The Censors Go Global
From Havel to Ashcroft, Baja to Reno
by Dave Marsh
The Czech Republic just passed a law giving anyone "promoting drugs" up to five years in prison. So much for the Velvet Revolution. Pathetically ineffectual President Vaclav Havel, a leader of the Velvet Revolution, is currently hospitalized. But when two dozen Czech artists turned themselves to the Prague cops on July 2, ratting themselves out by handing over "incriminating" CDs, Havel was on the street. He offered no support to the critics of this regime.
The Czech law says that anyone who encourages or, supports "the abuse of habit-forming substances other than alcohol through the press, film, radio, television, publicly accessible computer networks, or or in any other comparatively effective way" gets one to five in the slammer. Come to think of it, Havel, dying of lung cancer as the result of very public use of the addictive substance tobacco, probably should turn himself in. He could write his next book on the back of the 6,000 signature petitions handed to him on July 1 by Art Against Censorship, a group that staged a Prague concert against the new law.
Czech cops took the demonstration seriously enough to investigate lyrics like Hudha Praha's "Everybody smoking marijuana." Yet not only has Havel been silent, so has the international media (even though Hudha Praha, for instance, records for Sony), with the exception of an article buried in the back pages of Billboard. If a communist regime had done such a thing...ah, but in Havel's new Czech Republic, a journalist was threatened with five years in prison for advocating socialist revolution, so there's no need to worry about that.
Here in the States, we worry about relatively slight incursions on the First Amendment--and we should. No farther away than Mexico, the stuff of John Ashcroft's repressive dreams happens regularly. On July 18, Baja California radio stations promised in writing to air no more narcocorridos, corridos (polka-beat ballads) about the dope trade which outsell almost any other popular music in northern Mexico and, among Chicanos, in parts of the U.S. Southwest, too. (For a gripping explanation of all this, I recommend Elijah Wald's book, Narcocorrido and its CD soundtrack, Corridos Y Narcocorridos [Fonovisa, Mex.]) A radio industry representative in Baja said his clients wanted to help "in eliminating themes that go against good, moral customs and apologize for violence." He didn't say whether the stations would oppose the governments of Mexico and the United States which create the violence, support and benefit from the drug trade, and behave immorally every single day, often in collusion wit h each other.
Baja's censorship presents a NAFTA dilemma. U.S. stations operate under no such restrictions. But as Wald stresses, few Mexicans use the drugs the narcocorridos discuss. Drugs are an export product and the importers are all Yankees, as are the users.
In easier times, the Yanqui government's hypocrisy on drugs and censorship made me laugh and cringe. Now, smiling is out of the question. U.S. troops will invade Colombia-although the news takes a backseat to Palestine and Pakistan, it's still just a question of when. The pretext will be the drug trade. The true target will be advocates of socialist revolution.
Meantime, in Miami, hiphoppers Busta Rhymes, Ja Rules and Ashanti played a benefit for Janet Reno campaign for Florida governor. I guess they don't know that Reno made it plain both as Dade County (Miami) DA and as U.S. attorney general that she advocated ruthless suppression of poor people who get caught making their living selling drugs, and of the poor (but not rich) people who use them.
To quote a song Tipper likes, it's a small world after all.http://www.counterpunch.org/