2010 Muzzle Awards

The Muzzle Awards point out those who most egregiously violated the letter or spirit of the First Amendment protecting Free Speech.  The Muzzles don’t always go to governments though.  For example, they gave Muzzle awards to CBS and MSNBC in 2008.

Because the importance and value of free expression extend far beyond the First Amendment’s limit on government censorship, acts of private censorship are not spared consideration for the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.  Unfortunately, each year the finalists for the Jefferson Muzzles have emerged from an alarmingly large group of candidates. For each recipient, a dozen could have been substituted. Further, an examination of previous Jefferson Muzzle recipients reveals that the disregard of First Amendment principles is not the byproduct of a particular political outlook but rather that threats to free expression come from all over the political spectrum.

I must admit it is depressing when the Top 10 on this list are all governments as they are this year.  Texas made the list in 2010, as did California.  Ah, yes, the great states of “do what we say, not as we do” strike again.

In California, it was The Administration of Southwestern College in Chula Vista that got the award “For promulgating and enforcing a policy limiting even peaceful and non-disruptive protests to a designated “free speech” patio, a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Administration of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California.”  Gee, I know protesters can be an inconvenience and big old PAIN but suddenly it’s no wonder the students in California are on a rampage doing damage when they are being confined to “free speech patios”.  Seriously?  Come On!!!

And how far away are protesters kept from the US Presidents these days?  It’s EMBARASSING.  We don’t get to see it much on the news but you can bet the rest of the world does and turns their noses up at our double speak.

And in the Great State of Texas who gets the award?  Our LEGISLATURE of course!  See, we give tax breaks to bring in movie production companies but, like other states (that are going BANKRUPT), now we start cutting off our noses to spite our face.  “No state is required to offer tax incentives to movie production companies. If a state chooses to do so, however, it cannot bestow those benefits in a manner that discriminates on the basis of the views expressed in the movie. Yet such discrimination is exactly what is required under the amendment to the Moving Image Industry Incentive Act.”

“In 2007, the Texas State Legislature amended the Moving Image Industry Incentive Act to deny such incentives to films with ‘inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.’”  Wow, lots of FACTS are filled with “inappropriate content” (is that one of those “know it when we see it” items?) and, these days, lots and LOTS of facts in Texas put us squarely in the “negative”.  That latter isn’t “portrayed” as in fiction but “portrayed” as in fact and the facts can be pretty damning!

So what did the legislature do to earn the award?  “For denying motion picture production companies tax breaks if their proposed movies portray Texas or Texans in a negative fashion, a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle goes to…The Texas State Legislature.”  You see, someone wants to do a factual movie about the Waco Debacle, for which the Feds are primarily responsible.  However, we Texans can’t disclaim our role or that the whole thing did make us look like a bunch of red neck lynch happy loons.  What portrayed us in a “negative fashion” was the acts of our own governmental officials, local and federal.  It’s history, it’s fact, the story NEEDS to be told and retold that we all learn and so, hopefully, we can prevent repeating such atrocities. 

About the awards generally:  "What strikes us is that practicing censorship, as they've done, sends the wrong message to student journalists," [Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression director Bob] O'Neil said. 

What strikes me is that it sends that wrong message to ALL, not just here but around the globe and to our detriment as a country.  Hm, gee, think these wrong messages contribute to the teaching of intolerance?  I sure do.

What strikes me in particular about this award to Texas is that it points out the Texas Legislature’s lack of understanding of the fundamentals of freedom OR their utter disregard/disdain for those fundamentals.

Too bad the Jefferson Center does publish ALL the nominees or at least the ones that pass the initial sniff test, the ones that instantly smell bad.

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