It’s Not Censorship, Of Course

19:42 Thu 28 Aug 2008. Updated: 17:54 28 Jan 2009
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This story about CBS Outdoor refusing art billboards in Minneapolis/St. Paul is quite illustrative of how tightly the public sphere is controlled in this country. CBS worries, essentially, about offending some powerful Republican patrons—at least, that’s my guess, it might not even get to that level of conscious thought.

The artist involved in the posters, which are very simply of the faces of US soldiers photographed while the soldiers are lying down, recalls that a CBS representative “wanted to make sure that the billboards had a clear sponsor logo and URL so that it wouldn’t be mistaken for ‘some weird subversive website’”.

That’s fairly telling in itself, right? The common perception (myth) about media outlets in this country is that they’ll happily display anything for a buck, and that if they were in the business of refusing paying patrons they wouldn’t survive. But that’s not true, and the myriad stories about the media refusing to publicize or advertise things that have surfaced in the last decade (and before) make that quite clear. They aren’t neutral channels, displaying whatever people can pay for (within the bounds of the law)—they’re gatekeepers, and they see their function quite clearly as such. “Subversion”, or even something that could be mistaken for subversion, is rejected without much consideration.

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