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Censorship at the Bohemian Newspaper & Elsewhere

Censorship works. It prevents books, ideas and authors from circulating and reaching the public. But censorship is never a long term or permanent solution. Ideas and books will come out and authors will speak with readers, though it may take time. When Dan Pulcrano, the publisher of The Bohemian, put the kibosh on a story by Peter Byrne about a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Santa Rosa he probably didn’t realize he would stir up a hornet’s nest. Not surprisingly, Pulcrano has claimed that he didn't censor the story, but made “editing decisions.”

That’s what the censors all say. Pulcrano also said that “censorship is something a government does,” and thus showed how little he knows about censorship, which is carried out by corporations and businesses, newspapers, magazines, and on the internet.

Byrne’s story has been published in Counterpunch and is available online. It has probably been read by far more people than would have read it had it appeared in The Bohemian. Byrne calls the Israeli military action in Gaza “genocide.” Others have called it “ethnic cleansing,” which seems like splitting hairs.

Censorship brings attention to the work that’s censored and to the censored author. It also backfires. That has happened throughout history and from the USA to the USSR, Israel to Iran, China and beyond. Right now somewhere in the world a book or news story is surely being censored. The work may never see the light of day, though these days there are so many outlets for publication that it seems unlikely it will be permanently buried. 

I have long believed that self-censorship is the worst kind of censorship. The author or authors do the work of the censors. They internalize censorship. Some writers long to be censored; they’re under the impression that censorship will make their work more widely read than if it’s uncensored. Unfortunately, some readers assume that a censored work has more literary and political value than an uncensored work. 

James Joyce’s Ulysses and D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley's Lover were both censored in their day and have since been widely recognized as great works of literature. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, which was censored, attracted a great deal of attention, plus sales and a Hollywood movie, but it’s not great literature. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge its merits on its status as a censored or uncensored work. 


  1. Dan Pulcrano November 24, 2023

    As you know I reached out to you to get your thoughts on this and you replied with a note that did not indicate you were writing a piece or had any specific concerns about this subject. I wish you have spoken with me about this as I would have liked to have shared facts that contradict the version that is being championed.
    Peter’s piece was submitted as a news story and not an opinion piece, which it clearly was, after deadline, just a few hours before publication. We asked him to add context to the piece so we could run it the following week, and he said he would, but then changed his mind and published it in Counterpunch instead.
    Timing and deadlines are indeed editing decisions and not “censorship,” and since it was Peter who opted out of the process, not us, the allegation of censorship is factually incorrect.
    Our publications have covered recent pro-Palestine demonstrations throughout the Bay Area multiple times and the notion that we are censoring is ridiculous. If anything, we are pushing writers to dig deeper and get more rather than less information to readers on important subjects in these times.

  2. David Coelho November 25, 2023

    I’ve read work by Peter Byrne and Jonah Raskin in the Bohemian, and no other publisher in this age would give their unconventional views the space, no less pay them for their work on a regular basis. Even Byrne acknowledged that a few years back when he wrote, “I thank the loyal readers of the Bohemian—an oasis of sanity in a swamp of media lies, corporate-run wars and intellectual pollution—for allowing me to write for you.”

    It’s a shame to see freelance writers, after building their names in the pages of the Bohemian, now piling on one of the area’s last independent publishers over a single article that wasn’t published, which, if you believe the first commenter, the editors fully intended to publish had Byrne been willing to be a little less hot-headed and one-sided.

    Byrne appears to have an ax to grind, and in addition to his antipathy for Israel has built a career targeting several Jewish lawmakers along with their spouses and relatives, amongst them Dianne Feinstein, Dick Blum, Barbara Boxer, Doug Boxer.

    At a time when local media needs support, members of the local left should instead look inward at their own behavior.

  3. Palma Soriano November 25, 2023

    In reading Jonah Raskin’s and Peter Byrne’s pieces about the Bohemian “censorship” nothingburger, it strikes me that they are propagandists, not journalists. Their formulaic argument technique seems to be to select an inflammatory word, put it in a headline and keep repeating it, as if the more times it is said, the truer it becomes.

    Byrne repeats “genocide” at least ten times in his piece, and Raskin “censorship” well over twenty times. Obviously intelligent readers don’t want to be talked to like children. Please, just give us real facts and let us decide for ourselves.

    • Peter Byrne November 28, 2023

      Genocide is a real and present danger.

  4. Peter Byrne November 28, 2023

    It is not true that I agreed to rewrite and hold the news story on the Ceasefire in Gaza protest in Santa Rosa. Bohemian owner Pulcrano spiked it after it was edited, an hour before it was to go into news print. That was the first time I was spiked (censored) in 18 years of reporting for the Bohemian. Pulcrano, who owns about 18 newspapers and magazines in Northern California, is on the record as opposed to the Gaza ceasefire, which is what the protest I reported on was about: Bombs made in America and dead children. Apparently, enraged local readers have launched a Boycott the Bohemian Campaign targeting advertisers, hence Pulcrano’s hysterics. Hilarious that one of his supporters is accusing me of Jew phobia or whatever for national award winning reporting on Dianne Feinstein in, guess where: the Bohemian!

    • Dan Pulcrano November 28, 2023

      This is a ridiculous post. I have never opposed a ceasefire, and in fact wrote in an editorial, “We call upon Israel to stop the bombing of civilian areas and to allow food, water and supplies to enter Gaza. ” The campaign of suggesting boycotts of independent journalistic enterprises that Mr. Byrne appears to be promoting above is rather insidious in times when local reporting is needed more than ever. Just ask Long Island’s North Shore Leader, a small, under-resourced paper, that was on to George Santos before his election.

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