Don't Joke About Trump
The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim is reporting that some sources claim that Sony Pictures is nervous about releasing a new comedy from Sascha Baron Cohen because of a joke about Donald Trump getting AIDS:
Three industry sources said that Sony had made its displeasure clear and pushed to remove the scene, but that Baron Cohen, in a rare deal for a producer-actor, has final authority over the film."
Studio executives are nervous about angering the famously vengeful and litigious Trump, compounded by the possibility of getting on the wrong side of the possible next president.
Sony's pre-emptive fear is a worrying sign of how corporate players are beginning to respond to the rise of Trump. While the biggest threats to liberty are assumed to come from aggressive government action, freedom is often lost through self-censorship, driven by fear and the natural impulse toward self-preservation.
"I Don’t Like Vague Threats of Censorship"
Feminist author Roxane Gay was invited to speak at the Jesuit school St Louis University, and was apparently told not to discuss abortion. She did, and explained to the students who gathered to hear her talk:
This morning I received an email that was, essentially a gesture of censorship. It was a message predicated on the assumption that I came here to corrupt young minds with an agenda. As I mulled it over I wondered how desperately fragile a faith must be if it cannot withstand critical engagement or diverse points of view.
'This Title Has Been Censored'
Howard Sherman of the Arts Integrity Initiative writes about a troubling theater controversy at Oklahoma State University, where a student performance was downgraded from multiple performances on the mainstage to a single workship performance. The head of the department apparently did not like what he saw in some preliminary performances, and worried that the school's audience would not appreciate some of the material about gender identity and sexuality.
The Toxic Lesson of Censorship
Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center has an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about efforts in Maryland to protect the state's student journalists from administrative censorship stemming from the Supreme Court's Hazelwood decision:
And finally, Hazelwood censorship is irreconcilable with the effective teaching of civics. Study after study has documented that the only effective way for students to learn how government works is to discuss contemporary political issues — exactly the discussion that Hazelwood censorship has bleached out of the school day.
Hillary Clinton and Free Speech
Reason's Matt Welch takes a look at the record of the Democratic front-runner:
But long before Donald Trump became a one-man media-distraction machine, Hillary Clinton had mastered the art of pushing maximally against free expression without being tagged as a foe of the First Amendment, unlike her friend and anti-media collaborator Tipper Gore. Clinton has crusaded against not just "gangsta" rap (the scare quotes are hers), but also the "poison" spread by movies, television, and video games. Her record includes not just Gore-like Capitol Hill condemnations of content and agitation for parental warning labels, but also unconstitutional legislation mandating federal punishment for those who sell and market controversial entertainment.
Censoring Climate Change in West Virginia?
Our friends at the National Center for Science Education report:
West Virginia's House Bill 4014, which passed the House of Representatives on February 26, 2016, would, if enacted, prevent the state board of education from implementing the state science standards adopted in 2015 — and there are indications that the treatment of climate science in the standards is part of the motivation.