Why YouTube’s Censorship Seems Dubious

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I don’t want to fight with YouTube. My relationship with YouTube has been one of the more fulfilling and reliable ones in my life. Hence my deep disappointment that it not only buried (rather than, as originally reported, deleted) MIA’s “Born Free” video—in which American-flag-wearing troops embark on the rounding up, detaining, and killing of redheads—but also couldn’t come up with some better excuse for doing so than the video’s “gratuitous violence.”

The clip reminds the Prospect‘s Silvana Naguib of Arabs being rounded up and caged in The Siege. It reminds me of the scene in Rambo part four where Burmese soldiers toss Claymores into a rice paddy and force ethnic Karen civilians run through it at gunpoint. Of course, it also evokes images of real US military activities that, as pointed out in MTV’s rave review, we’d rather “pretend don’t happen.” YouTube’s PR machine could have at least admitted that the censorship was political rather than hiding behind the pretense of how, though Americans have the right to watch stuff like this, YouTube has an obligation to protect the children. Because while it’s true that MIA’s video is awfully violent, and children deserve protecting, you can watch lots of stuff like this on YouTube, where, for example, Rambo IV is available in its entirety. Is YouTube’s gratuitous-violence policy nullified in the event that the clip doesn’t question US aggression, or the bad guys are dark and slanty-eyed rather than corn-fed WASPS?

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