One of my greatest problems as a would-be writer is that it is very hard to put down in words certain concepts which are intuitive to me but evidently obtuse to most. I see things as patterns and connections, and tend to see seemingly disparate things (such as Communism and Christianity) as simply differing manifestations of the same underlying truths (or in the case of those two, underlying lies). I often have these brilliant 'flashes' where I see all the pieces of a problem fall together in a marvelous four-dimensional lattice of interconnectivity, but when I try to go from the four dimensions of thought to the two dimensions of words, it all falls apart. The shadow of a shadow is a line -- it has length but not width or depth.
Just the same, I'm going to try.
Here are two disparate things.
1)I just purchased "Shoah:Charnel Houses Of Europe", a supplement for White Wolf's role-playing game "Wraith:The Oblivion". This supplement details the real events of the Holocaust, and likewise explains how this played out in White Wolf's grim and haunted parallel of our world, their "World Of Darkness" setting. The supplement aroused tremendous anger from people who never read it, because it dealt with the Holocaust, and in the setting of a game. I, of course, was one of the loudest voices defending the right of WW to print it, and, more importantly, defending the fact that it was right for them to print it. (And it is an excellent piece of work, one of the few gaming supplements worth reading in themselves)
2)Dan Kennedy, an allegedly professional journalist in Boston, wrote an article about the Mayor of Boston's attempt to do to Boston's public libraries what the Christians did to the library at Alexandria. This article is at this address; read it and get back to me. Thanks.
OK, you're asking -- what's the one got to do with the other? And how are they going to lead into an essay about a)why democracy sucks, b)why selfishness is good, and/or c)why we need to fight censorship, since all of your essays turn into some combination of a,b,and c?
Glad you asked. But this is where it gets hard. I've got to unfold the chains of similarity and causality and so without rambling off in a thousand directions.
There are two points of similarity, two lines which connect these incidents in my mind.
1)People will use any emotional buzzword as an excuse to exercise their censorious urges.
2)Journalists of today are in a state of helpless denial, as many victims of the Holocaust were during the early years of that horror.
Examine the first point. The two areas where so-called "reasonable people" are most likely to say some form of government "control" is needed is 'hate speech' and 'pornography'. Nine times out of ten, when someone says 'hate speech', they mean one kind -- Holocaust Revisionism. (Starting to see how things begin to cross-link in my mind?) Pornography, on the other hand, gains strength as a taboo by virtue of non-definition -- pornography is whatever someone *else* finds sexually arousing. (What you find sexually arousing, of course, is erotica -- a totally different thing. Lizard's definition is much simpler -- erotica is what you leave on the bookshelves. Pornography is what you hide under the loose floorboards in the attic.) But the basic principle is the same -- scream 'Hate speech!' to the Left and 'Pornography!' to the Right, and both will march arm-in-arm to demand the government strip them of their rights -- and you and me along with them. (Can someone explain the logic of "Pornography offends me, so you shouldn't see it?" I hate broccoli. Does that mean I should demand it not be sold to anyone?)
The second point is more complex. It is denial and appeasement, all rolled up into one. It is the belief that you can strip the rights of others and keep your own. It is the philosophy which holds that no dog ever turned on its master, that once you have set the wolves loose on your foes, they won't come hunting for you when they want fresher meat. It is the hope that if you once pay them the Dane-geld, you will one day be rid of the Dane.
It's a futile hope born of terror and desperation, a lie that destroys reason and honor and morality and turns men into less-than-animals, throwing each other into the meatgrinder in the hopes of gaining an extra minute of life.
Many victims of the Holocaust, at first, did not believe it was occurring, and never saw the ultimate end -- until they stepped into the showers themselves. Each stripping of their rights, from the earliest denials of employment and intermarriage, up to the "final solution", was seen as only one step, and the last step -- surely, they would not deport us. Surely, having deported us, they will not place us into work camps. Surely, having placed us into work camps, they will not send us to death camps. And at the death camps -- surely, they will let ME live, just one more day, just one more hour. It cannot be my turn, not yet.
How does the horror (but not, I must note, 'unparalleled' horror -- the greatest tragedy of the Holocaust was its non-uniqueness. Humans have committed genocide before, -- and I am telling you this with absolute, total certainty, with a sureness no less than the sureness of my own existence -- and we will do so again, while at least some of the people reading this page are still alive. No doubt, no question, no hope of reprieve. It will happen again.) of the Holocaust compare to some stupid git (Kennedy or the Mayor, take your pick) in Boston going on about pornography on the Internet? Can there be any reasonable comparison between the deaths of twelve million people and some 12 year olds being unable to read 'Playboy'?
Yes. There can be, and there is. The connection is, again, twofold -- the first part is the belief that it is proper to abridge fundamental, innate rights in the name of the 'greater good of society', and the second is that the victims of this abridgement will deny it is happening until such denial becomes a denial of reality itself -- and often, even longer. And also because this isn't about 12 year olds and Playboy, whatever Mr. Kennedy might claim -- it's about the rights of adults to read what they wish. The right to think any thought and to speak any thought you think is as fundamental, as essential, as the right to live -- and because we are a species who evolves by meme, not by gene, the censors attempts at memicide do indeed compare to the fascists attempt at genocide.
In the comparison I'm drawing between the dawning of the Holocaust and the destruction of free speech, I want to clarify that I don't see Mr. Kennedy as a Nazi -- I see him as a victim. He is a journalist, a man whose very existence depends on the freedom to think and speak and write. He is seeing that freedom, the source of his life, being taken away, and his reaction is to simultaneously deny that it is happening and claim that it is a good thing that it is. He pretends he is not being enslaved while begging his masters not to whip him too hard. He is managing to be a disbeliever and a collaborator, all at the same time. Quite a task, but he's not the only one to master it.
The text and legal meaning of the infamous CDA is simple, plain and straightforward -- material which is legal to print is illegal to post, and the words Mr. Kennedy uses in his essay could place him (or his editor, or anyone who allows a child to read, or creates a situation where a child (defined as anyone under 18) could theoretically read it) in jail. For two years. Alongside of murderers, rapists, and other criminals, just as the Nazis herded violent criminals and innocents together into the same camps. The cross-linking grows. What better way to terrify an average, otherwise law-abiding citizen than to threaten to plonk him down in the middle of violent sociopaths? The terror works -- witness Mr. Kennedy's desperate plea to not be included among the thought criminals.
And as I said, he is not alone. Reading through the various online newspapers and news services backed by traditional media, the general tone of the articles is the same. Those who should be in the forefront of the fight against censorship are instead 'naming names', telling the reincarnated McCarthys who the 'real' communists...er..pornographers are. Censor them! Jail them! Leave us alone!
Now, I confess to a somewhat expedient sense of morality when it's my own life on the line. Trust me, I'm the last person you want to be stuck in a lifeboat with. (I will be the last person you are stuck in a lifeboat with, if you get my meaning.) But I'm not stupid. You don't kick someone out of an overcrowded lifeboat when you're chained together -- and that's what the "Get them, not us!" crowd is doing. Power is an addictive drug, and its addicts need ever-greater doses to get their highs. Jailing "pornographers" will not be enough to sate them, not for long. They'll come for everyone, sooner or later.
Mr. Kennedy's insistence that censorship is just about "saving kids from porn" is a cry of denial born from terror. Deep down, he knows better, but he doesn't want to take the risk of speaking out. His position as one of the privileged, the Speakers Of Truth To The People, could be threatened if he angers the rulers. So he offers appeasement, pleads for a compromise, hopes to keep a few scraps of his delusional dignity.
History shows that when oppression begins, the choice is to fight a short, nasty war now or a long, very nasty war later. Mr. Kennedy and his fellow journalists are choosing the latter option, in the futile belief that they can avoid fighting a war at all -- that this time, it will be different, that this time, they will in fact be spared. This time, it will only be the pornographers. This time, the 'good Jews' will be permitted to live.
Nazis do not believe there is such a thing as a good Jew, and censors do not believe there is such a thing as a good writer. All are criminal, in their minds, by virtue of being what they are;ultimately, all will suffer the same fate. But oppressors are cunning, often more cunning than their victims. They play divide and conquer -- as they destroy each subset, they tell the survivors that this is it, that no more will be taken, be good, be submissive, be obedient, and nothing more will happen to you. And the survivors believe it, or pretend to, because even though they know someone will be next, they can keep desperately hoping that it isn't going to be them.
It's dubious Mr. Kennedy will read these words;more dubious by far that he will heed them. But because we are chained together -- because the brownshirts will make no distinction between us -- I still feel that I have to try, albeit out of pure selfishness. If he goes, I could be next. I have no intention of going quietly, and I'd rather not go alone.
Back To Main Page