(Disclaimer: The following is a rant. Itâ??s quite long because I ramble on like this in real life as well. If youâ??re one of those people who will read the first few lines, decide they know my position and then argue with me in the comment section, then at least read the last two paragraphs to know where I truly stand on the matter. In truth, the purpose of this rant is best defined in the third to last paragraph. The last two I included simply because without them people would make assumptions. Thanks)
Well a big issue on the Jordanian blogosphere lately has been about censorship. Mainly a recent edition of VIVA Magazine which ran articles on Gays in Jordan and women and their vaginas, which was soon pulled off the market.
The main concern has centered not on Gays or vaginas (a winning combination) but rather censorship. The main idea being that by removing it from our sights the powers-that-be are hoping we’ll just ignore it and it will eventually go away.
Another argument seems to center around there being absolute freedom of speech with no restrictions (or punishment) in the country. Something which has been tested time and time again in Jordan and only recently with 2 editors who published the religiously offensive Danish cartoons a few months ago.
I’m a student of politics; a student of public policy. And more importantly I’m very pro-freedom of speech in Jordan because I know my politics and I don’t see any progress in my country taking place without public accountability via the media. But that’s just me and I could be wrong and with that in mind please consider the following rant:
Gays: I’m aware the issue exists in Jordan (as do vaginas apparently). We didn’t exactly invent the concept of homosexuality and this censored article isn’t exactly making a scientific discovery so let’s not pretend it is.
My beef isn’t with what the articles say or don’t say, my opinion on these matters is my own. What I’m concerned with is two things: action and reaction.
If we’re publishing articles about gays and vaginas or any thing else, we usually have to cater to an audience. So this begs the question: are Jordanians accepting of these issues? If not, does that mean they are a backwards people who don’t know any better and therefore the enlightened minority of our society should take it upon itself to force the rest of them to see things their way? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.
If the overwhelming majority of Jordanians find Danish cartoons mocking their religion offensive, should we remove them? If the overwhelming majority of Jordanians find the Da Vinci Code offensive to their religion should we ban it? The main answer to this is that it will only encourage people to see the movie, look for the cartoons, read the book et cetera. I’ve said that before on this very blog and it’s a valid point. On the other hand, letâ??s not kid ourselves; these moves are in large part political. Whether people do see the movie or read the book was not the point behind banning it or censoring it. The government knows people will watch The Da Vinci Code, especially when it’s banned, and so do the Council of Churches who asked for its banning. Neither is naive. But there’s politics to be made here, there’s catering to be done.
The advent of the Internet has changed certain realities about information. Heck, Emad Hajjaj has a whole section of censored/unpublished cartoons on his site for all to see. Jordanian bloggers have been talking about everything that by now would land a lot of people in jail. Oh and if you think the powers-that-be don’t monitor your blogs you are highly mistaken; take my word for it.
The rules are different with the Internet. The government discriminates, or to use a euphemism, it has the ability to differentiate between the two different parts of our society. In the simplest terms we have the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, the upper and the lower class, and above all those with access and those without. The issues I or others blog about are not disseminated through the channels we would like them to be. Picture a pinball machine where the little silver ball never goes anywhere really, it just bounces back and forth between the walls; contained.
But newspapers and magazines; well that’s a different story. Anyone can just walk to a bookstore and purchase one and so information disseminated through those mediums is still dangerous.
(This is a rant so forgive the incoherency of my thoughts, I’m rambling in the order of which the thoughts enter my brain)
The question I was posing earlier was basically about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Many people are angry about the censorship of these articles in VIVA magazine but what does the majority think?
I kind of laughed at the imagery conjured up in the article on vaginas; a line of panties. A suitable metaphor for airing out of one’s laundry; I’m sure it was a deliberate use of images. But do we want that. I am speaking as a collective. If we polled the entire nation what would the response be? Should we be talking about these things? Is the point to simply expose the issue so that people can consider it? We’ve considered it, now what? Where do go from here? And if the majority of Jordanians agree with the move to censor such articles what do we do about it?
I’m just asking the questions here; those reading them can answer them on their own.
The main argument though is that you cannot fix a problem until you acknowledge it and by censoring it you are ignoring it but it won’t go away. Which leads me to wonder if what gays, vaginas, Da Vinci, and Danish cartoons have in common is that they’re all “problems” that need to be solved? The other main argument is that you can’t have freedom of speech and place restrictions on it. Well sure you can. In fact it’s done in every country in the world. It’s called the law. And even in the most progressive nations on this planet, the battle for freedom of speech is being fought in the courts; between the law of the land and the protection of constitutional rights. The reason it’s there is to protect people (and politicians, but mostly people).
There’s the old clichÃ© of democracy being what the majority wants but the majority doesn’t know what’s good for it. Is that true? Let us make the bold assumption that the intention behind an article on gays was for people to consider the issue of homosexuality (although after reading it I felt the intention was otherwise). Let us make the second assumption that the majority of people don’t want to consider it. Does this mean the majority is wrong? Again, I don’t know. I’d like to believe that people know what they want and know what they’re doing but that would be a bad assumption. It’s the reason direct democracy never worked; imagine thousands of Athenians crowding into their town halls centuries and centuries ago, all of them screaming to be heard, Plato and Aristotle caught in the mob’s stampede. So the Greeks felt representative democracy was the way to go; less bloody.
You don’t know what’s good for you. Our parents tell us this when we’re younger. When we reach their age our governments tell us the same. But doesn’t that section of society that feels they know better do that as well?
These are all questions that come to mind; my mind. I didn’t want to write a post where I talked strictly of my opinion on matters; I wanted to approach this subject by posing political and sociological questions for people to consider. We all have our opinions on the matter, sometimes we jump the gun because we’ve come to define what we believe in and those beliefs often crystallize without the chance for further considerations and there are always further considerations. There are always exceptions to all the rules and all the beliefs which we believe in; always. These are all questions which we should debate and this is the time in history to do that; especially our history.
Do you want to hear my opinion on this whole issue about censoring gays and vaginas? Jordan is situated between Israel, Palestine and Iraq. It has little to no natural resources. The majority of our country can’t afford to feed their families the way they deserve let alone buy 3 JD magazines. 30% of the country is unemployed, or barely employed. Most workers and most of the country make the equivalent of $133 a month. A great deal of the country has families sleeping side by side in the winter with a leaky gas heater that leads to their suffocation because they can’t afford anything better. I think there is corruption everywhere to be found and no one is holding anyone accountable. I think no progress will ever be made until that happens. I think people are reckless when it comes to their environment and the protection of it. I think we still have women being killed over honour or lack there of. And I think that hundreds of intelligent students graduate every year and can’t find jobs.
So do you want to know what I think? I think gays and vaginas are the least of our “problems”. And I think the censorship of such articles isn’t even in the same galaxy as the importance of censorsing politically related articles, which upon considering the state of our nation, I feel personify the ultimate form of freedom of speech that is needed today. Which leads me to pose the only question in this entire rant which I really really don’t know the answer to: why are we more concerned with the former than the latter? Again, these last two paragraphs are just my own take on the issue. The main point of this post which is more relevant for discussion are the questions posed throughout it. I end with this statement now for the sake of concerning ourselves more with the discussion of those questions rather than the dissection of my personal opinion, which in the context of it all is more or less irrelevant.