Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Censorship doesn't belong in Michigan

Censorship doesn't belong anywhere in this country either, but it's alive and well in Michigan thanks to a certain state Republican. Here are the pertinent facts from Conservative Media:
Senate Majority Leader and chief obstructionist Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, took the unusual step and for the first time in Senate history illegally censored a liberal blog for daring to call him out on his foot-dragging and attempt to hold the state budget hostage for his political gain.

Subscription only Gognwer News Service reported Bishop ordered "Blogging for Michigan" blocked from being accessed from Senate computers, using the false claim that the blog was “created by a Senate employee using Senate equipment.” The blog was created and operated by Shiawassee County resident Christine Barry, a systems engineer, from her home. All the material posted comes from public sources, such as newspapers, newsletters, the Senate websites, the Senate Journal and the Senate session and most of the committees are broadcast live on the Senate web site. Not only that, the info is properly sourced with links, something you don’t see in the mainstream media. [...]

Ironically, this is the only blog that was blocked; leaving all three of the conservative blogs in the state, as well as that thing ran by the chair of the state GOP, even Michiganliberal was not blocked. [emphasis added]
I don't see the irony. I think this was a blatant attempt to censor BFM because they said things about our state Republicans that made them look bad (excuses like work productivity were also given). In fact, Matt Miner, Bishop's chief of staff, said other sites like Michigan Liberal weren't banned because they didn't say bad things about them. Boo-hoo, gentlemen. Get a grip on your manhood. We're talking about constitutional rights, not bruised egos.

Sadly, Michigan doesn't need anymore Republican-generated bad publicity, but that's just what's happening. The story has already been picked up by the
AP, Detroit Free Press, Lansing State Journal, and DailyKos.

More important than the black eye this gives our state, is the fact that Bishop is violating the free speech of one blog and, as
BFM points out, he's following in the footsteps of scandal-ridden Gov. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky and (closer to home) Flint's Mayor Don Williamson. In Fletcher's case, he's being sued and the case is still in court, and in Williamson's case, the City of Flint ended up paying $150,000 for violating a person's civil rights. Detroit News blogger, Libby Spencer, sums up Bishop's actions best:
Bishop who is dancing faster than the hapless drunk in an old western trying to justify his boneheaded move, is surprised by the reaction. Maybe he should bone up on his constitutional knowledge. If he wants to ban blogs in the hallowed chambers of Lansing on account of work productivity, fine. But then he has to block all of them -- or none. In America, freedom of speech means everyone gets to talk. Not just the people who agree with him.
That's right, Mr. Bishop. Everyone gets to talk, not just Republicans.

Thankfully, knowledgeable, rational people like Senate Minority Leader Mark
Schauer have stepped up and spoken out against censorship, and Michigan Liberal (the "not banned because they don't say bad things" blog) stepped up too:
We at Michigan Liberal, committed to free speech and expression, have just posted a petition calling for an end to blocked access to Blogging for Michigan to show our solidarity. All of you are encouraged to pop in and sign it as a sign of solidarity, and to recommend it to everyone you know who lives in, or cares about Michigan, to do likewise.

We commit to bumping this to the bottom on a regular basis and leaving it in a prominently displayed place until such time as Mike Bishop's staff has reconsidered its actions. We also encourage all of you who run your own blog to post a link to this pledge and encourage your readers to come and sign our petition, because we know that Michigan Liberal continues to be monitored and read by Senate Republicans.
I've signed it. If you believe in the concept of free expression laid down in the U.S. Bill of Rights, then I encourage you to sign it too by clicking here.

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."
~ Noam Chomsky

Update: Mike Bishop yielded to the First Amendment and restored access to Blogging for Michigan. Chalk one up for democracy!

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