Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2008 "Muzzle Awards" Announced

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression names the "winners" of what it calls the "Muzzle Awards" annually. These awards go to the country’s most "egregious and ridiculous censors."

For only the second time in the 17 year history of the awards, the Center awarded a lifetime achievement award to the FCC, for "its inconsistent and unpredictable standards for determining what constitutes 'indecent' broadcasting." Honestly, they are consistenly inconsistent.

One of the lowlights of the list, one which absolutely had to make the list, in my view, was the "fake" FEMA press conference.

The 2008 list includes:

Sarpy County (Nebraska) Attorney L. Kenneth Polikov for pursuing charges of flag mutilation and negligent child abuse against a protestor at a military funeral. The defendant’s son - a minor - placed an American flag on the ground and stood on it during the protest.

US Attorney Donald Washington and acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Grace Chung Baker for bringing federal hate crime charges against an 18-year-old man for hanging nooses on the back of his pickup truck during a civil rights march in Jena, Louisiana.

Lancaster County (NE) District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront for barring use of the words the words “rape,” “victim,” “assailant,” “sexual assault kit,” and “sexual assault nurse examiner” by witnesses (including the victim) during a trial of a defendant on charges of sexual assault.

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles for recalling vanity license plates without offering a reasonable explanation as to why. The NY DMV demanded the return of plates that read “GETOSAMA.”

Scranton (PA) Police Department for charging a woman with disorderly conduct for screaming profanities at an overflowing toilet inside her own house.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for staging a fake news conference about FEMA assistance to victims of wildfires in southern California. FEMA employees pretended to be reporters and asked soft and gratuitous questions, while notice was given to real reporters only 15 minutes before the conference. A call-in 800 number was provided for legitimate reporters, but it was a “listen-only” arrangement.

CBS Radio and MSNBC for allowing public criticism to control their programming by taking controversial shock jock Don Imus off-the-air for his on-air sexist and racist comment regarding the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. The networks took the action despite the fact they were aware Imus frequently made such provocative comments and they could have prevented the comments from being heard by utilizing delay buttons.

The 2007 Managing Board of the University of Virginia student newspaper The Cavalier Daily for firing a cartoonist because of public criticism the paper received for publishing one of his cartoons despite the fact that the editorial staff signed off on the cartoon before its publication.

Ronald M. Zaccari, President of Valdosta State University (GA), for expelling a student for protesting the school’s construction of two parking garages by posting flyers, writing a letter to the school newspaper, contacting members of the state Board of Regents and posting items on his Facebook profile.

Brandeis University (MA) Administration for declaring professor Donald Hindley guilty of harassment after he explained to his class that Mexican migrant workers are sometimes pejoratively referred to as “wetbacks.” Action was taken after a student complained, though the nearly 50-year veteran teacher was provided neither a formal hearing nor written documentation of the claims against him.

Lewis Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff and Connecticut Region 10 Superintendent of Schools Paula Schwartz for not allowing a student to run for class office because she posted comments critical of school officials on an Internet blog.

United States Senator Jay Rockefeller for introducing a bill that would require the FCC to maintain a policy that the broadcast of a single word or image (i.e., regardless of context) may be considered indecent and therefore punishable. Rockefeller has also been at the forefront of several other repressive efforts to regulate broadcast content.

The Texas State Democratic Party for refusing to allow presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on the state’s primary ballot because he refused to sign a pledge that he would “fully support” the eventual Democratic nominee.

It should be noted that in addition to the FCC, the only other lifetime achievement award even bestowed upon anyone was given to then NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1999, for managing to get the city sued by the ACLU in twelve different First Amendment cases, only one of which the city won.

For more details on each of these, er awards, go to http://www.tjcenter.org/muzzles/muzzle-archive-2008/


A. Caste-Away said...

I love this. You could probably run a 24 hour news program on the dumb and insane things that FEMA, The FCC, EPA and DHS do daily. I love that the awards are bi-partisan too. Proves that no matter what side of the isle you sit, wrong is wrong and dumb is dumb.


fxhawaii said...

So, I don't actually believe this will work.