Youngstown, OH (TFC) -The Internet has often been likened to the printing press; a new technology that revolutionized communication and the freedom of information. But like the printing press, the Internet has also been the target of restrictions by those in the halls of power, who see freedom of information as a threat to their positions of privilege.
Why is this, exactly? What could possibly be the harm in having an informed populace? The danger, of course, is that people can find out what the agendas of their leaders are – and they, throughout history, have very seldom been aligned with the interests of those who are ostensibly being lead.
In recent years there have been many attempts to restrict a free and open internet. Often framed as copyright protection laws, these plans would limit the options of internet users the world over and place control in the hands of corporate entities. There is also the issue of privacy, as government agencies monitor and collect communications, ostensibly in the interest of “national security,” and corporate groups gather data in order to sell advertising, and thus products. These are serious, dire issues, issues that we must have a continuing conversation about, and practices that we should resist. But this is not my current subject of concern.
My concern here is the freedom of the press. Lauded in the United States as something that is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution of that country, freedom of the press I see, rather, as a basic human right. It is a basic facet of humanity that we possess language, and we communicate complex ideas via this natural capacity for communication. The limitation thereof, it almost always seems, is in the interest of the powerful, and indeed the powerful have always imposed these limitations, even in the modern day.
Recently, we saw alternative media outlets being shut down in France in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, as well as a crackdown on protest during the climate summit. Additionally, we have this piece discussing a planned Israeli deal with internet giant Google (and their subsidiary YouTube) to censor information coming out of occupied Palestine.
We can only surmise from these developments that the French government doesn’t want voices of dissent being heard during their current crisis, and that the Israeli government doesn’t want the outside world to see what is happening in Palestine. But, we have so-called “mainstream” news outlets that still cover these stories – why aren’t they being censored?
As Michael Parenti once observed to a journalist, “you say what you like because they like what you say.” The mainstream media outlets are owned by large corporate entities, which have an interest in the status quo and often fund the elections of those in power in democratic countries. They battle for “access” and “exclusivity” in their stories, so they can drive up ratings and thus fund the advertising that makes money for their corporate owners. They do not have any interest, then, in challenging power; in effect, the mainstream media is a sounding board for the powerful, a parrot that repeats the official narrative. They are not driven towards informing but rather, as Noam Chomsky would say, they are bent on “manufacturing consent.”
With the rise of the Internet, however, a new form of journalism has risen. New and Alternative Media has blossomed in the last ten years, and anyone with a keyboard has a voice that can reach literally billions. Of course, not all of this lives up to the “journalistic standard.” There is plenty of bad, bad new media out there, yes. But does that matter? Freedom of information is worth it. It is worth sorting the wheat from the chaff. Voices unbeholden to anyone are more truthful voices, and we in New Media trust you to be able to discern our biases (which we often wear on our sleeves) and come to your own conclusions. No journalism is free of biases; objectivity is an impossibility. Whether bias comes consciously, in terms of misdirection, or subconsciously, in terms of omission, it is present in everything you read, whether that is this article or the Associated Press. If we cannot escape bias, we must acknowledge it, accept it, and integrate it into our understanding of the world in which we live.
The censorship of New Media is just an extension of the censorship that has always existed – whether it be in speech and folk songs or books and newspapers. Censorship favors the powerful, always. In our modern times, we must fight for our latest platform – the internet. We cannot allow our voices to be silenced. We must fight for, and support, New Media.
In many cases, it is the only truthful voice we have left.