The reverse ban of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” has been seen as a triumph by liberals and individuals alike who call for ‘freedom of expression’ and see cultural bans as a hindrance towards a progressive nation. However, cultural boycotts and bans have long been in use as a viable reactionary tactic towards the expression of discriminatory content in any form, not only in Arab countries – as is the common discourse – but also in the idealized progressive West.
The idea that individual initiatives can have a significant impact on major issues is simply a fantasized notion. It must go beyond individualism, generating policies and action on a much larger scale, even at the level of the state in the case of more serious issues, often manifested in the form of a ban. That is not to say that the intention behind banning a film is simply to prevent the entire community from viewing it.
One can always argue that people will get access to the film regardless of the ban, in an effort to discredit its effectiveness. However, it never sought out to do so.
The ban of “The Post” was not concerned with the prohibition of viewing content itself, but rather with the realization of a unified and undeterred political stance against the normalization of their ethnocratic enemy state. Once the ban is questioned, the mere significance of even asserting such a critical stance is consequently questioned as well. Ironically enough, those calling out against the ban are the very same people who join in to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause, presenting a paradox in which spewing liberal and progressive platitudes is exploited at convenience.
What does “The Post” have anything to do with Palestine? Steven Spielberg has long been outspoken as a Zionist and champion of the Israeli state, stating how important the existence of Israel is for the “survival of us all”. In the 2006 war against Israel, Spielberg made a donation of $1 million to Israeli relief efforts making him an active supporter of the ethnic cleansing and bloodshed of Palestine. A great artist does not render you a great moral human being, and no quality of artistry can be used as a card of immunity.
The U.S. has tried huge film giants given the counts of sexual harassment allegations made, and no one stood up to defend them. They were disconnected from their art and tried solely as perpetrators held accountable for their actions. Certainly, Western freedom of speech is the quintessence of selective moral preaching. One can recount a case of a Palestinian professional dancer being imprisoned in the U.S. for years during the 80s and 90s, having danced in a dabke performance that the FBI deemed to be sponsored by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The issue should never revolve around the principle of the use of a ban, but rather, about the reasons behind the ban itself, which either justify it or not.
That is not to say that this doesn’t present muddy waters, especially in Lebanon, but having a corrupt system with a bad record does not entail the denouncement of any good and critically necessary action. Sure, we may see an array of LGBTQ+ content being banned left and right, but the rationalization that we must therefore relinquish all bans entirely – even when that resigns our position down to tolerant of the Zionist agenda – is downright absurd. Unfortunately, in falling for the ‘freedom of speech’ syndrome, we have turned our backs on the Palestinian cause and done them a great injustice, not only in silencing them, but crossing that picket line and thus betraying everybody oppressed by sites of authority.