The Ghost of Wertham, by Mike Gold
As comics fans, we should always be on the frontlines of the war to protect freedom of expression.
After all, it was our medium that was forced into a severe case of arrested development for a decade. Beginning in late 1940s and led by mascot psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, the Saturday Evening Post and the Readers Digest, comic book creators became seen as nothing less than child molesters and the medium was pressured into “Comics Code Authority” censorship and became trapped in its “childish claptrap” image for a generation. Hundreds of cartoonists, publishers, editors, and engravers lost their jobs; those that were among the fortunate few who remained gainfully employed told their neighbors they were “commercial artists” or some such lest they be chased out of suburbia by an angry mob.
For the past 20 years we’ve had a dangerous clown in the Senate who, when he’s not trying to get our armed forces to blast every Moslem in the middle east into smithereens (yep; it’s Memorial Day, so let’s honor our brave men and women by bringing them home from Iraq) is busy trying to raise our nation’s children on behalf of their evidently incompetent parents. Sadly, I’m talking about one of my own senators,
“independent” Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a man no more independent than Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.
Senator Joe has actually threatened artistic creators with government censorship if they do not bow to his whims. Yeah, I know, I already compared him to Rove and Cheney so telling you he wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights is kind of redundant. Joe’s spent the past two decades – and our tax money – intimidating the forces that produce video games, movies and music he doesn’t appreciate, all the time hiding under the Great Flag of Cowards, the one that reads “save the children!” Now, he’s turned his attention to YouTube.
Earlier this week, Lieberman’s homeland security committee issued a report identifying the Internet as “one of the primary drivers” of the terrorist threat to the United States. Really, Joe? Do you believe everything you read on the Internets? Are you the only person alive who can weed out the BS? I guess all that online pornography is just the bait, the gateway to Moslem brainwashing. Of course, that’s a little hard to understand as fundamentalist Moslem dictates have the same attitude towards porn as… well… as Joe Lieberman, actually.
Yesterday’s New York Times ran an editorial under the headline “Joe Lieberman, Would-Be Censor.” They state, in part:
The Internet is simply a means of communication, like the telephone, but that has not prevented attempts to demonize it — the latest being the ludicrous claim that the Internet promotes terrorism.
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is trying to pressure YouTube to pull down videos he does not like, and a recent Senate report and a bill pending in Congress also raise the specter of censorship. It is important for online speech to be protected against these assaults.
Mr. Lieberman recently demanded that YouTube take down hundreds of videos produced by Islamist terrorist organizations or their supporters. YouTube reviewed the videos to determine whether they violated its guidelines, which prohibit hate speech and graphic or gratuitous violence. It took down 80 videos, but left others up. Mr. Lieberman said that was “not enough,” and demanded that more come down.
Even if YouTube pulled down every video Mr. Lieberman did not like, radical groups could post the same videos on their own Web sites. Trying to restrain the Internet is a game of “whack-a-mole” that cannot be won, says John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology. Having the videos on YouTube may even be a good thing, because it makes it easier for law enforcement officials, the media and the public to monitor the groups and their messages.
Senator Joe Lieberman, as your constituent and as a concerned American who believes that what you and your ilk have done to this nation is far worse than the all-too-real terrorist threat, I call upon you to honor and respect both the parents of the United States of America and the principles upon which this nation was founded. Stop threatening government censorship. Get your nose out of everybody else’s business.
When it comes to your childish multimedia book-burning, I say… Never Again.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.