Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Censorship: Its Ugly Tentacles

Do you believe in government censorship? Of course not.

Then why should we tolerate special interest censorship? It happens more often than one might think.

Remember the Republican loyalists protesting the airing of a CBS television series on the Reagans in 1992? CBS chickened out and sold the rights to Showtime. The series laid a ratings egg. What's significant is that the series was in the can when the hue and cry of protest rose to a pinnacle of sight-unseen hysteria.

Flash forward to today as The History Channel prepares a script for a non-fiction mini-series on John F. Kennedy. Not even casting, production, filming nor a premiere date is set. But a groundswell of Democratic loyalists of Kennedy is flourishing to halt production.

The reason? The project is spearheaded by Joel Surnow, a conservative and creator of the Fox show "24" who counts Rush Limbaugh as one of his biggest fans.

Copies of the scripts' early drafts were obtained by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who is critical of Fox. He produced a 13-minute video on a web site It includes statements from prominent historians, including Theodore C. Sorensen, a former Kennedy adviser. In the video, “Every single conversation with the president in the Oval Office or elsewhere in which I, according to the script, participated, never happened," Sorenson said.

Stephen  Kronish is the lead screenwriter for the “Kennedys.” mini-series. He said that the History channel’s standards for producing its mini-series require bibliographic annotations and legal vetting before filming proceeds. He also said that he was drawing upon nonfiction works, including books by Seymour Hersh, Robert Dallek, David Talbot and others. “If I’m wrong,” he said, “I guess all of them are wrong.”

This is the gist of an opinion piece in today's New York Times written by David Itzkoff.

As a writer, I have an inherent aversion to someone looking over my shoulder and telling me or influencing me their demands on how the final product should appear. My backbone really stiffens when they tell me it's their way or the highway.

These loyalists whether they are Reaganites or Kennedyites are doing nothing more than preserving a brand.

I say let the market decide. People believe what they want. But, the general rule special interests  forget, is that people are not stupid.

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