Have you noticed that the word #Censorship has been stretched far beyond its original meaning? The government arresting or executing journalists is censorship. Getting thrown off Twitter for threatening someone -- or suggesting people run down black people with cars -- is not. Comedians getting arrested for their work, as Lenny Bruce did, is censorship. Comedians having a few people criticize their jokes on social media is not.
“Public relations lame censors”
I thought about these issues a lot when I watched a segment shown this week on the Los Angeles TV station KTLA, in which the station’s longtime entertainment reporter, Sam Rubin, sounded off about censorship at a press junket last weekend for Ben Affleck’s upcoming film "The Accountant." As an on-screen title touts a “junket censorship crisis,” Rubin states that “I both witnessed and experienced something so shocking, so unprofessional, I think it could seriously derail the prospects for the movie.”
What was the “censorship,” you ask? It turns out that there was a lengthy interview with Affleck, featuring the actor talking about that day's New England Patriots game, his Batman movie and the level of security at the school where both his and Rubin’s daughters play basketball. Then, when Rubin asks a vague question about Affleck’s personal life, a PR flak is heard off-screen telling Rubin to “stick to the film please.” Rubin then acts incredulous that a representative of “the #1 morning show in Los Angeles” would be treated in such a way, going on to call them “public relations lame censors.”
Rubin goes on to allege, briefly, that he saw PR personnel editing tape of a junket interview by a different reporter to remove a statement Affleck made about drug use. If that’s true it’s a bit more problematic than a mere interruption; I’m not privy to whatever the rules are for such things. At any rate, Rubin vows to never mention the film again until he hears from those responsible, presumably with an apology -- although he still aired both a portion of his interview with Affleck and the segment about the “censorship" -- without the censorious junketeers preventing the broadcast of either.
Beyond the “Junket Censorship Crisis”
If you think this sounds like an esoteric personal beef between a reporter and a public relations staffer that should barely rise to the level of a news story, let alone a “censorship crisis,” then you’d be right. It’s really one of the worst public overreactions by a media figure I’ve ever seen -- and the idea that this one reporter being treated rudely will somehow affect the box office fortunes of a major motion picture -- as if any moviegoer cares in the slightest about what goes on at junkets -- is just laughable.
While I don’t attend film junkets, I’ve done entertainment reporting for a long time and I’ve interviewed quite a few actors and directors over the years (including, incidentally, Ben Affleck.) A PR flak interrupting an interview to ask reporters to focus on the film at hand is not a rare thing at all. Yes, it’s annoying, and yes, I wish they wouldn’t do it. But I acknowledge that the person is doing their job and I wouldn’t dream of mentioning in my coverage that this had happened -- because I’d assume the audience for the interview wouldn’t have any reason to care about such a thing, much less let it affect whether or not they see the movie.
And finally, don’t throw around the word “censorship” to describe a publicist interrupting you at a junket. You’re not some brave dissident risking the gulag to expose Vladimir Putin -- you’re just interviewing Ben Affleck about an action movie. #TheAccountant #Junketcensorshipcrisis