Roger L. Simon

PBS' Big Lie

It’s well known by now that PBS has excluded the documentary Islam vs. Islamists: Voices From the Muslim Center from its American Crossroads series from reasons of “bias.”

As an American citizen and as a filmmaker, I find this despicable censorship. It is also based on an absurdly obvious lie:

All movies are biased. The form itself is biased. The camera is a pen, as the French auteur theorists correctly told us decades ago. Movie-making, documentary or not, is done through selection via script, camera and editing and those selections are made by wholly biased human beings. There has never been an unbiased film ever, not even Andy Warhol’s experiments, because the Warhol himself picked who he put in front of the camera and where he put them before setting his actors free.

And the biased nature of film has been known practically since the medium’s inception when early Soviet filmmakers like Dovzhenko demonstrated editing by visual association. In fact, it is arguable that films that appear to be less biased are more biased through the pretense of even-handedness – although perhaps this is over the heads of the bourgeois middlebrows at Public Broadcasting.

Nevertheless, one thing is clear: what the nabobs of PBS are objecting to is not bias at all, it is a bias they don’t like. They are censoring an opinion – that’s it. This makes them reactionaries – and cowards. Shame.