Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the rock band Pearl Jam, is using his powerful pipes to call out corporate censorship after an AT&T webcast of the band’s Lollapalooza performance that edited out Vedder’s anti-George Bush musings.
The improvised lyrics in question were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”: “George Bush leave this world alone. George Bush find yourself another home.”
AT&T claims this was an error though the circumstances seem suspicious at best.
The first time Vedder sang “George Bush leave this world alone,” the lyrics were transmitted to users on AT&T’s Blue Room Web site. The second two anti-Bush verses were cut.
AT&T is currently using the ‘big boys did it and ran away’ defence. Putting the blame squarely on the firm they hired out editing (aka censoring) responsibilities to.
AT&T employs the firm Davie-Brown Entertainment (DBE) to edit their webcasts for profanity that is not a part of a song’s lyrics, and also for nudity, company spokesman Michael Coe said.
Coe also offered; “We have said repeatedly over and over that we will not block customers’ access to legal content. We’ve said that in front of Congress. We’ve stated it as conditions of our merger with Bell South.”
Who defines legal? This is the same argument that could be used in discussions of other censored internet situations such as that in China and Saudi Arabia. Hardly a ringing endorsement of freedom of speech or access to information.
Tim Carr, a neutrality advocate at the Save the Internet coalition, said AT&T’s censorship is an excellent example of what could go wrong when ISPs control what their users see and hear.
“The censorship of Pearl Jam gives us a clear view of what the problem is: When you allow large Internet providers to also become gatekeepers to content there’s too often a temptation to limit what people get to see,” Carr said.
Interestly, though Save the Internet feels this is an example of what could happen if net neutrality is not respected the rightwing libertarian Media Freedom Project spokesman, Derek Hunter said;
“To say that they’re censoring is ridiculous? It’s propaganda and it seems to be working.”
Pearl Jam has posted the two different versions of the webcast here
In a statement on the site Mike McCready writes;
I can only look to historical figures who are above reproach in my mind, such as Thomas Jefferson “I hope we shall crush…in it’s birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” I feel that corporations can still exist without worry of a few words at a rock concert and need not trample upon our constitution for the sake of profit.
I think that horse has already bolted, and not just in America.