What Real Authoritarianism Looks Like
As regular readers of NewsBusters know, a fairly large number of leftists in this country are convinced that George W. Bush is hell-bent on destroying America and turning it into a dictatorship where mandatory worship of "neocons" is required and media outlets are censored. Liberal figures such as Al Gore, Keith Olbermann, and regulars at places like Democratic Underground and Daily Kos routinely make such statements.
While exposing leftist paranoia for public ridicule is amusing, I think it's also worth noting just how far from reality these claims really are. Last month, we saw how real media repression occurs every day in Fidel Castro's Cuba. But Cuba is far from the only place where this happens. Over at PBS's MediaShift, Mark Glaser and Zimbabwean journalist Frank Chikowore talk about how that country's government imprisons and censors reporters who dare criticize it:
The government shuts down independent newspapers. It jams radio signals from outside the country. Internet access is sporadic. Inflation is out of control. A bill is in Parliament that would allow the government to censor private email communications.
Welcome to Zimbabwe, the south African country born out of the former Rhodesia in 1980 and led by strongman President Robert Mugabe every day since its independence from British colonialism. Though the country has immense natural beauty including the Victoria Falls and wildlife, it also has a rough recent history for punishing and censoring the press. Reporters Without Borders rates Zimbabwe’s press freedom as a very serious situation . (You can read the country’s capsule history here .)
Authorities closed down four newspapers after a 2002 law was passed, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which made it a crime to be a journalist without a special government-issued license.
I think I feel a Noam Chomsky quote coming on. But it's not one you might think. Unlike some of the more unhinged elements on the left, he actually does not consider the United States to be a fascist country. In an online Q&A, Chomsky was asked this very question:
Would you describe the US as it is now as a fascist state?
T Summers, Cornwall
Far from it. In many respects it is the most free country in the world.