It’s Dangerous to Allow Politicians and Officials to Decide What Constitutes ‘Truth’

There is little doubt that the governments of all countries are more open to criticism. However, in a time when many media outlets view their role as working alongside the state to reinforce official narratives. One advocate for press freedom reminded us that it is not about the misinformation and disinformation being exposed by opportunistic politicians. ControlAccess to information. Are people going to be able to choose truth or BS in the future? Will we just be fed what the powers that-be want?

Joel Simon, the departing chief of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), stated that “Governments are aware they are involved in an existential fight over who controls information, or who controls narrative and are leading a frontal assault on independent journalism across the globe.”

He said, “This is information age. We are engaged in a type of millennial struggle over who controls it.” It is up to you. It’s the power battle. And so, governments recognize—repressive governments, but even democratic governments—that this is an essential tool that they need to maintain power and journalists are their adversaries.”

Simon spoke shortly after the publication of the CPJ report, warning about escalating attacks against journalists. This demonstrates that there are high stakes for anyone who offends government officials. Reports showed that 293 journalists were jailed around the globe for their reporting, with at least 24 being killed.

CPJ recognizes that information sources are being attacked, but it’s not the only one. The Nobel Committee of Norway awarded Maria Ressa (Norwegian) the Nobel Peace Prize for reporting on government behavior in Russia and the Philippines “in an environment in which democracy is increasingly threatened” last October.

According to the committee, “Freedom of information, independence, and truth-based journalism helps protect against power abuse, lies, and war propaganda.”

The award showed how journalists could be used as gatekeepers. Ressa claimed in 2019 “the wholesale dumping of Wikileaks isn’t journalism,” a distinction she made from the efforts of Julian Assange who remains in prison after being exposed as a victim to the abuses, lies and propaganda used by the U.S. government. Politicians can cultivate too many journalists as an independent class, or even “misinformation,” “disinformation” or “extremism purveyors depending on their current needs.

Jacinda, New Zealand’s Prime Minister joined French President Emmanuel Macron in creating the Christchurch Call to combat “extremist” content online. New Zealand, in particular, has been promoting “freedom from false information” particularly with respect to COVID-19.

Similar to the British government’s 2021 RAND Europe report, it was also requested by the British government. The report promoted practices of “civil Society, Government, Media and Social-Media-Company Actors in terms of reducing false information and building society resilience” during COVID-19. This report highlights Germany’s NetzDG Act, which is a notorious example of how “imposing large fines upon tech companies that fail to remove hateful content and false information in a timely manner can increase their responsiveness in removing such content.”

Even though the First Amendment protects free speech, it is still vulnerable to information-controlling powers.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), insisted, “We have to find a way to control our media environment so you can’t spread disinformation and misinformation.” last year.

Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary) called on July to social media platforms to serve as government intermediaries and remove “narratives harmful to public health”.

Joel Simon of CPJ predicted, interestingly, that the pandemic will empower information-control efforts.

“[W]We must keep in mind that once we reach the other side, there may be a narrative being created by China that China’s government has control over information. That would be a severe blow to the global Information System, and one that could last even though the horrible pandemics we’re currently experiencing slowly fade.

He’s proven to be painfully accurate as the concerns of politicians have changed from suppressing “disinformation” and fighting “extremism”, to an amalgamation of both, united by the supposed need to control the opinions, shares, and words that the public has to say.

It’s important to note that not all material labeled as extreme is true or accurate. Open a browser and you will be confronted with a world full of hatred, bigotry, false concerns about vaccination safety, absurd charges regarding election integrity, as well as factual arguments about whether COVID-19 exists. However, bullshit doesn’t seem to be a new concept.

In free societies, it is much safer to have government determine capital-T truth than for people to choose. Officialdom can label legitimate news media “fake” as Trump used to do. Extremists are often confused with those who oppose school policies. The Justice Department made this mistake last fall. Claims that COVID-19 was created in China’s lab leak were suppressed before being given respectable treatment.

True information doesn’t need to be approved by the government because they are just as biased and imperfect as everyone else. Their tendency to start arguments for their own convenience is not surprising. Even as more evidence becomes available, disagreements can remain unresolved. Because they are a significant source of bad information, powerful figures cannot save us. However, they can forcefully impose their version of reality upon dissenters if permitted.

Joel Simon said that we are really in an existential struggle over information control. This is not about determining truth. That remains a difficult question. This battle for information control is about our ability to make our own decisions without being influenced by others.