Opinion » Note

Against the Thought Police

Officialdom is still allergic to sunshine.


Assaulting public morality has been risky business since ancient times. Philosopher Socrates ended up with a draught of hemlock for his troubles, and the argument could be made that no less than Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in part for subverting the moral authority of Roman rule. That the Romans took seriously their duty to police the thoughts of their subjects is clear: the word "censor" comes from the Latin censere, which translates to something akin to "offering an opinion" or "assessing." What's more, the Roman state employed officers called censors whose job it was to oversee a slew of government functions—such as the census and the budget—as well as keep an eye on public morality.

History is filled with examples of state-sponsored thought police. The Inquisition, the Gestapo and Josef Stalin's NKVD are the flashiest examples, but censorship is still every bit as prevalent—and dangerous—today as it was in Socrates' time.

Though we might lack the overt suppressive measures of bygone days, look no further than the cases of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning for evidence that officialdom is still allergic to sunshine.

In this week's edition of Boise Weekly, we look at censorship from two angles: first with Project Censored, the annual rundown of stories the mainstream media either underreported or didn't report at all. Among the Top 10 stories profiled in the 2015 Project Censored, I'm happy to say BW has touched on several, including income inequality, civilian drone strike deaths, police shootings and the mechanics of poverty. Of the Top 15 runners up, we have written about mass bee deaths, GMO crops and the Senate CIA Torture Report.

Elsewhere, BW News Editor George Prentice revisits a story we have covered before: the Idaho statute prohibiting alcohol from being served during screenings of films that include any of a range of sexual activities. As a case of censorship, that law may be headed for the dustbin of history with a lawsuit brought about by Meridian Cinemas over a past screening of Fifty Shades of Grey.