On Self Censorship and our times

Jonathan Katz:

I published a new piece yesterday about the crisis surrounding the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. In it, I argue that a U.S. invasion of Haiti would be a colossally bad idea given the destructive history of the unending U.S. interventions in the Black Republic. You can read it here.

The publication in which the piece appears was not where it was originally supposed to run. It was originally commissioned by a different, well-known national outlet. They contacted me last week, within hours of Moïse’s death, and asked me to choose the angle that seemed right to me. The editors seemed strangely hesitant when I suggested the framing, but contracted me anyway to write the piece, so long as I included what they called “nuance.” I had my suspicions about what that meant, but a writer’s got to write (and eat), so I pressed on.

I realized I was in trouble right away when I got back the comments on my first draft. Right off the bat, the editor cast doubt on my use of the “occupation” as a way of describing what the United States did in Haiti between 1915 and 1934. They commented:

“Want to be careful with this word – what was the nature of the occupation? How many troops did we send and what exactly did they do? Eg was it more of a peacekeeping/security assistance force, or what?”

If anyone should have been prepared for that question, it was me, the guy who just spent five years writing a book that is focused in part on how woefully ignorant Americans are of what our country has done in the world, especially in the decades leading up to World War II. But I was somehow not ready to get a comment like that from a senior editor at a major U.S. publication.

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