Thursday,20 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1408, (6 - 12 September 2018)
Thursday,20 June, 2019
Issue 1408, (6 - 12 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

C is for censorship

Aristotle by Raphael
Aristotle by Raphael

Democracy is the aim of all nations and all citizens, but it is not perfect — not by a long shot.

 It was Winston Churchill, most famous leader of one of the oldest democracies who said, “indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Its aim is noble and human but it is the “human” part that is fallible, questionable and untrustworthy. It is as imperfect as it is subjective. Such is human nature.

“The basis of a democracy” said Aristotle “is liberty”. Liberty is the most indefinable and mercurial of all predicaments. Greece touts the first democracy in 600 BC, yet Socrates was condemned to death by drinking hemlock (a poison) because the authorities disagreed with his views. That is the first case of censorship punishable by death in a so-called democracy.

Some nations have come close to the application of democratic rule like Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, and since the 1900s Italy, Japan and Germany, among others.

Inexperience with self-rule has some African and Asian countries struggling with those high ideals as they try to develop their own democracies. It should be a comfort for them to know that even old democracies have hurdles to overcome as well.

No democracy is perfect. It fashions itself according to its economic, political and cultural make-up.

Nonetheless, it is shocking to realise that even democracy’s old strongholds are miserable failures when it comes to freedom of speech — the essence of any democracy.

The shadow of our Big C — censorship — clouds those ideals and human principles, drizzling constantly as it washes away the pillars of democracy.

Censorship is the control of what people may say or hear, write or read, see or do, frightening, but in some cases necessary.

There are four acceptable fields for censorship — moral, military, political and religious —  all understandable under special circumstances, such as obscenity, wars, radical ideas, or religious persecution. But a new form of censorship has popped up which assumes several names: corporate, media, cyber and technological. They all mean one thing: the suppression and oppression of disfavoured ideas.

This is mostly found in the Internet: Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google and others. Often called the “Internet of garbage”, it is mostly so, concealed under the guise of truth. The public is fooled into believing what they read, but in fact it is censored information. Corporate bosses, not government, remove what they disagree with and leave you in the dark with only their ideas. You are forbidden to see the whole picture.

Millions of complaints in the US urged Congress to hold hearings on these practices.

Media censorship is nothing less than a dictatorship, releasing and concealing news at will. They are accused of interfering with elections, editing writings, scrapping individual ideas. While news is not their responsibility they have sunk their claws deep into political conflicts infuriating the public users.

Whatever happened to the near-miraculous invention of Facebook — a platform to connect with family and friends and develop new relationships? Now it edits, omits, controls what you have to say, usurping the right of the citizen to choose what he deems fit.

With 140 million posts per day, Facebook meddles and censors them, by what right?

Why do we need Big Tech, or Big Brother to dictate to us, restrict our news, feed us biased, sanitised information. That will only lead to an ignorant public — a slave to the media, thereby killing the ideals of democracy. Is it not ironic that it is happening in the US, the bastion of democracy?

They destroy statues, burn flags, cancel TV shows, riot for little reason, harbour criminals in sanctuary cities, in America. It is sad and shameful that the most beautifully written constitution protecting human rights can be transformed into an abuser of human rights.

An upcoming film, First Man, features Canadian actor Ryan Gosling portraying the first man to land on the moon, American astronaut Neil Armstrong. The 1950s were exciting times. The world anxiously watched the race to the moon between the Soviets and Americans.

When Armstrong was the first to land, he planted the American flag, and rightly so.

In the movie, they removed this act of American pride and achievement. An unforgettable moment in history callously omitted. It caused a furore.

What else can you call it but blatant censorship? Why? It does not offend politically, morally, religiously or in any way you can dream of. It is a historic fact.

The filmmakers, however, Gosling of Canada and director Damien de Chazelle of France, decided that what Armstrong accomplished was a human not an American achievement. Of course, it was human, Armstrong is a human, but he is also an American.

The discovery of penicillin was a great achievement that benefited humanity and led to the use of antibiotics, but can the fact that it was an Englishman, Alexander Fleming, be ignored?

 It is mind-boggling. This is censorship disguised. Concealing the truth is as bad as lying about it.

The media controls the conversation, the information and the situation.

We have been transformed to hungry stooges ready to be fed whatever the media shoves in?

A chilling premonition.

Feverishly seeking to eliminate cancer, science could work on a few other Big Cs like control, cheat, conceal, combat, conspiracy and censorship.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Voltaire (1694-1778)

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