Censorship and Democracy, Vol. 11 - 2004, No. 2
The word “censorship” is philologically rooted in a glossary of key notions that span across the spectrum of the paradigm of authority. Based on analyses by Émile Benveniste, from his Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, this essay aims at bringing out the censorial denotations of “authority,” “war,” “award,” “direction,” as well as the embedded censorial dimension of, for instance, the rhetorical presidency. It closes on a reflexion concerning the censorial drift, within democracy, from demos to laos.
This essay considers the problematic of dissent being rendered oxymoronic with democracy in the United States under conditions of a weak democratic culture and an aggressive prosecution of the war on terror. It examines obstacles to democratic dissent in the U.S. and potential resources for rehabilitating it, sketching a preliminary map of the theoretical and cultural ground to be covered in a resistance to the further militarization of global politics. Suggesting that democracy is dissent, and democratic dissent is rhetorical critique, the essay argues that extant political culture might be rearticulated to dissent by language critiques that produce persuasive re-descriptions and symbolic merging.
Domestic and international issues of the 1990s form an incendiary combination of controversies that heightened American fears, anger, and sensitivity to the politics of difference and provide the background for the passing of the Patriot Act of 2001. The author argues that censorship occurs with the silencing of voices in a democracy and describes the control of voice in the post-USA Patriot Act era, where the danger of censorial power resides in secrecy combined with indeterminacy.
The article develops an argument for the control of commercial and political advertising in the United States and a return to a journalism of public service and in support of democratic principles of communication. Based on a number of previous studies, the author describes and analyzes the impact of a business culture on the traditional role of the media, the expectations of journalism, and the rights of citizen to be informed by a range of ideas and in the spirit of a democratic existence.
Censorship in post-communist Russia is outlawed, while the right to information is legally guaranteed. In practice, however, access to information is a frequently mentioned problem for journalists and citizens alike. The information climate is still characterised by secrecy rather than openness. The buzzword of “confidential information” (commercial, state, or military secrets) replaces earlier references to political or ideological control but is equally open to wide interpretations. This article describes the limited access to information in Russia as a form of highly effective censorship. Although these means of censorship are not exclusively Russian, the article focuses on why Russia seems especially vulnerable to this kind of censorship. The concept of “information culture” is used to describe the (Russian) attitude towards information and towards the distribution of information based on the values of collectivism and particularism rather than individualism and universalism.
The task of journalism in a democracy is to create publicness in the sense of unrestricted social communication. A broad and open interpretation of censorship means the creation of barriers to public communication not only by the state, but also by economic, social, and cultural conditions. This essay addresses professional principles of journalism — the separation of editorial and advertising sections, documentation and fiction, and facts and opinion — as means of self-censorship in a democracy. Where are the limits of these professional principles? What are the criteria that distinguish between their legitimate and illegitimate uses? This essay interprets the current tendency to dissolve the journalistic principle of separation.