Ah, Censorship, Welcome Back

July 21st, 2004 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

Censorship, which we assumed went out with the 90’s, has returned with a vengeance. Not only did the week have Linda Ronstadt getting thrown out of a Vegas casino for, ahem, expressing her political views, but Whoopi Goldberg lost her Slim-Fast gig for the same reason. We’re thinking this is a disturbing trend. Not to mention (as we always do when this sort of thing arises) the resulting publicity from the reaction gives new life to a moment that would normally die, forgotten and lonely in a backroad motel room.

Even library books, which enjoyed a brief respite from burnings and protests, are suffering from the resurgence of intolerance. Someone (we imagine a dark trenchcoat, shifty eyes, and purple ink stained fingers) is carefully crossing out the profanities in the…wait…Murder, She Wrote series. Said profanities are being replaced with milder epithets. Yeah, cause when we see something crossed out, we don’t work extra hard to see what we’re missing. Apparently these books are so offensive, someone felt compelled to take decisive action.

We’re not the brightest bulb on the tree, but we can figure out a solution to this problem, with apologies to Johnny Cochran. If the writing offends, do not read. In the meantime, we’re going to ponder the sort of person who puts this much energy into such a task. Surely there are better uses of time?

File Under: Square Pegs

4 responses so far ↓

  • Kevin Holtsberry // Jul 21, 2004 at 11:34 am

    Not to be picky but it really isn’t censorship when a company decides not to hire someone or decides to cancel a contract because of their political activities. No one is preventing Ronstadt or Goldberg from speaking or performing; in fact they seem to find plenty of venues to sound off. Instead private companies decided to stop paying them for their services. You have the right to say what you want but you don’t have some right to get paid for it if it offends someone.

  • booksquare // Jul 21, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Go ahead, be picky!

    I think there is an underlying message being sent when a business contract is terminated due to public or private expression of views. Goldberg was speaking at a private event, and not representing Slim-Fast, so it’s unclear why they took this action (heck, I had no clue she did anything for them). This is a particularly public example of threatening speech, but what is to stop other businesses from doing the same thing on a smaller scale? So I do think there is an element of censorship here: your livelihood can be threatened if you speak out against something your so employer doesn’t like (no, I don’t believe Goldberg will suffer financially from this; I think you know what I mean)

    As for Ronstadt, I think the Aladdin’s response was over the top. There is a long history of artists inserting politics into performance. I find it hard to imagine that Linda Ronstadt fans are unaware of her political views — perhaps she didn’t choose the best venue to express herself (I don’t know — I’ve read conflicting accounts regarding the extent of the audience’s displeasure). But again, the there is a message being sent: speaking your mind will not be tolerated.

    It is entirely possible that Goldberg’s agreement included a clause about conduct vis a vis her relationship with the Slim-Fast. It’s unlikely that Ronstadt’s agreement included anything about what she could or could not say. Private companies have the right to conduct business with whomever they wish on whatever terms they wish, I won’t disagree with that. But I find both of these examples to be subtle examples of censorship, and that scares me.

  • Pat Hobby // Jul 21, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    When you hire someone to represent your company in an advertisement you are hiring the person’s reputation. Why would a company bother with a spokesman who may have alienated 50% of the public with her comments?

    Entertainers want it both ways. They want to be able to say what they want about controversial subjects and they want to say it in whatever vulgar way they feel like but they don’t think that there should be any consequences.

    It is a simple lesson that most people should have learned from their parents – actions have consequences.

  • booksquare // Jul 21, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Again, I won’t disagree with the rights of a company to make business decisions, but what, exactly, was Whoopi Goldberg’s reputation prior to being hired? If I recall correctly, she has a history of outspoken behavior and of making poor choices (see the blackface joke with Ted Danson). While I don’t condone her speech, Slim Fast should have been aware they weren’t hiring an innocent angel.

    And did she really offend 50% of the Slim Fast purchasers? Time would have told, but I doubt it. Most people are probably not aware of the incident (actually, firing Goldberg created more publicity than the original performance); and, if you’re a dieter following the Slim Fast regimen, you’re probably not going to switch products. I don’t know — I don’t buy products based on celebrity endorsements, so maybe I’m misunderstanding the impact of them.

    Actions should have consequences. And people should have the right to express their beliefs without fear of being fired. To me, that’s the underlying issue here.