/

Are there other examples you can bring from democracies around the world ?

Is this same old sam e old or is this new?

Is there an important line being crossed ?

To protect our own freedoms shoud we be more attuned to these political infringements on art?

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    May 25 2012: The danger of democracy is the stamp it can give the 'will of the majority' in silencing dissenting minority views. Work of art could be censored by a democratic government that is protecting the 'will of the people'.
    But, is the government really offering selfless and dedicated service? Is the artist really expressing honest opinions? or is he or she just pursuing a personal agenda?
    Democracy is rooted in freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Let every voice be heard; and let every one be known for what she or he stands for. Let no voice present itself as the sole voice of the people. Words will be tested and the ones worth its strength will stand.
    The recent case of the Jacob Zuma painting in South Africa gives room for so much thought.
    Should art be presented without consideration for dignity, mutual respect and ubuntu? Is the South African president persecuted because he is a polygamist?
    Should president Zuma re-examine his ways?

    The Nigerian government banned the Oscar-nominated South African film, 'District 9' .
    Was the film made to ridicle Nigerians and Africans? Why should the government worry about the filmmaker's view?

    Democratic nations tend more towards censorship of art because arts in the 21st century is as influential in moulding human reasoning as it was in the distant past.
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      May 25 2012: Feyisao

      Hello, welcome and many many thanks for your observations which probe in deep and interesting ways into the risks of censorship in democracies ( the tryanny of the majority) . Two great examples: of "political censorship of art" censorship for political content or effect.
      The government ban on the Oscar naminated film District 9 and
      Brett Murray's painting "The Spear", a portrait of Jack Zuma with his genitals exposed (http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/row-over-untelevised-court-tears-1.1304696) .

      The controversy around "the Spear" has a bit of both an attempt at political censoship and this important notion of yours of the tyranny of the majority.

      I think in this case, perhaps in all these examples we have pur forward, the two are integrally related in how censorhip of art by government for its political content is being tolerated in democacies around the world.

      The elected leader or party dominant legislative body is operating from the "tyranny of the majority" and trusting that normal operation of censorship in art will be supported or at least not oppsed by the populace via the "tyranny of the majority"
      .


      You have expressed that so powerfully and clearly:

      "Democracy is rooted in freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Let every voice be heard; and let every one be known for what she or he stands for. Let no voice present itself as the sole voice of the people. Words will be tested and the ones worth its strength will stand."

      There is a wisdom tradition that says "there can be no unity without diversity" ..Without dissent, without the voice annd vision of individuals who do not agree with or who even oppose the majority there is no helathy dyanamic of growth and change possible and s there is a risk of insiutionalizing a temprary majority into a permanent one when the tyranny of the majority reaches into artistic expression?

      Can you tell us more about District 9 and its censorship and tell us more baout your take on "the "spear" ?
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    Jun 12 2012: Citizen's United "Hillary The Movie" Well I just saw Hillary the movie and cannot avoid the conclusion that the action by the Federal Elections Commission amounted to censorship of free speech, as the court found. The documentary film used only public documents and records film clips and newspaper arricles on subject we are all familiar with to do a character/integrity profile of Hillary Clinton around the theme "the ends justify the means". The actual news stories and film clips ( showing here contradicting herself sometimes within the same camapign speech (e.e. on bringing the troups home) were presented with commnetray by folk like Ann Coulter ( who actually says nothing outrageou sin the whole piece) and Tony Bankley.

    Objectively and as a decades long Hillary fan I would have to say the film presented truths about Hullary that were there all the time to see and that in her tenure as Secretary of State I have seen myself ( her staright out lies and deceptions on Egypt for example) . And that's what made it powerful...that it definitely was more than a political attack ad full of lies and innuendo. Most of what the fiml pointed to I had discovered myse;f on comparing what she has said publicly about.important events and America's invole,ent in them annd the discoverable documented truth.

    It is as defensible and has as much integrity asMucahel Moor'es documentary or cosciousness raising documentaries like Blue Gold.

    To me, having now seen the film and knowing the details of the Citizens United Decision pretty well, I would have to say I agree with the Supreme's Court that the Federal Election Commission villated Citizen's United free speech in trying to call the film electioneering( because it was relaesed within 60 days of a presidential election on a presidential candidate)
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    May 30 2012: "Free speech, like some (but certainly not all) art, seems too often to be communicated through the voice of the benefactor before it is seen (or heard) through the eyes (ears) of the beholder. " Andrea Grazzini Walstrom



    This is from a post Andrea made here in an exchange between us exploring the meaning of our tea party governors removal of a Department of labor mural celebrating Maine's history of work and workers and referencing the labor movement ( child labor, the oppression of textile mills etc,)



    What is protected as "art" or "free speech" can and does include material like Citizen's United's "Hilary the Movie" where the point is to promote a bias and ideology. That was certainly the case in Citizen's United's film , "Hillary the Movie" ands in Michael Moore's powerfully persuasive political documentaries like "Capitalism: A Love Story".

    The principle that we have an inherent,not granted. right of "free speech" does not exclude "speech " that has persuasion as its intention, or ideology its expression.

    The labor panl was a commission.In art commissions, even those of Michael Angelo and Leonardo in a very non democratic papal government is that the benefactor , the entity commissioning the art, never owns the artist. The palette, style, and content grow from the spirit of the artist from a place beyond words or conscious thought. Often the product is not at all what was expected and intended by a benefactor . The conceptualization and execution of the labor piece is from Judy Taylor's spirit..only the money paid and the agreed subject "the history of labor in Miane" came from the benfactor..the rest is art as art emanates and works on our spirits.

    Art reaches us at a different level..a subliminal level beyond language .It is spirit to spirit.

    From spirit that we form insight and then thought and then speech.. Political censorship of art for political content seems to me a violation of spirit,. Thought herbicide.
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    May 28 2012: Lindsay,

    I don't know that I disagree with ACLU's engagement with this group, but I do scratch my head a bit on their choice of this particular battle, given the players.

    Through my cross-partisan idealist lens, I can conceive some benefit to their involvement. But through my skeptics lens, I'm not at a place where I don't sense there is something more problematic and/or ironic, at least, afoot.

    I figured the Labor history had been commissioned by an earlier Maine administration. And, my personal view is that the removal of it is unconscionable, for many reasons.

    I can't help but contrast Maine's decision here with Missouri's decision to install a bust of Rush Limbaugh, king of capitalism via hate rhetoric (some much on the same lines as the filmmakers) in its state capital.

    Free speech, like some (but certainly not all) art, seems too often to be communicated through the voice of the benefactor before it is seen (or heard) through the eyes (ears) of the beholder.

    Andrea
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      May 29 2012: There is a wisdom tradition that there can be no unity without diversity.




      These disparate, harsh even malevolent expressions, whether in speech. literature, poetry, film or painting can bring clarity by making the darkness very clear..by defining the shadows..


      In the case of the labor panels, for example, their removal has made the Governor;s attitudes to fair wages and safe working conditions clear to folk. The result is repugnance not just for the egoic removal of the work but for the ideology and values made clear by that act.



      The protection of free speech including the expression of the hateful, dark and ,malevolent, of "Hillary The Movie", ,allows for a continual dynamic refurbishing, updating and deepening of our own values, beliefs, hopes and ideals.

      We learn and grow much less when we only sit at camp fires where all hold the same values and think the same way.



      Here is further commentary by Jonathan Turley on Citizen's United

      .http://jonathanturley.org/2010/01/21/supreme-court-rules-5-4-against-campaign-limitations-in-the-hillary-the-movie-case/



      Here is a compilation of briefs including the ACLU's..

      This is all new territory for me..I have been writing about the "corporate personhood, money as free speech, we need a 26th amendment" from the beginning. I just happened to stumble into these aspects of whatthe case was about and then to connect that up with these many other acts around the wolrd of political censorhsip of art for political conten

      It is possble that money in politics ( not bribery of course) is less dangerous than the curbing of free speech by any means. No amount of money and no amount of negative campaigning can sway an formed electroate or can sway elected officials whose constituents back home are wide awake and watching.

      I agree with Jonathan Turley ( and the ACLU) that rebuilding ourselves poltically and economically towards not just sustainability but thrivability requires free speech.
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    May 28 2012: Andrea,

    I am surprised and would like to hear more of why you consider the original istallation , commissioned by the the Maine Arts Commission specifically to depict the history of labor in Maine and to be hung in the Department of Labor also a political act. Here is Judy's explanation of the Commission and details of the 11 panels which include a panel on apprenticeship, one of child labor, on the textile mills , one on Main'es first Labor Day, one on changing future of labor in Maine http://www.judytaylorstudio.com/mural1.html

    I use TED Conversations to "turn over" and explore things I am trying to understand. I feel in my gut an important connection between these acts of political censorship of art for political content and a post 9/11 impingement on many freedoms , and not just under right wing governments.

    Easy to be reactive and dismissive about our notoriously buffoonish and truly ignoarant Governor but beyond all that the act of removal struck me as fundamentally troublesome..the will of the executive in lieu of the will of the people, an "imperial" act rather that an act of a democratically elected executive.

    I am waiting to see "Hillary the Movie". I watch a lot of documentaries which as a group of art work is politcal in the sense that it expreses opinions and makes value judgments about the content. Having visited Citizen's United's web site I must say I am not looking foward to watching the film. The ACLU's point in support of Citizen's United was/is essentially that individuals do not lose their consitutional free speech protections when they speak as a collective , that an utterance that would have protection if spoken by an individual has protection if spoken by a collective of individuals, in the case of citizens united , a non porfit film company. So according to the ACLU if an individual saying those things about Hillary ( whatever they were) is protected , so is any group of individuals.
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      May 28 2012: Lindsay,

      Very savvy that the campaign group behind the movie about Hillary was able to get ACLU on it's side. And ACLU is right to defend the voice of any sincere people.

      However, if ACLU is going to defend this group, they might as well defend anti-immigrant, anti-women's rights, anti-blacks, etc. campaigners. When I see them putting power behind insuring KKK's freedom of speech rights, I'll buy defending this movie fits their mission.

      The people behind the film-msking group don't lack for voice much more than US Chamber of Commerce does. The Federal Elections Committee is charged with insuring collective vote isn't suppressed by powerful political corporations' unidentified propagandizing during campaign season. Their role is to insure citizens are able to identify by whom and why campaign propaganda is put out. Lest voters rights to make an "informed" choice are obstructed by unknown operators.

      Particularly during cacophony of campaigning that makes many throw arms up and say "I give up" due to smoke and mirrors tactics. One can imagine how campaign gurus behind this film would maximize distribution to/for their favorite campaigners under cloak a seemingly "objective" documentary timed to launch when campaigners rely on cacophony to distract from salient debates.

      I'm not sure I view the history or its installation an intentional political act. I make no assumption whether the artist did or didn't. Not to say her art is not an accurate representation of history. Only to say it appears the piece (if not her), has been politicized to address political agendas.

      Maine Arts Commission, which commissioned the piece is a state government organization. It would seem they would have been familiar with it before it's installation. Now, another part of Maine government, the Governors office, has removed it.

      Given both sides work in behalf of the government, my guess is this case is more complicated than meets the eye.

      Andrea
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      May 28 2012: Lindsay,

      Very savvy that the campaign group behind the movie about Hillary was able to get ACLU on it's side. And ACLU is right to defend the voice of any sincere people.

      However, if ACLU is going to defend this group, they might as well defend anti-immigrant, anti-women's rights, anti-blacks, etc. campaigners. When I see them putting their power behind insuring KKK's freedom of speech rights, I'll buy defending this movie fits their mission. I hope I never do.

      The people behind the film-msking group don't lack for voice much more than US Chamber of Commerce does. The Federal Elections Committee is charged with insuring collective vote isn't suppressed by powerful political corporations' unidentified propagandizing during campaign season. Their role is to insure citizens are able to identify by whom and why campaign propaganda is put out. Lest voters rights to make an "informed" choice are obstructed by unknown operators.

      Particularly during cacophony of campaigning that makes many throw arms up and say "I give up" due to smoke and mirrors tactics. One can imagine how campaign gurus behind this film would maximize distribution to/for their favorite campaigners under cloak a seemingly "objective" documentary timed to launch when campaigners rely on cacophony to distract from salient debates.

      I'm not sure I view the history or its installation an intentional political act. I make no assumption whether the artist did or didn't. Not to say her art is not an accurate representation of history. Only to say it appears the piece (if not her), has been politicized to address political agendas.

      Maine Arts Commission, which commissioned the piece is a state government organization. It would seem they would have been familiar with it before it's installation. Now, another part of Maine government, the Governors office, has removed it.

      Given both sides work in behalf of the government, my guess is this case is more complicated than meets the eye.

      Andrea
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        May 28 2012: They didn't "get the Aclu" the ACLU stepped in voluntarily because yes freedom of speech means all speech ( unless it is a crime eg hate speech whicha few have deemed not encompassed in free speech).,and of course no one is free to libel or slander..that's actionbale in tort..



        The Maine piece was commissioned during the previous governor's trem. The Maine Arts Commission is a governmnet agency(http://mainearts.maine.gov/ ) ad its mandate is to ommission art that is about ways of life in mInae, and Maine history

        Certainly none of the content of the Maine labor history piece is ideological or expresses the views of one political party over another. It is history..each image a chapter in history.
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    May 26 2012: Lindsay,

    Art is a critical vehicle for expression, particularly when other more concrete expressions come under greater scrutiny during times of civic stress. To protect our freedoms to hear these, yes, I think it is prudent to be attuned to acts to suppress them.

    That said, even in hyper-vigilant times, skilled artists can and do successfully convey abstract themes that set seeds for reflection, at least. And hopefully more.

    A new piece that comes to mind is Fatal Remedy by Antonia Felix, best known as biographer of Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story and Sonya Sotomeyer: The True American Dream. Felix's fiction themes about BigPharma parallel reality in unmistakable ways.

    Another book, going back a bit further, captures the power of art as a cultural critique. The Big Tomorrow by Larry May. It captures the many ways Hollywood communicated critical messages that informed American culture in the early to mid twentieth century. Here's how Publisher's Weekly explains it:

    "In mapping out his bold vision of how Hollywood movies of the 1930s, particularly comedies and musicals, were not mindless escapes from the Depression, but promoted egalitarian visions of democracy, May presents a startling, revisionist history of Hollywood's impact on politics and American culture. A professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota, he explores such questions as whether FDR or Will Rogers was a more influential proponent of the New Deal; how Stepin Fetchit, whose very name has become synonymous with Hollywood racism, helped the status of blacks in the motion picture industry; and how Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's road movies helped move U.S. culture from progressive ideals of the 1930s to the consumer culture of the 1950s."

    Certainly there have been issues of artist suppression. But equally as powerful is the power of artist expression to come through even in times like these. Our challenge is to abet, be alert and take action on their "clarion" call.

    Andrea
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      May 26 2012: Hello Andrea and thanks for stopping by. I like your hopeful message that attempts to suppress and control art for politcal reasons to enforce comformity with government policy can only fail..that art will bubble up out of humanity like living waters ..feeding healing inspiring.

      And perhaps, as has been the case in Maine with the Governor's removal of a labor history panel from the Department of Labor these acts of government suppression of only shine light on the truths of the governmnet officials behind these acts. Perhaps these attempts to politically control art in democratic natins will only bring out and then bring down the officials behind these acts of political suppression.

      I was thinking of you in particular as I framed this questionn. I only recently learned that the Citizens United case was about a film, "Hillary the Movie" and that Citizen's United is a right wing documentary film maker. The Federal Elections Commission deemed their film "electioneering" under elections laws because it was a negative attack on Hillary Clinton, a candidate fro presidential official and was being aired close to the time of election. The ACLU actually wrote a brief in support of Citizens United (http://jonathanturley.org/2010/01/21/supreme-court-rules-5-4-against-campaign-limitations-in-the-hillary-the-movie-case/) and after reading Turleys essay on the case (the link here) and the ACLU brief I saw Citizen's United in a very different light than has been popularized here in the USA..I saw it as about an attempt at political suppression of "art". The price of freedom is allowing freedom even for films the caliber of "Hillary The Movie"

      It is not so much that I fear art can or will be suppressed even in the most tyrannical of regimes, it's more that I feel a kind of profound disappointment and hollowing out that in democacies around the world elected officials are taking these actions.
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        May 28 2012: Lindsay,

        The installation and then removal of the labor history panel in Maine is troubling, given the government was behind both seems a troubling case of whose-in-office partisanship.

        Organized labor unions, like all organized systems sometimes have struggled to achieve the full and sincerest vision and mission in behalf of their members. But, the art itself as an expression of reality, commissioned and installed by the Maine government, and then removed by it, is an expression of the complicated amalgam of partisanship that undergirds government expression. A sad political statement from many angles. It reminds me of a kerfuffle at the Denver international Airport, where one face on a controversial image was simply repainted over. I'm not sure I agree with the decision, but it is less outlandish than Maine's flip-flopping on a full-multi-panel installation.

        But the creation of a commercial campaign movie is troubling, given it was an unabashed attempt at pushing the boundaries of and manipulation of the political system. Here, I'm not sure I disagree with FEC's action.

        The movie was produced by a GOP campaign operative and primarily featured GOP pundits attacking Clinton while she was campaigning. The Citizen's United non-profit organization was always clear that it was a political organization, with the primary mission of distributing campaign materials. To call it art, would be a stretch. It was made as a political statement, with a mission to derail a politician during campaign season. And, thus, in violation of clear FEC regulations.

        So, while I agree the hollowing out of democracies by elected officials undermines freedom, I would add the hollowing out of democracies by savvy non-profit political campaign operatives is no less destructive to freedom. They take freedoms meant for all as at their special and sole access, with preferred tax status, no less. Which other citizens taxes must make up for.

        Andrea
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    May 25 2012: lindsay, To be honest I think the edge is being pushed by both sides. Jane Fonda pushed the very limits of the governments boundries. In other days she would have been tried for treason and aiding and abeting a enemy of the US and hung. Respect for authority is at a all time low. We have a President who refuses to enforce imigration laws and panders the same group for votes. Police are in a bad spot trying to enforce unpopular laws. We have poloitical figures who are always part of the problem and never part of the solution. Many film makers are trying to pass smut off as art. Almost everything now days is a political statement from one side or the other. Politics, films, and causes all have a common denominator. Tell you what is wrong and who is to blame. Facts are not important

    Yes we have problems. Power is abused by all who hold it. The problem is not those in power or leading the fight for a cause. The problem is those who join the fight without full knowledge of the facts and where this may lead to. Perhaps part of the problem is "The defination of Art". 20 years ago it was pretty well defined. The makers of smut knew it was smut and it stayed underground. Since then liberal courts have allow the intrusion of previously unallowed "art" on the newsstands, on TV and on the screen.

    These are not new problems. Today something in Russia gets real time viewing in the US. Everyone has a cell phone with a camera. Nothing is a local problem any more. We are a global community. Politics has become the art of diversion. You turn up the heat I make the 1% the problem and organize riots in the street and call it OWS. You forget all about my errors. Not everything is as it seems or as bad as we are told.

    All the best. Bob
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      May 25 2012: Hi Robert,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your insightful philosophical post.

      Yes, extremes in politics bring extremes in public reaction and extremes in art.. Art has always been considered a foundation stone of freedom of speech. And yes censorship and extremes of negative reaction to art have always been with us.

      What I am pointing to and troubled about is something much more subtle than that which seems to be creeping in to government's response to the power of art to reach and inlfuence the masses in this age of instant imaging, you tube, a google app specifically on images, facebook, etc. Created images, especially film have a power to reach and influece global audiences now.

      In some of the political censorship of art that prompted this question, a few instances of which are listed in the framing of the question for our collaborative exploration of the issue, the art is not extreme and the response to art that is extreme is political or government influence ledaing to its eradication or removal.

      This isn't an issue that I have been attuned to over the decades but by impression as an ordinary citizen in a free nation is that governmnet interfrence with art is new as part of democracy.. Political cartoons are as old as ink and printing presses, older perhaps. And that has always been tolerated and even considered part of healthy debate in a free country.

      What I sense about this pattern of direct government attempt to censor art is very different.

      For example, here in Maine our new tea party anti-union anto workers rights governor had a large mural removed from the department of labor. The mural. commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor, depecited the history of the labor movement in Maine and of course featured Maine Native Fracis Perkins, a famous labor leader. The arts community sent up the alarm first but it has stayed in the news for over a year. The general public has a visceral sense about it .
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        May 25 2012: Lindsay, Thank you for accepting the response in the manner it was intended. In your response I centered on two items: 1) the use of visceral - Following instinct rather than reasoned thinking - Item number 2): The whole last paragraph is troublesom to me.

        First I looked up Francis Perkins, Secretary of Labor under FDR and a champion for unions and labor movement. Maines political history denotes strong Democratic basis and strong ties to unions and labor movements. The last election reflected a national movement to reverse the administrations goals and policies. Leading the charge for new direction was the Tea Party. The Tea Party is now the focus of concern as your first sentence states.

        I noticed that jobs, budget, housing, etc .. were not a concern. I wonder who sent up the alarm the Arts community, union officials, or the Democratic party.

        Why would Ms Perkins only be recognized at the State Department of Labor. A great lady with much influence nationally and held a high post in FDR's administration should have been prominate in the State Museum of History. This was a bad decision to limit her influence and impact only to unions and labor.

        I might suggest that you organize a movement to honor her in the State Museum as a pioneer in the womens movement in politics. Do not emphasize her as a Labor or Union hero but rather as a strong and dedicated person who moved women in Maine from the kitchen to the front of the political scene. It would be better to not involve either the party or the union but present her on her merits.

        Change the news from negative to positative and honor the woman. Thanks for listening and I might add that we have exchanged ideas before and I enjoy our exchanges. I wish you all of the best. Bob.
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          May 25 2012: Hi Bob..yes I have enjoyed our exchanges on other conversations too and appreciate your input here..

          I agree with you that the positive and constructive is afruitful and fructifying than pre condition for a healthy democracy..but so is protest.Francis Perkins is celebrated as a national heroine in very enduring ways as a civic leader an example of using a government post in a very popwerful and constructive way..that she is "one of our own" and so nationally recognized was an expressed offense by those who took offense at the removal of the painting.

          The paintings in public buildings ..city halls, legislative buildings, agnecy buldings are expressions of the history of "we the people'..of history..they don't belong to the curently elected official or majority..the idea in a democracy that an elected official..a tempirary representative of the people ( and in our case not a majority 38% of the vote oput him in)should shuffle art and exhibits in public buildings to remove anything not consistent with ideology makes me squeamish. Not ecause my politics are not his..it's this other thing I am trying to collaboratively explore here that makes me squeamish.

          Visceral to me implies a strong intuitive internal message..from deep within the core of our being, from a place that is not about politics or ideology..its a twinge that precedes the baility to say in words or know in thoughts what it is about. My own visceral response to what our Maine Governor has done.


          See Feyisao's very insightful comment above on the inherent danger of the majority within democracies. I think he is getting to the heart of my own sense of this in his comment and in my reply to him refer to it as the "tyranny of the majority". He put it very beautifully.

          "Democracy is rooted in freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Let every voice be heard; and let every one be known for what she or he stands for. Let no voice present itself as the sole voice of the people. Words will be tested an
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    May 25 2012: In Australia I see a progressive conservatisation of "oldschool" art and media. For example there are many more warnings for content in free to air television than ever before (Ben10 now has a warning for violence even though its a kids cartoon). There is noticably less nudity on free to air TV now than there was thirty years ago. I think the tendency for controversial art to gravitate toward the internet gives the "moral majority" an ability to pretend it doesn't exist. The world of free to air TV and newspapers has created a "bubble of moral purity" for those who don't take part in modern communications.
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      May 25 2012: Hi Peter,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts.

      What I am trying to point to isn't about the "normal" censorship of art by society and social insiutions, It is the actual attempt by government to ban or limit art for it's political content or perceived politcal implications.

      One example given is from Australia. Artist Azlan McLennan has been perenially politically censored.
      Does his piece "Fifty Six" showing an Israeli Flag and listing stats on events affecting the Palesitinians since 1948 constitute hate speech? Is it really a threat to the government or to the people ? Does it incite violence? Or does it merely chronicle and offer an opinion that invites debate and deliberation?

      http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/34618

      I don't know the circumstancs of Melbourne's removal of his piece. Wasa it a contract violation? Was he commissioned by the City of Melbourne in a way that limited what was to be represented? Was it selected and then de selected because of public reaction?
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    May 25 2012: I don't think it's new.

    I do think that digitizing everything will strengthen the "powers that be" and their ability to track and catch.

    I'm all for freedom of expression. I am against censorship in any form for any reason.
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      May 25 2012: Hey Scott..nice to see you again and thanks for stopping by.



      The pattern I am seeing and concerned aout isn't just the normal censorhip issues of art around hatespeech or common decency or widespread public offense it is political repression of art for political reasons.

      And perhaps it's not there at all..perhaps I am connecting dots .

      Canada's tax code revisions excluding films that are "contrary to public policy" from tax credits is to me a pretty blatant and generalized attempt to discourage the formation of images that criticze or draw negative attention to the government and its policies. .http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=1ffd1b0f-5437-471b-9da9-02106d42057b

      My Tea Party Governor's removal from Maine's Department of Labor of a mural depicting Maine's Labor History a more blatant example of political censorship..of a policy of non tolerance for art that is political commentary or might be viewed bythe public as political commentary.

      Has that kind of political censorship of art always been with us in democratic nations and I just didn't notice or is this an incipient and new post 9/11 attempt my many different nations to discourage art that is inconsistent with government policy..to supress dissent as expressed in art?

      I just realized for the first time this week that Citizen's United is a non profit film company..a sort of extreme right wing version of Michael Moore..and that the Citizen's United decsion was about the the Federal Board of Elections attempting to prosceute them for their documentary film "Hillary the Movie" under Fedeal Election Laws.

      I don't think much of Citizen United's films as art or politics but now that I understand more about the Citizen's United decision, I feel a bit queazy about this political censorship of a documentray film. It wasn't a paid advertisement..it was/is an anti Hillary documentray film. http://jonathanturley.org/2010/01/21/supreme-court-rules-5-4-against-c
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        May 25 2012: It's inevitable when you consider the relationship between governments, the media and the voting public.

        The spin doctors believe it's all about image (and they're right, unfortunately) and so it becomes, not about policy or action but zippy sound bytes and warm scenes of noble "leaders" and the "average punter/voter" sharing a laugh and a beer. In other words, insubstantial twaddle.

        But there's also an undercurrent of wanting to negate anything public that reflects negatively on their party.

        It's similar to the changes around copyright laws. Pretty soon, we will see social networking sites being monitored and censored and the users prosecuted for opinions that are not in line with a Party's image.

        Ultimately, it's becoming more important for individuals to inform themselves. And that is getting harder and harder to do in the digital swamp of infotainment known as the internet.
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          May 25 2012: Thanks Scott..I agree..it comes down to us.. but it takes palpable backlash..and first noticing and registering that it is happening which is what prompted this conversation..for the first time I noticed it was happening and that it is a new wrinkle in democracy to politically inrterefe with artistic expression based on insconsistency with or opposition to "state policy"
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    May 24 2012: "If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him." -- John F. Kennedy

    "Today, across the cultural spectrum, artistic freedom is under assault. Free expression in popular music, photography, painting, cinema and other arts is threatened by pressure from lawmakers, prosecutors and self-appointed guardians of morality and taste. Succumbing to that pressure, more and more music stores, museums, schools, theaters, television stations, bookstores and video shops are restricting the display or availability of images and words deemed to be offensive to one group of citizens or another."

    http://www.lectlaw.com/files/con04.htm ACLU paper on many manifestations of government suppression of artistic freedom in free nations

    Last year here at Ted Conversations we had several discussions moderated with Alisa Miller on the decline of the 4th estate..the loss of a truly independent journalism especially in international events. Is what we are seeing in political interference with artistic expression a new modification on the limits of freedom of speech via art? Does this have meaning for all of us in preserving freedom of speech and other freedoms associated with democracy?
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      May 24 2012: Nice quote and great link as always. I asked a fellow TEDster about you just the other day. I am delighted that you are well and engaged with TED topics!
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        May 24 2012: Thanks Debra..glad you are well enough to participate as well!!!

        Do you have any more info about the Canadaian reference in my question? Did that tax credit stand? Were Canadians awarae of it? Any widespread reaction to it? Do you know anything about who or what triggered it?