self-censorship or lobby intimidation


Peter Chamberlin

October 21, 2007

When I submitted my last article for publication, I discovered a censorship problem that I had never encountered before. The article that I submitted to a site that used AOL email, kept bouncing back, citing a reference within it for a “permanent failure” message. The cited URL was for a document that debunked anti-Semitic disinformation. The bounced mail notice claimed that the censoring was for:

“generating substantial complaints from AOL members. AOL blocks emails that contain domains that may have been previously used to send unsolicited email or inappropriate content…These blocks mainly target clickable links, but may also block non-clickable domains.”

I could not understand why this material was banned. As I began to research the site, I came across this information on “GeoCities” on the Anti-Defamation League site:

“GeoCities…refuses to host hate sites…GeoCities, a subsidiary of Yahoo! Inc., prohibits providing material that is grossly offensive to the online community, including blatant expressions of bigotry, prejudice, racism, hatred or excessive profanity.”

So, it was not the site, it was the content, even though it was anti-anti-Semitic.

I also learned that the ADL is at the forefront of the movement to regulate information on the Internet which they deem offensive. They have developed a “hate filter,” which they market to Internet providers, originally under the guise of censoring content for children.

“The ADL filter bans sites that preach anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry.”

Since the ADL is one of the primary lobbyists for Israeli causes, I was left with the probability that the information was banned because of complaints that the material offended the pro-Israel lobby, because it did not reflect their position on this topic. Did AOL adopt this stance in this instance because of direct or indirect pressure from members of the lobby, or was the decision made by higher authorities for them? According to researcher Wayne Madson:

“America On Line is the most egregious in stifling Internet freedom. A former AOL employee noted how AOL and other Internet Service Providers cooperate with the Bush administration in censoring email. The Patriot Act gave federal agencies the power to review information to the packet level and AOL was directed by agencies like the FBI to do more than sniff the subject line. The AOL term of service (TOS) has gradually been expanded to grant AOL virtually universal power regarding information. Many AOL users are likely unaware of the elastic clause, which says they will be bound by the current TOS and any TOS revisions which AOL may elect at any time in the future. Essentially, AOL users once agreed to allow the censorship and non-delivery of their email.”

I believe that AOL is censoring material due to fear of government intimidation and the possibility that pro-Israel lobby pressure will come down on them. I believe that the ADL list of banned sites and pages figures prominently in government plans to censor debate on American/Israeli foreign policy. The lobby’s ability to dominate debate within the government on sensitive topics is being reflected more and more in stifled popular debate on the Internet.

This phenomenon of self-censorship is showing up at Verizon and AT&T, as well.

“Verizon and AT&T followed the same pattern of censorship based on claims that they are blocking certain material in order to protect their reputations under ‘terms of service’…Net access can be terminated for any behavior that AT&T or Verizon believes might harm its ‘name or reputation,’ or even the reputation of its business partners…”,0,5340663.column?coll=la-home-center

“Google” the words “AOL censorship” and you will find page after page of references to banned topics – “youth filters” blocking certain liberal and antiwar sites (including Democratic National Committee, Truthout and Prison Planet ); AOL messaging services blocking comments referencing Anti-Israel sites and info related to the attack on the USS Liberty;

pro-Palestinian sites like being blocked.

Political correctness, concerning issues relating to Israel and especially to Zionism, is being forced upon the Internet under the guise of combating “hate speech,” through the tactic of intimidation, based on fear of economic reprisals against network suppliers. This tactic creates an atmosphere of fear, through an anticipated lobby response, that oftentimes works as well as direct threats. This is the pro-Israel lobby’s real power to wield through its wealthy donors, the promise of economic rewards for those who support Israel and punishment for those who oppose the Zionist plans.

This is the power that Walt and Mearsheimer document for us in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Their power to suppress and control public debate allows the lobby to dominate “free speech” among the American people and our government. The lobby’s power is a measure of the loss of the people’s power. They can only be effective in their pressuring (lobbying) of government to comply with their demands, if the American majority is ineffective. Their money and power has harnessed our own political power for Israel’s gain. This lobby (like all lobbies) is directly undermining democracy by substituting someone else’s will (the will of Israel) for that of the American majority.

This power to dominate the public debate on their issues is not matched by that of any other “lobby.” This power of indirect intimidation, which is called “pre-emptive self-censorship” by Richard Silverstein, extends far beyond their attempted domination of the Internet, to any public forum where they are likely to be discussed.

“A number of non-Jewish organisations have denied supposedly controversial speakers or organisations the right to speak or perform due to the anticipated reaction of the local Jewish community…in the case of the postponed New York performance of ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie,’ a cancelled Chicago appearance of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, a cancelled concert by Marcel Khalife in San Diego, and a cancelled speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Minneapolis, the hosts nixed the appearances before there was any protest. And they cancelled because of an anticipated response from the Jewish community which they had no reason to know might ever happen… the Israel lobby has so conditioned American organisations to its wrath that the latter won’t even touch certain speakers for fear of stirring it once again…”>

This power to suppress the public discussion of our strategic relationship with Israel, extends deeply into the very “news” that we rely on to make decisions in our democratic-republic. The following example demonstrates the power of the lobby to control what we are allowed to know through our corporate media –

“In 2003, 23 year old US College Student Rachel Corrie was run over by a Israeli government bulldozer while trying to protest the systematic bulldozing of the homes of unarmed Palestinians in Rafal in the Gaza Strip…All five TV networks did NOT report this story when it happened; all five networks have not yet revealed the name of the Israeli soldier who murdered Rachel Corrie. Contrast with the wall to wall coverage of the reported murder of Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American reporter for the Wall Street Journal…”

The Internet is the only source for real news in America today, even though we see it slowly being whittled away by forces that are hostile to free speech. The day is rapidly approaching when this too will be taken away.

Voices of brave Americans like Mearsheimer and Walt are sounding the alert for us; we ignore them at our own peril. They have opened a line of debate in the war on terrorism that has implications that go far beyond the war itself. Their book looks at the demonstrated power of the lobby to stifle debate on Israeli policies in this country and the negative impact that they have had on American foreign policy. Now that they have boldly led the way to discussion of the formerly forbidden, it is up to those of us who agree with them, to help expose the lobby’s power to suppress free speech, wherever we think we encounter it. Real American patriots will join-in their efforts to prevent Israel and their Zionist American supporters from leading us into another war to make the world safe for Israel.

:: Article nr. 37415 sent on 21-oct-2007 23:59 ECT