Sunday, September 08, 2002

Matt Welch has a article in the National Post on alleged press censorship. The American Prospect had a similar article way back in January. These are in response to articles like Michael Steinberg's recent complaint that although he has 5000 Web readers of his site, people at his office seemed hawkish and thus he's afraid to promote peace at work.

One of Welch's paragraphs caught my eye (since I'm Canadian): The view looked just as bad north of the border. Linda Diebel of The Toronto Star wrote an article under the banner, "Freedom of speech casualty of a new war." The Globe and Mail's Simon Houpt lamented, "Dissent has all but disappeared." (To be clear, Matt Welch thinks these writers were wrong). Why do Canadians seem to believe that dissent disappeared? It sure didn't in the Bay area (Berkeley can be counted on), among the people I talk to, on the Web, or on the news I read.

It seems rather normal for a country to veer towards a more militant attitude after an attack. The US did. It also seems rather normal for people who suddenly have a common enemy (all sides of the political spectrum) to agree somewhat more rather than less. But to say that dissent had disappeared any time after 9/11 was always ridiculous. Even without counting the anarchy of voices on the Web (blogging exploded), mainstream media covered and included views opposing invasion of Afghanistan, methods of war, and treatment of prisoners. The only voice I'm aware of that tried to stifle debate is that of John Ashcroft, who is an asshole.

Instead, what I think is happening is that people who fear to express dissent directly turn that into a claim that dissent is being crushed. But the only reason I can find for that fear is the worry that ordinary people and other pundits might disapprove, and hotly disagree in articles, emails, Web sites and letters to the editor. That's not crushing dissent, that's lively debate, and commentators who are afraid of that and try to use political correctness to get people to nicely agree are using underhanded methods.

At the same time, people who oppose war cite a "growing chorus of dissent" opposing the hawks. Can't have it both ways, you know!

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