Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 instrumental in censorship by US government agencies

9-11 instrumental in censorship by US government agencies

By Walter Haan,

Today is the eighth anniversary of that terrible day on September 11, 2001 when Muslim terrorists high jacked four American passenger planes and steered three of them into famous buildings, the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Three thousand lives were lost, others were injured, downtown Manhattan in New York City was enveloped in an atmosphere of poisonous clouds.

Little known is that the 9-11 attacks combined with the Anthrax mailing attacks soon thereafter led to censorship in the American marketplace. To limit incoming mail that might be sent by terrorists, the US Government stopped buying from smaller vendors, including smaller publishers, as if smaller firms might be terrorists too.

The government after 9-11 would only buy from larger firms and wholesalers that would combine shipments from various sources into larger packages or crates.

Southfarm Press got a taste of that with Smithsonian Institution Stores. The Smithsonian Stores had been buying from Southfarm since the late 1980s. Southfarm titles purchased by the Smithsonian Shops included Ghost Ship: The Confederate Raider Alabama (1989), one other Civil War title, World War II title Janey: A Little Plane in a Big War (1998), and our World War II and Vietnam War Trivia Books.

But suddenly after 9-11, it all changed. We had published four history books in 2001 and that fall sent samples to the Smithsonian buyer we had been dealing with for years. After I was sure he had time to receive the books and examine them, I called to get his opinion about the books and how they might do in the Smithsonian Shops in the Air & Space Museum and the American History Museum. I was in for a surprise.

The buyer became cagey over the phone. Yes, he had received the books. Yes, he liked them and thought they should be in the shops, especially our American Revolutionary War book, Times of Brother Jonathan (2001) by Dudley C. Gould. But he was no longer able to buy Southfarm Press books. No, he could or would not give a reason other than to refer to the times.

I interpreted that to mean the US government had instituted a new policy: To limit exposure to potential attacks through the US Mail and other shipping services, an economic boycott of books published and sold by smaller publishers was put in place. Its byproduct was censorship imposed by the US government. I am certain books from larger publishers such as Simon & Schuster or from the large wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor weren’t eliminated from the mix of offerings at Smithsonian Shops.

We never did get our history or aviation history books on the shelves of the Smithsonian Institution shops again. We experienced similar difficulties with other US government book buyers.

In comparison to the destruction and loss of lives on 9-11, you might be excused for thinking that what I’m writing about is a small thing. But any action by the US government that leads to censorship is no small thing in my opinion. Copyright © 2009 by Walter Haan;