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In a post about the Pozner incident, the show's social-media strategist Brian Reich wrote, "We canceled the interview because our planned conversation became, perhaps inadvertently, political." As Pozner pointed out on her blog, the idea that "I'm just too 'political' ... for a show about a former Governor and potential future Republican presidential candidate" is pretty ludicrous. But when I spoke to Reich, he acknowledged that "too political" isn't really the whole story. He explained to me that "the response to her blog post was ridiculously negative — and not negative in the appropriate ways, negative in ways that go way beyond what we're comfortable with." He added that ever since a gunman sparked a standoff at the Discovery Channel headquarters in September, "everyone at Discovery and TLC is very anxious about security issues." So basically, they were worried that if they let Pozner talk on the podcast, a pro-Palin wingnut might try to bomb the building.
North's post brings into stark relief how certain segments on the right are using fear and intimidation to create a chilling effect over media content.
Tailoring programming choices to quiet inappropriate responses that make media staffers uncomfortable — while alluding to the Discovery Channel gunman? That's as close to a definition of a "chilling effect" over media content as I've seen in a long time. Self-censorship based on fear and intimidation may be an understandable reaction to threats of violence. Yet it sets a scary precedent for art (though I'm using that phrase very loosely when it comes to reality television), entertainment, and even news media.