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December 1993


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Doug Riblet <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Dec 1993 17:53:09 -0600
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Megan Mullen writes [regarding a NYT article I transcribed and posted
last night; I'll send it to anyone who missed it by e-mail]
>Why "no comment," Doug?  The NYT article you refer to certainly does
>*not* speak for itself; in fact it strikes me as being shamefully
>manipulative.  In *today's* NYT I read about Michael Moore's new film,
>*Canadian Bacon* -- a futuristic political satire in which Canada is
>the United States' new post-cold war antagonist.  Moore apparently is
>incorporating fictional red scare-reminiscent propaganda that sounds
>eerily like yesterday's NYT "news" to *spoof* the ways in which wartime
>paranoia is generated.  Canada, like any other country, has its
>bureaucratic hypocrisies.  This particular anecdote seems to me to have
>a parallel in the fact that Americans wishing to read *Cine Cubano* film
>journal must receive it *via Canada*.  That's *my* commentary.
Well, I can only tell you why I found the article noteworthy for members
of this group.  I did not state that the article "spoke for itself,"
whatever that means.
Censorship of "offensive" media & works of art has been increasing recently
in both the U. S. and Canada.  This censorship takes many forms and comes
from many quarters.  (At UW-Madison last year, we had an uproar when
several students in a film/video production course complained to the
Dean about having to watch another student's "offensive" project
in class.)  As academics who teach various types of audiovisual
media and artworks, I think that we need to be aware of this threat.
The Trent University/Duras case struck me as a particularly
egregious, though hardly isolated, example of a disturbing trend,
one that all film/TV/media teachers/scholars should know about.
I also found this article strong evidence for my belief that efforts
by progressive intellectuals to endow the state with ever greater
power to censor "offensive" media & works of art in the name of
"protecting" oppressed groups are both misguided and dangerous.  Such
laws usually get used in ways that those progressive intellectuals
did not intend.  I received an e-mail message from a Canadian friend
last night thanking me for sending along the article and pointing out
to me that Canadian anti-pornography laws have been widely employed
to target gay and lesbian bookstores.  Many screen-l participants
may not share this view, and I would be glad to debate it via e-mail.
My posting was not intended to belittle Canada and, by implication,
laud the United States as a bastion of enlightened tolerance and free
artistic expression.  As countless recent cases (the Mapplethorpe
exhibit in Cincinnati & the UW video production class, to take two
widely removed examples) have shown, this same crackdown on "offensive"
or "obscene" art continues apace in the United States.  Those who know
me will, I hope, be amused by this apparent accusation that I am an
apologist for United States government policy.
Doug Riblet
University of Wisconsin--Madison
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