A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ]. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com.
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Zachary Bos

On the Indifference of Poets to the Censorship and Exclusion of Others
It has been my sad experience that most poets would not lift a finger to protest against the censorship, banning, and/or exclusion of a lone dissident poet. Indeed, to do so, would imply risking offending the poet herd responsible for the censorship, banning, and/or exclusion. The logic is there. The principles and courage, however, are not. Not one of the high-and-mighty chancellors—not even famous Beatnik chancellor Gary Snyder—of the Academy of American Poets came to my defense when I contacted each of them regarding the Academy’s censorship of my comments. Not one of them dared say, ‘you know, this is poetry, after all, and we’re even encouraging comments on our website, so maybe we should not be eliminating comments we don’t like, even if we do have the legal right.’

In any case, Zachary Bos is yet another one of those poets who dares not act alone and against the poet herd. He and I had a rather lengthy email discussion recently. Out of the blue, he’d sent me a group email regarding his Boston Poetry Union, which I’d never heard of. In fact, I’d never heard of him either. In the missive, the usual poet suspects Pinsky, Gluck, and Wright were revered, so I hammered. To his credit, Bos responded over and again and then some. Most established-order partisans do not respond at all to criticism because they do not believe in vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. They prefer dismissing adversaries (and their arguments) as “malcontent cranks,” in Bos’ words (with my regard). However, Bos made some, at least from my “malcontent crank” perspective, amazingly daft or outright shameful comments, including the one depicted word for word in the cartoon. He disagreed with everything I presented to him including the fact—I repeat, THE FACT—that my flyers have been banned by Sturgis Library director Lucy Loomis (see a previous post). Below is that segment of our long conversation. If anyone, besides Bos, can explain his reasoning, please do. Evidently, something deep within compels him to disagree with everything vis-a-vis The American Dissident and its editor, no matter how FACTUAL.

Bos argues that my statement of fact is “simply unrecognizable.” BANNED FLYER. Yes, that’s “simply unrecognizable.” Another fact, he cannot seem to recognize is the fact that my comments were CENSORED by the Academy of American Poets, which also BANNED me from participating in its online forums. The AAP actually uses the term BANNED.

Bos likes to ramble on the semantics of the words “censor” or “banned,” diverting the conversation away from pertinent points made. Eventually, I was able to corner him in an area he’d rather not discuss: the fact that his employer, Boston University, has a rather pitiful free-speech record. Bos had stated, prior to my pointing that out, that he was very much against speech codes. So, I asked what he’s done vis-à-vis BU’s speech codes. Well, I’m still waiting for the response… unless of course it was “tearing down flyers” that question and challenge those very speech codes. I suspect that most gatekeepers, including Bos, who censor, ban, prohibit, and/or tear down, likely argue that they too are proponents of free speech and vigorous debate. Hypocrisy is, after all, rampant amongst the educated.

PM (P. Maudit)—The fact is simple: my broadside was prohibited by the library director. It’s mind-boggling that you and likely others would reject that fact as fact.
ZB—You are calling it a fact that what the director did was something that could be called "prohibition." Actually, this isn't a fact, but an interpretation. I can observe the same events, and come up with a
different set of facts. That isn't relativism; just an outcome of your ideological orientation. It's like you're looking through glasses smeared with oil on the lenses. "Everything's filthy!" Well, not really, George. Some things are, sure. But the way you describe events is simply unrecognizable.


Daniel E. Pritchard said...

This is revealing of the conflicts that people face day in, day out between competing priorities, values, and their own well-being. Often it is put to a person in this country: Live up to your values and be homeless; or do the best you can within your means, and continue to eat?

If a person, I thought, came to my house for a party or some other reason and used derogatory slurs, I would actively censor that speech. If they refused to stop, I would ban them. That would be not only within my rights but also, I think, ethically right.

I have no idea what your fliers or comments at AAP were like, and I'm really not speaking to your specific case. Just that the tone here is that all limitations on speech are evils or wrongs, or that all speech between private entities is connected to our rights as a citizen. But, that's not really true. Speech is not the good. Ethics and speech come into conflict quite often, and we navigate that dilemma daily.

So, maybe the AAP and Mr. Bos were being unnecessarily harsh. Maybe not. As far as I know none of the organizations you mention are state institutions, and it's worth noting that you're also not in a jail cell for writing or saying any of these things: your freedom of speech remains. You said something they didn't like in their apartment, and they booted you for it. Be angry, by all means. I would be. But if you actually wish to foster vigorous debate for a more vital democracy, it is also necessary to be reasonable.

G. Tod Slone said...

The banned flyer is in a previous blog. We're talking about a PUBLIC library.

Zachary Bos said...

I don't know of any public library that doesn't have restrictions on free speech -- spoken and published -- on its premises. I don't believe I'd be allowed to post a flyer soliciting a hit-man on their bulletin boards, or a poster promoting the abuse of children. Not that I'd brand your kind of anti-establishment message the same as murder-for-hire or child abuse; but the analogy should suffice to show that the extent of free speech in government institutions, or in any setting, is rightly not unlimited.

G. Tod Slone said...

Zach, you couldn't resist! Per usual, your argument is immaterial... regarding my banned flyer: "I don't believe I'd be allowed to post a flyer soliciting a hit-man on their bulletin boards, or a poster promoting the abuse of children." It has nothing at all to do with my flyer. Thanks for the comment just the same.