Free Expression After September 11th: An Online Index

 

There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and that this is not a time for remarks like that. It never is. — White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer

We need honest, reasoned debate not fear mongering. To those who pit Americans against immigrants and citizens against noncitizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of goodwill to remain silent in the face of evil. — Attorney General John Ashcroft

 

Following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the National Coalition Against Censorship received repeated calls and e-mails from supporters, media, students and others concerned with free speech asking about censorship incidents arising from the attacks. Those who took the time to contact us are concerned that the events of 9/11 will result in incidents of government censorship and suppression of speech by private entities, as is often the case during times of crisis.

Because we share their concern, the National Coalition Against Censorship, in cooperation with other free speech organizations, created this index so that those concerned with free expression will have one location that catalogs the various incidents of censorship and suppression of speech that are a direct result of the events of September 11th.

If you’d like to make us aware of an incident in your community that you think we might not be aware of, please e-mail us.

Index of Incidents:

To view a list of incidents involving the Internet and media please visit Chilling Effects of Anti-Terrorism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

To view a list of incidents involving colleges and universities please visit FIRE and the Aftermath of September 11 compiled by the the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

To view a list detailing the ways that access to public information and records have been limited by the federal government and state governments please visit The Post-September 11 Environment: Access to Government Information compiled by OMB Watch

Press 

 

Other Resources

American Civil Liberties Union
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Freedom Forum
Free Expression Network
People for the American Way
Student Press Law Center
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

Art

  • In September 2001, officials at the Baltimore Museum of Art removed a painting, acquired in 1990, titled "Terrorist" from the contemporary wing "out of respect to visitors’ sensitivities." The painting, an acrylic and aliminum piece measuring 96 by 64 inches, featured three fragmented lines – "TER," ROR" and "IST" in large black stenciled letters. An official from the BMA later said that the work would be reinstalled with an accompanying placard describing the artist’s motive for the work.
    Source – "BMA Pulls Art Bearing Word ‘Terrorist’" – Baltimore Sun – 9/17/01, "Sensitivity Led to Removal of ‘Terrorist’ Art, BMA Says" – Baltimore Sun – 9/18/01
  • The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced the cancellation of performances featuring "The Death of Klinghoffer" in November and December 2001. "The Death of Klinghoffer" is an opera by John Adams about Palestinian hijackers killing a passenger on an American cruise ship in 1985. The Orchestra explained that the reason for the decision was due to the events of September 11th and concern by some that the opera was sympathetic to the hijackers.
    Source – "Massachusetts: Symphony Cancels ‘Klinghoffer’" – New York Times – 11/2/01
  • After a complaint from a patron, federal agents investigated officials at the private Art Car Museum in Houston after the museum recently displayed a work titled "EmpyTrellis (revisted)". The work, part of the museum’s "Secret Wars" exhibit, is a charcoal drawing of President Bush at a speaker’s podium enclosed by a steel trellis shaped like a half globe. The artist claims that the piece is mean to be a commentary on U.S. environemntal policies. The Secret Service also reportedly asked questions about a painting in the exhibit that featured a buring city skyline.
    Source – "Museum Staff Defends Secret Wars Exhibit" – Houston Chronicle – 12/12/01
  • The director and senior curator of the Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona Beach Community College’s resigned in December 2001, claiming that she was told to cancel a February exhibit of Afghanistan photos. Museum officials claim that she wasn’t told to cancel the exhibit but was told to reschedule it to a date that didn’t coincide with another exhibit celebrating patriotism.
    Source – "Photography Museum Director Resigns Over Afghanistan Exhibit" – Daytona Beach New-Journal – 12/13/01
  • As a result of workers’ complaints, a video art installation featuring United Airlines Flight 175 flying into the World Trade Center was removed from the Armory Show 2002 in New York City.
    Source – "Video Exhibit of Attack is Removed from Show" – New York Times – 2/22/02
  • In 2002, The Jamaica Center for Arts decided to end Sharon Paz’s exhibit “Falling” earlier than scheduled because of concerns that Paz’s work was insensitive to victims of September 11. Paz had created black silhouettes of human figures falling through the air and placed them on window panes of the Jamaica Center for Arts in an attempt to confront her own feelings about the tragedy.
    Sharon Paz’s website on "Falling"
    Making Art After September 11, 2001 by Svetlana Mintcheva
  • After receiving a handful of complaints about “Eye-Speak,” an exhibit featuring a 150-foot tapestry made by Latino, Chicano and African American artists in the wake of September 11, the airport agency at Los Angeles International Airport called for the removal of the exhibit. The airport agency later reversed its decision, but the controversy left questions about the process of selecting art for public spaces.
    LAX Art Spurs Flap Over What Is Proper – Los Angeles Times – 2/11/04

  • In May 2004, the FBI began an investigation of Steve Kurtz, a University of Buffalo art professor and a member of Critical Arts Ensemble, a collective which focuses on the intersection of art, technology, radical politics and critical theory. Officials responding to a 911 call Kurtz made when his wife suddenly stopped breathing became suspicious of laboratory materials Kurtz was using for an art project. Kurtz became a bioterrorism suspect. Even though the material Kurtz was using could be found in most high school science laboratories, the case continues to this day.
    Critical Arts Ensemble Defense Fund
    NCAC Statement on the Investigation of Steve Kurtz – 6/17/04

  • On July 9, 2004, the Denver airport decided to remove three pieces of art from curator Max Yawney’s exhibit, "The Luggage Project," in response to complaints about the artwork being offensive. The exhibit featured suitcases made by 43 different artists. One of the suitcases originally removed was later returned to the exhibit. Of the two permanently removed, one had a box cutter for a handle and the other had a bumper sticker reading “Blood for Oil. Billionaires for Bush.”
    Letter to Mayor Hickenlooper Protesting Denver International Airport Censorship – 8/16/04

  • Under pressure not to include anything un-American, unpatriotic, or inappropriate at the World Trade Center’s cultural center, two of the four organizations chosen for the center were forced out. The Drawing Center decided to look for another location shortly after Governor Pataki issued an ultimatum about what was acceptable for the cultural center. The International Freedom Center, a proposed museum, shut down altogether when Pataki barred it from the site.
    New York Times Article – 6/25/05
    Wikipedia Article on the International Freedom Center
    NCAC Letter to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation – 9/13/05
    See also "Must Curators Self-Censor?" which discusses three examples of the censorship of curatorial decisions, two of which were directly related to September 11. 

Entertainment

  • Within days of the attacks, Clear Channel Communications circulated a list of songs to its 1,200 channels across the country suggesting that they use good judgment in playing any of the 150 songs on the list. Included on the list are obvious songs such as "Jet Airliner" by the Steve Miller Band and "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders. The list also included such songs as "America" by Neil Diamond and "Ruby Tuesday" by the Rolling Stones and many songs with a political message such as all songs by the band Rage Against the Machine and "Imagine" by John Lennon.
    Source – Numerous sources
  • On the 9/17/01 edition of the TV show Politically Incorrect, host Bill Maher and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza discuss the events of September 11th. D’Souza refers to the attackers as "warriors" while Maher states that, in comparison, the U.S. government has acted like cowards because it had previously launched missles at targets thousands of miles away in contrast to those who flew airplanes into buildings. Following news of the exchange, such companies as Federal Express, Sears-Roebuck and Quizno’s pull advertising from Politically Incorrect and some local TV stations refuse to air the show.
    Source – Numerous sources
  • In October 2001, Newsday reported that it pulled the comic strip "The Boondocks" from its paper because it criticized U.S. support of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet/Afghanistan war. Newsday maintains that it took the action so as to not offend New Yorkers. (Since the 10/9/01 article was written, The Boondocks has returned to the pages of Newsday).
    Source – "Drawing on the Headlines" – Newsday – 10/9/01
  • In November 2001, the St. George (Utah) Spectrum printed a front page apology after publishing an editorial cartoon by syndicated cartoonist Steve Benson. The cartoon featured President Bush in a fighter plane dropping bombs that had such messages as "killing innocent civilians" and "starving millions of Afghans" on them.
    Source – "St. George Paper Apologizes for Cartoon" – Salt Lake City Tribune – 11/14/01
  • The Boondocks Thanksgiving day strip was removed from the Dallas Morning News and replaced with an older strip because it was critical of President Bush. The strip in question featured the character Huey Freeman saying grace at Thanksgiving dinner. During grace, Huey said, "…in this time of war against Osama Bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime, we are thankful that our leader isn’t the spoiled son of a powerful politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents and uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen."
    Source – "What’s Up, ‘Docks?" – Dallas Observer – 12/11/01
  • In March 2002, the New York Times removed a cartoon by syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall. The cartoon framed the surviving spouses of September 11th victims as being greedy and too eager for publicity and television coverage.
    Source – "WTC Cartoon Ripped" – New York Daily News – 3/7/02
  • ABC invited country music artist Toby Keith to appear on its July 4th special to perform his newest single "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" but later retracted the offer. Keith claims his performance was axed because of the controversial nature of his song. A representative from ABC claims that there were several other factors responsible for uninviting Keith including the fact that he was already booked to perform in Utah the night of July 4th.
    Source – "Singer Toby Keith Speaks Out on ABC Censorship" – USA Today – 6/13/02
  • In July 2002, country music artist Steve Earle came under fire for his song, "John Walker’s Blues", which some believed romanticized the actions of John Walker Lindh, the American citizen convicted of aiding the Taliban.
    Source – "Ballad of John Walker Lindh Anything but Music to Ears of Many Americans" – Houston Chronicle – July 29, 2002

News & Commentary

  • Tom Gutting, city editor for the Texas City Sun was fired in September 2001 after writing a column in which referred to President Bush as a "scared child seeking refuge in his mother’s bed after having a nightmare" for not returning to Washington DC immediately after hearing about the attacks on September 11th.
    Source – "Columnists Fired After Criticizing Bush" – Editor & Publisher – 9/27/01
  • In September 2001, Dan Guthrie, a columnist for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Oregon was fired after he wrote a column criticizing Bush for not being more visible following news of the September 11th attacks
    Source – "Columnists Fired After Criticizing Bush" – Editor & Publisher – 9/27/01
  • The National Review and Denham Springs News (Louisiana) dropped conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s syndicated column from its website and terminated her as a contributing editor. Her dismissal came after penning two consecutive columns soon after the attacks. One recommended invading countries, killing their leaders and converting them to Christianity. The other discussed "suspicious-looking swarthy males" and a policy to require passports for domestic flights. The National Review Online posted the first column but not the second. After hearing of the decision to not run the second column, Coulter roudly criticized the editors and was then dismissed.
    Source – "National Review Cans Columnist Ann Coulter" – Washington Post – 10/2/01
  • In September 2001, the U.S. Department of State asked Voice of America, a U.S. government-funded radio network, to refrain from running an interview with Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban saying that airing the interview would be providing a means for terrorists to communicate their messages and that it wasn’t "newsworthy". After staffers protested, the State Department relented and the interview aired on 9/25/01.
    Sources – Numerous sources
  • In October 2001, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice contacted the five networks to caution them against running interviews of Osama bin Laden out of fear that his televised addresses may contain hidden messages for his followers, inspire his followers and frighten Americans.
    Sources – "The Networks, Giving Aid to the Enemy?" – Washington Post – 10/12/01, "TV Networks to Limit Use Of Tapes From Bin Laden" – Washington Post – 10/11/01
  • Washington University in St. Louis refused to allow a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on campus to provide coverage of a 9/20/01 student rally supporting restraint and an international solution as a response to the events of September 11th. Campus police refused the reporter entrance because she did not fulfill University guidelines mandating that all media personnel be escorted by a public affairs staff member and requesting of access to the campus through the public affairs office.
    Source – "Wash U Hampers Press Freedom" – St. Louis Journalism Review – October 2001
  • Syndicated radio host Peter Werbe’s talk-radio show was dropped by radio station KOMY-AM in Santa Cruz, California in early October 2001 after questioning U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.
    Source – "Uncivil Liberty" – Metro Santa Cruz Newspaper – 10/26/01
  • In September 2001, a freelance reporter from Oregon was told he could not interview a researcher from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention because the Department of Health & Human Services forbids all interviews having to do with terrorism or disasters.
    Source – "Panelists Tell Editors: Congressional Efforts to Protect Freedom May Thwart It" – www.freedomforum.org – 10/15/01
  • A poll taken by Pew Research Center for People & the Press in mid-October 2001 revealed that 6 out of 10 Americans felt that the military – not news organizations – should have more control over the news regarding the U.S. bombings in Afghanistan and 50% believed that news organizations should not air speeches by Osama bin Laden.
    Source – Poll: Public Not Rattled by Anthrax Reports; Six in 10 Say Military Should Exert Control Over War News – Associated Press – 10/16/01
  • Someone claiming to be a federal agent phoned Hypervine, an Internet service provider, to inform them that they may be in violation of anti-terrorism laws and could have their assets seized for allowing Cosmic Entertainment to air three radio shows over the Internet. The three shows are IRA Radio, about Irish news and politics, Al Lewis Live, a radio show hosted by ex-"Munster" Al Lewis and Our Americas, a spanish-language show about rebels in Latin America. After receiving the call, Hypervine shut down all three shows. The FBI has declined to comment.
    Source – "’Radical" Radio Shows Forced From the Net" – USA Today – 10/16/01
  • In October 2001, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency entered into an exclusive agreement with Space Imaging, Inc. to purchase all of the rights of the satellite photos that the company is taking of Afghanistan and surrounding areas. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency is part of the U.S. Defense Department and Space Imaging, Inc. is regarded as the best source in the world for such high resolution satellite photos. While the Pentagon claims that the agreement is meant to supplement the government’s own satellite images, some observers have pointed out that the agreement means that the news media will no longer have access to such images and will, as a result, be hampered from reporting on various basic aspects of military actions in Afghanistan and will not be able to independently verify Pentagon claims.
    Source – "Pentagon Corners Output of Special Afghan Images" – New York Times – 10/19/01
  • In October 2001, NBC News White House correspondent, Campbell Brown, was contacted by phone by a senior administration official who "gently chided’ her for tough questioning of Tom Ridge, the head of the Office of Homeland Security, during a press briefing.
    Source – "Bush Plans Speech With Coherent, Unified Message" – New York Times – 11/2/01
  • The Austin-American Statesman apologized for the cover art of it’s January 3, 2002 edition. The cover featured a music amplifier on fire and smoking for its annual issue that focuses on the local music scene. The paper received many complaints because of its use of World Trade Center-type imagery although the paper explained that the picture was representative of a lackluster year for local music in the area.
    Source – "Austin Paper Apologizes for Art" – Editor & Publisher – 1/15/02

Schools

  • Patricia Bowes, an art teacher at Addison Minzer Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Florida was suspended for encouraging her students to express their feelings about the events through their artwork. School officials later say that the suspension had more to do with Bowes demonstrating to students how a hijacker could take over a plane using a knife-like object after students inquired.
    Sources – "Boca Art Teacher Suspended Over Pupils’ Sketches of Terror" – South Florida Sun-Sentinel – 9/19/01, "Suspended Teacher Demonstrated Hijacker’s Possible Tactics" – Palm Beach Post – 9/21/01
  • On 9/18/01, the Daily Californian, a student-run campus newspaper at UC Berkeley, ran an editorial cartoon by syndicated cartoonist Darrin Bell. The cartoon featured two Muslim Arabs in the hand of a demon and surrounded by flames discussing their having made it to paradise. After the cartoon appeared in the paper, student protestors declared a sit-in at the Daily Californian offices and presented the paper with a list of demands including a printed apology. When the paper refused to meet the protestors’s demands the student senate drafted a bill to raise the rent of the paper and subject all staffers to mandatory sensitivity training.
    Sources – "University of Censorship’s Fall Semester" – San Francisco Chronicle – 10/11/01
  • In October 2001, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill, by a 200-1 vote, that would mandate that students recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem during each school day unless the school had written permission from a parent exempting their child.
    Source – "Bill Would Compel Pledge or Anthem in Pa. Schools" – Philadelphia Inquirer/AP – 10/17/01
  • A substitute teacher with the Pittsburgh Public Schools is suspended on 9/20/01 for writing "Osama bin Laden did us a favor. He vulcanized us, awakened us and strengthened our resolve" in the margins of a newspaper that he later threw away. The teacher later had a chance to explain that he wrote the lines after hearing them on a newscast and was using them for a book he’s writing about making the best of horrible situations. After further investigation, the teacher was reinstated.
    Sources - "Sub Teacher Fired Over bin Laden Note" – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 9/21/01, "Substitute Teacher Gets His Job Back Pronto After Suspension for bin Laden Writing" – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 9/22/01
  • In September 2001, A fifth-grade student from Jefferson County, Missouri (near St. Louis) was suspended for three days for drawing a picture of the World Trade Center on fire and taping it to his study cubicle. When asked why he drew it, the student allegedly did not answer but grinned. A spokesperson for the school district said that the student was suspended for the grinning and not the drawing itself.
    Source – "School Suspends Buy Who Drew Picture of Attack, Then Grinned While Showing It" – St. Louis Post Dispatch – 10/4/01
  • In October 2001, A high school student from Fairview Park, Ohio was suspended for 10 days for displaying posters on his locker. The posters featured an eagle with a tear drop and several had bombers drawn on them with messages such as "May God have mercy, because we will not." School officials suspended the student, Aaron Pettit, because they viewed the posters as threats against Arab-American students. Pettit sued the school in federal court and was reinstated.
    Source – "Fairview Student Was Disciplined for Hanging Patriotic Posters" – 10/10/01 – Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • In Topeka, Kansas, McCarter Elementary School officials implemented a policy whereby students were forbidden to wear traditional Halloween costumes to school and, instead, will only be allowed to wear costumes with patriotic themes.
    Source – "School Nixes Traditional Costumes" – 10/24/01 – Topeka Capital-Journal
  • School officials at Newton North High School in Massachusetts came under fire from some parents for allowing Boston University professor and author Howard Zinn to speak to students in mid-November 2001 in the school’s auditorium. During his speech, Zinn criticized the U.S. war against Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy.
    Source – "High School Speech by Peace Prof Raises Ire" – 11/20/01 – Boston Herald
  • School officials in Bexley, Ohio were criticized after having a Muslim speaker associated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations address students at a high school assembly in November 2001.
    Source – "School Board Backs Muslim Speaker" – 12/18/01 – Columbus Dispatch
  • Two high school students in Adairsville, Georgia were suspended in January 2002 after they refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. School administrators defended the suspensions by saying that the students were not suspended for refusing to recite the pledge but, instead, were suspended because they ignored their teacher’s request to stand along with their fellow classmates during the pledge.
    Source – "Two Adairsville Students Suspended for Refusing to Stand During Pledge" – 1/31/02 – Atlanta Journal -Constitution

Workplace

  • Jonnie Hargis, an employee at the Young Research Library at UCLA, received an e-mail from co-worker Michelle Torre that was sent to other employees at the library. The e-mail contains "America: The Good Neighbor," a speech written by Canadian Gordon Sinclair in the early 1970′s. Hargis responded to the e-mail by calling into question U.S. support of policies by Israel against Palestinians. Hargis was subsequently suspended without pay for 5 days for violating a policy that forbids sending unsolicited e-mails containing political, religious or patriotic messages to library department lists. That policy was created the same day that Hargis was suspended and Torre received no disciplinary action. Hargis’ union has since filed a grievance with the University.
    Source – "YRL Employee Punished for Political Mass E-Mail" – (UCLA) Daily Bruin – 10/4/01
  • In September 2001, the library staff at Florida Gulf Coast University were told to not wear their "I’m Proud to be an American Stickers" because they might offend foreign students at the school.
    Source – "College’s Librarians Barred From Wearing American Pride Stickers" – www.freedomforum.org – 9/19/01

Miscellaneous

  • In October 2001, A New York resident was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after praising Osama bin Laden and handing out leaflets while standing on a street corner near the site of the former World Trade Center.
    Source – "Pro-Bin Laden Speech Leads to Disorderly Conduct Charge" – New York Law Journal – 2/4/02
  • In October 2001, a 22-year-old man was kicked off of two different flights, on the same day, by United Airlines at Philadelphia International Airport because airport security thought he might be a safety risk. The controversy began when the man, Neil Godfrey, had his luggage randomly searched and it was discovered that he had a copy of Hayduke Lives! a novel about a radical environmentalist who destroys property. The book’s front cover features an illustration of a hand holding dynamite. After being questioned several times by a variety of airport security, law enforcement officials and even a National Guardsman, Godfrey was denied the opportunity to board his flight.
    After returning home and contacting an United Airlines official, Godfrey was told he would be able to travel on a later flight. For the second flight, he chose a Harry Potter book. Upon returning to the airport, Godfrey’s luggage was again searched, he was again questioned by airport security, law enforcement and a National Guardsman, his book again examined, and he was patted down. Ultimately, Godfrey was also denied the opportunity to fly on the second flight.
    Source – "Novel Security Measures" – Philadelphia City Paper – October 18-25, 2001
  • When President Bush visited Sacramento, California, approximately 30 anti-war protesters attempted to move into a space where others were standing to view the president’s motorcade they were prevented from doing so by Sacramento police. A Secret Service spokesman blamed the action on "miscommunication" between the Secret Service and the local police.
    Source – "High-Profile Sacramento Visitor Puts Free Speech to the Test" – Sacramento Bee – 11/4/01
  • Yahoo and other online message boards have been removing postings related to the events of September 11th that they deem offensive. Included among the messages that were removed are postings linking users to websites that advocate a holy war against the Western world and messages from users that say the U.S. deserved the attacks. Arab-American advocates are also alleging that these same companies ignore postings that are anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.
    Source – "Online Companies Draw Fire for Removing ‘Offensive’ Postings" – Newsbytes/Washington Post – 11/19/01
  • In January 2002, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the California Department of Transportation to remove all flags, signs and banners from freeway overpasses. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit by two women who hung two banners on an overpass that said "Are you buying this war?" and "At what cost?". The banners were removed by police who left an American flag that was hung by someone else untouched. In court, Caltrans officials admitted that they had a policy of removing signs and banners from overpasses but allowed flags – unless they were hung upside down or were otherwise disrespectful.
    Source – "U.S. Flags on Overpasses Taken Down After Ruling Caltrans Can’t Discriminate Among Banners" – San Francisco Chronicle – 1/30/02