Censorship in open fora?

Today I went down to Webster University in order to hear a Town Hall Meeting on the current state of health issues throughout the world. The keynote speakers were the Honourable South African Ambassador to the United States, Barbara Masekela, and the Associate Professor and Dean of Diversity at the Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Will Ross. The organisers and administrators of this particular open forum lecture were Webster University School of Education Dean, Dr. Brenda Fyfe, and Visiting Associate Professor of Multicultural Education, Dr. Evelyn Reid.

While all of the speakers presented incredibly well on their respective topics, there was a portion of this supposedly open forum that was not only disheartening, but also ironically idiomatic. Apparently ‘open’ was a misnomer in this setting. At the end of the lectures, there was a question and answer session for students, staff, faculty, and any other persons in attendance. I submitted what I consider to be a articulate, well refined, and completely appropriate question to Madame Masekela and Dr. Ross. To further clarify, my question was such:

Benjamin Franklin said that a society willing to “give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety is deserving of neither.” Within the United States and other so-called “developed countries,” the human liberty of appropriate health care has been sacrificed for the medical elites’ financial safety. Madame Ambassador and Dr. Ross, do you believe that before we can progress toward universal health care we need to change the intentions of these elite by iterating their previous medical Hippocratic Oath? Fr. Jeff Harrison of the Society of Jesus said that “as long as there is a third world, there will never be one world.

I submitted my question to the mediator of the lecture and he “read it” to the two keynote speakers. I use the phrase “read it” very loosely here, considering what he did was censor it. Not only did he eliminate any semblance of intellectual articulation, but he changed some of my words with complete disregard for context. He said:

Madame Ambassador and Dr. Ross, do you believe that before we can progress toward socialized medicine, we need to change the intentions of doctors by reiterating their Hippocratic Oath?

While a portion of my question is still present in that representation, much of it has been safely discarded. Dr. Ross answered by distinguishing between universal health care and its lesser, socialised medicine, which wasn’t even used in my original question! Therefore, instead of spending time addressing my concerns, Dr. Ross–at no fault of his own–explained the distinction between the two terms. Also, the mediator, by eliminating the preface and conclusion, presented my question grossly out of context; so much so, that Dr. Ross seemed to be taken back by the lack of explanation.

I sat angrily listening to the rest of the questions and consequent answers with one thing in mind: getting my question appropriately addressed. After the lecture–though the Honourable Ambassador had already left for the airport–I stopped Dr. Ross on his way out of the auditorium. I let him read my question, and he even stated that it was nothing like the question the mediator had asked. He continued by addressing the political schema of the United States in Franklin’s era and how there has been a seemingly paradigmic shift away from humanitarianism within the federal government. Despite the informality and unfortunate brevity of this conversation, Dr. Ross managed to answer my question in a wonderfully fulfilling, in-depth manner. My only wish is that his response could have been presented to the rest of the audience with such eloquence and insight.

I left the lecture feeling relieved that my question had been appropriately answered in private, but disgruntled at the censorship in a supposedly “open” forum. This anecdotal incident only further solidified my distrust of mass media on the basis of bias propaganda.

|:| Zach |:|

1 comment

    • Sam on Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 22:10
    • Reply

    Has anything more come of this?

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