Somehow I Don’t Think Pearl Jam/AT&T is the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

by on August 17, 2007 · 16 comments

If Eddie Vedder sat stone silent for 30 seconds, everyone would know that he hated George Bush. Eddie Vedder is hate for George Bush. He is the Jeremy to George Bush’s recess lady. Bleeping out Eddie Vedder’s criticisms of George Bush is censorship in the same way umbrellas censor the sun.

But maybe reheating the tempest in a teapot about some AT&T-owned site bleeping some political comments from a big rock star is a good way to while away the August doldrums.

Jon Stokes at Ars has penned a little fantasy about how this Pearl Jam/AT&T ‘censorship’ thing – the most discussed, widely available, and obvious censored information ever! – may bring ‘net neutrality regulation back to life.


That’s all fine for him to write. I’m forced to read it to about the same extent that I’ve been prevented from learning Eddie Vedder’s politics.

But my ears pricked up when he briefly summarized the arguments against public utility regulation for broadband service.

So this censorship scandal is still growing, and politically (if not technically) it strikes at the heart of the “trust us with your communications” premise that forms one of the two central pillars of the telcos’ attacks on network neutrality legislation. (The other pillar is, “government regulation is scaaaarrryyyy… big, scary regulations stifle the free market…”)

Really? I would love it, but I don’t recall ever hearing a telco actually defend free markets. But then, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what telcos say.

And neither should you. You can read good arguments here on TLF about how regulations lead to rent-seeking and regulatory capture. In this post, I talked about how agencies turn regulation to their own advantage.

Dismissing telcos’ arguments is fine, I guess, but there are good arguments from other sources that would have made for a stronger Arsticle.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    An Arsticle like this one perhaps?

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    An Arsticle like this one perhaps?

  • http://cei.org Cord Blomquist

    “Bleeping out Eddie Vedder’s criticisms of George Bush is censorship in the same way umbrellas censor the sun.”

    That’s just damn good writing.

  • http://cei.org Cord Blomquist

    “Bleeping out Eddie Vedder’s criticisms of George Bush is censorship in the same way umbrellas censor the sun.”

    That’s just damn good writing.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Not a shot, but the last straw.

    The instance with Pearl Jam was just one of many many times AT&T was censoring anti-Bush speech. So, now, finally this corporate censorship looks like it might get derailed, and you guys are saying: “Get used to some censorship. It’s OK as long as censorship comes from corporations, but it’s really bad if it comes from a government”

    Well, if it quacks like a duck, it is one.

    Here is a partial listing of some of the censorship that AT&T has been carrying out:

    UPDATES:

    Alleged: Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Nightwatchman message board)

    Did anyone else watch The Nightwatchman live stream from bonnaroo? Everytime Tom began to talk the audio would cut out. I’m assuming that it wasnt just me.

    Alleged: Lupe Fiasco @ Lollpalooza 2007 (Pearl Jam message board)

    I actually missed the Pearl Jam set, but I saw Lupe Fiasco’s performance earlier in the day. He has a song called “American Terrorist”, and while the song itself seemed to go by untouched… Lupe’s lead in to the song was. It went something along the lines of “Some of you might know him as George W. Bush… The President. I know him as George W. Bush ___________ (dead air)”. Having seen Lupe in concert before, I know that muted out section was a “American Terrorist”. He pretty much yells it into the mic before launching into the song.

    Alleged: Lily Allen @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Lollapalooza message boards)

    They were definately censoring what Lily Allen was saying in between songs. When there are technical problems, the picture will stop and sometimes the word playlist above the buttons on the video screen will change to buffering. During Lily Allen my picture would keep playing fine and the sound was gone. The sound while the Roots were talking in between songs just cut out for the first time.

    Alleged: Ozomatli (and everyone else!) @ Coachella 2007 (MicheBella on Rotten Tomatoes)

    In nearly every band I watched, there was a moment when said band spoke to the crowd. Suddenly, the sound disappeared. I just watched Ozomatli, a very political band, and at the end of a long segment of talking with no sound, the guy turned around and had a picture of George Bush on his back for a split second.

    Alleged: Tom Petty (and everyone else!) @ Bonnaroo 2006 (FunknJam Productions messageboard)

    A big WTF? to the people in charge of streaming this webcast!! At first I thought that maybe it was a glitch in the streaming or my computer behaving funny. But every so often, the audio would cut out. And it always cut out while there seemed to be some interesting lyrics going on. I didn’t fully realize that the webcast was being CENSORED FOR CONTENT until Tom Petty sang for the third time, and had censored for the third time, “Let’s get to the point, Let’s (dead air) and turn the radio on….” Like that song hasn’t been played on the radio to death?!??! I can’t help but think this all had something to do with…. “Hey Wakarusa Policeman…”

    Alleged: Buddy Guy @ Bonnaroo 2006 (webcast setlist)

    Talks about Hip Hop/sings about a Cow/Bull/Mule ( censored )

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Not a shot, but the last straw.

    The instance with Pearl Jam was just one of many many times AT&T; was censoring anti-Bush speech. So, now, finally this corporate censorship looks like it might get derailed, and you guys are saying: “Get used to some censorship. It’s OK as long as censorship comes from corporations, but it’s really bad if it comes from a government”

    Well, if it quacks like a duck, it is one.

    Here is a partial listing of some of the censorship that AT&T; has been carrying out:

    UPDATES:

    Alleged: Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Nightwatchman message board)

    Did anyone else watch The Nightwatchman live stream from bonnaroo? Everytime Tom began to talk the audio would cut out. I’m assuming that it wasnt just me.

    Alleged: Lupe Fiasco @ Lollpalooza 2007 (Pearl Jam message board)

    I actually missed the Pearl Jam set, but I saw Lupe Fiasco’s performance earlier in the day. He has a song called “American Terrorist”, and while the song itself seemed to go by untouched… Lupe’s lead in to the song was. It went something along the lines of “Some of you might know him as George W. Bush… The President. I know him as George W. Bush ___________ (dead air)”. Having seen Lupe in concert before, I know that muted out section was a “American Terrorist”. He pretty much yells it into the mic before launching into the song.

    Alleged: Lily Allen @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Lollapalooza message boards)

    They were definately censoring what Lily Allen was saying in between songs. When there are technical problems, the picture will stop and sometimes the word playlist above the buttons on the video screen will change to buffering. During Lily Allen my picture would keep playing fine and the sound was gone. The sound while the Roots were talking in between songs just cut out for the first time.

    Alleged: Ozomatli (and everyone else!) @ Coachella 2007 (MicheBella on Rotten Tomatoes)

    In nearly every band I watched, there was a moment when said band spoke to the crowd. Suddenly, the sound disappeared. I just watched Ozomatli, a very political band, and at the end of a long segment of talking with no sound, the guy turned around and had a picture of George Bush on his back for a split second.

    Alleged: Tom Petty (and everyone else!) @ Bonnaroo 2006 (FunknJam Productions messageboard)

    A big WTF? to the people in charge of streaming this webcast!! At first I thought that maybe it was a glitch in the streaming or my computer behaving funny. But every so often, the audio would cut out. And it always cut out while there seemed to be some interesting lyrics going on. I didn’t fully realize that the webcast was being CENSORED FOR CONTENT until Tom Petty sang for the third time, and had censored for the third time, “Let’s get to the point, Let’s (dead air) and turn the radio on….” Like that song hasn’t been played on the radio to death?!??! I can’t help but think this all had something to do with…. “Hey Wakarusa Policeman…”

    Alleged: Buddy Guy @ Bonnaroo 2006 (webcast setlist)

    Talks about Hip Hop/sings about a Cow/Bull/Mule ( censored )

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    Yes, yes, just terrible. And how would Net Neutrality legislation have changed all that? Oh, that’s right, not at all, because Nat Neutrality has nothing to do with how a company edits its own webcasts.

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    Yes, yes, just terrible. And how would Net Neutrality legislation have changed all that? Oh, that’s right, not at all, because Nat Neutrality has nothing to do with how a company edits its own webcasts.

  • Doug Lay

    >> And how would Net Neutrality legislation have changed all that? Oh, that’s right, not at all, because Nat Neutrality has nothing to do with how a company edits its own webcasts.

    I’m not so sure it’s as apples-and-oranges as Julian implies. AT&T doesn’t own the Webcast content – their primary role is as a relay point for someone else’s signal (in this case Mr. Vedder’s).

    That said, I’m pretty sympathetic to Jim’s disdain for regulatory solutions. Better to loosen the “IP” rules surrounding such events and encourage more independent webcasters to compete for audience.

    On the other hand, as funny as Jim’s umbrella/sun analogy is, I don’t really think the utter predictability of Mr. Vedder’s opinion is all that relevant to any debate about censorship. There’s no minimum-entropy requirement for free speech, is there?

  • Doug Lay

    >> And how would Net Neutrality legislation have changed all that? Oh, that’s right, not at all, because Nat Neutrality has nothing to do with how a company edits its own webcasts.

    I’m not so sure it’s as apples-and-oranges as Julian implies. AT&T; doesn’t own the Webcast content – their primary role is as a relay point for someone else’s signal (in this case Mr. Vedder’s).

    That said, I’m pretty sympathetic to Jim’s disdain for regulatory solutions. Better to loosen the “IP” rules surrounding such events and encourage more independent webcasters to compete for audience.

    On the other hand, as funny as Jim’s umbrella/sun analogy is, I don’t really think the utter predictability of Mr. Vedder’s opinion is all that relevant to any debate about censorship. There’s no minimum-entropy requirement for free speech, is there?

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    “Censorship” is an interesting concept. I think it’s most concerning when it’s successful – that is, when it deprives people of information they would otherwise get. It’s most concerning when a government censors to prevent criticism of itself – and successfully so.

    It’s pretty far down the list of concerns – and nearly lacking the concerning qualities of “censorship” when a corporation deletes information unsuccessfully (in terms of preventing the information from getting through).

    That said, I agree with Doug that competition among media would dissipate this kind of “censorship.” (And we’ve arrived back where ‘net neutrality regulation always takes us – competition!)

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    “Censorship” is an interesting concept. I think it’s most concerning when it’s successful – that is, when it deprives people of information they would otherwise get. It’s most concerning when a government censors to prevent criticism of itself – and successfully so.

    It’s pretty far down the list of concerns – and nearly lacking the concerning qualities of “censorship” when a corporation deletes information unsuccessfully (in terms of preventing the information from getting through).

    That said, I agree with Doug that competition among media would dissipate this kind of “censorship.” (And we’ve arrived back where ‘net neutrality regulation always takes us – competition!)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    “Censorship” is an interesting concept. I think it’s most concerning when it’s successful – that is, when it deprives people of information they would otherwise get. It’s most concerning when a government censors to prevent criticism of itself – and successfully so.

    It’s pretty far down the list of concerns – and nearly lacking the concerning qualities of “censorship” when a corporation deletes information unsuccessfully (in terms of preventing the information from getting through).

    By this very low standard, it is impossible for censored speech ever to be discussed because if it discussed, it obviously hasn’t been censored!

    But, that speech was censored, and the other bands speech was censored, too.

    The continued relationship between AT&T and the government in the on-going case re: the NSA spying has made it clear that the line between big govt and big business is getting rather blurry, so I just because AT&T did it, I am not letting them off the hook for censoring free speech.

    The timeliness of the speech is important to–speech delayed is speech denied.

    We are ruled no by a truly criminal regime, and the stifling of popular discontent against the regime is likewise criminal, and unconstitutional.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    That said, I agree with Doug that competition among media would dissipate this kind of “censorship.” (And we’ve arrived back where ‘net neutrality regulation always takes us – competition!)

    Some one on my blog had also indicated a preference for market based solutions to this problem, and this was my reply:

    That is entirely my preference also, and they way to do that is to have a large and vibrant market, filled with many players. A low barrier to entry helps greatly–that’s why if a newspaper editor got out of touch, another one would step in and the market would solve the problem.

    With certain kinds of infrastructure–internet service appears to be one–there are very few players–In Sain Louis, for example, if you get DSL you get it from AT&T. Cable is not available in all areas. Although you may think you have another provider–I had earthlink for a while–the server was an SBC (now AT&T) server.

    So the case for govt intervention is made when there is:
    1. evidence of harm, AND
    2. there is no convincing market-based mechanicism for the problem to be reduced or eliminated.

    That govt intervention should be as simple and straightforward as possible, passing the least drastic means test.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    “Censorship” is an interesting concept. I think it’s most concerning when it’s successful – that is, when it deprives people of information they would otherwise get. It’s most concerning when a government censors to prevent criticism of itself – and successfully so.
    It’s pretty far down the list of concerns – and nearly lacking the concerning qualities of “censorship” when a corporation deletes information unsuccessfully (in terms of preventing the information from getting through).

    By this very low standard, it is impossible for censored speech ever to be discussed because if it discussed, it obviously hasn’t been censored!

    But, that speech was censored, and the other bands speech was censored, too.

    The continued relationship between AT&T; and the government in the on-going case re: the NSA spying has made it clear that the line between big govt and big business is getting rather blurry, so I just because AT&T; did it, I am not letting them off the hook for censoring free speech.

    The timeliness of the speech is important to–speech delayed is speech denied.

    We are ruled no by a truly criminal regime, and the stifling of popular discontent against the regime is likewise criminal, and unconstitutional.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    That said, I agree with Doug that competition among media would dissipate this kind of “censorship.” (And we’ve arrived back where ‘net neutrality regulation always takes us – competition!)

    Some one on my blog had also indicated a preference for market based solutions to this problem, and this was my reply:

    That is entirely my preference also, and they way to do that is to have a large and vibrant market, filled with many players. A low barrier to entry helps greatly–that’s why if a newspaper editor got out of touch, another one would step in and the market would solve the problem.
    With certain kinds of infrastructure–internet service appears to be one–there are very few players–In Sain Louis, for example, if you get DSL you get it from AT&T.; Cable is not available in all areas. Although you may think you have another provider–I had earthlink for a while–the server was an SBC (now AT&T;) server.
    So the case for govt intervention is made when there is:
    1. evidence of harm, AND
    2. there is no convincing market-based mechanicism for the problem to be reduced or eliminated.
    That govt intervention should be as simple and straightforward as possible, passing the least drastic means test.

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