6. Controlled Mass Media Part 2: The Marketplace of IdeasPosted: September 5, 2008 | |
The Internet is probably the most heavily controlled media on Earth; only it is controlled by chaos. China could save billions of dollars if its government realized that total chaos is a more rigid censor than absolute control. The Internet has become a mass of rumor, fact, confusion, paranoia, defamation, conspiracy theories, and deliberate misinformation. All the Chinese government needs to do is hire a couple of hackers to begin rumors like the government is putting obedience drugs in the water, Israel is funding the Secret Police, or that Bush is secretly manipulating Chinese jobs, and there would be no need for censorship. The population would take care of that themselves.
I first came across this unique form of censorship four years ago when I was co-moderating a Yahoo! group called Do Something America. It took a little effort, but the group owner and I rid the board of most of the violently insane “net nuts”. We even managed to do some cooperative actions, like calling our Congresspeople over the stolen 2004 election. Then things started to change. First it was the rumors that Karl Rove was being indicted by a grand jury. As I mentioned before, such rumors undermine the grand jury system and would invalidate any such indictment. Personally, I think that the White House itself was behind those rumors, as they guaranteed that Turd Blossom walked free.
I tried to get people to check their sources before they posted, but I was fighting a losing battle. I felt like the little Dutch Boy trying to stem a flood by sticking appendages into a leaking dike. It seemed that every net nut in the U.S was posting the most incredible idiocy. Most of it concerned Israel. Hitler’s International Jewish Conspiracy was alive and well and living in Do Something America. Israel was behind Sept. 11th. Israel was behind all the ills of the American economy. Israel was behind the Iraq war. Israeli art students were spying on the DEA office in New Jersey. These “articles” came complete with broken links and no way to verify the information. The harder I banned and deleted, the more nonsense flooded the board.
Not that it would have made any difference. The more idiotic the post, the more it had been cross posted to other Yahoo! groups. It wasn’t just anti-semitic idiocy either. There was a lot of AIDS denial, absurd Sept. 11th conspiracies–it got to the point where the idiocy so outweighed the factual information that I simply gave up. The other Yahoo! boards were worse. I just left Yahoo! to the net nuts.
With no regulation of Web content, there is no standards for truth or accuracy. This reduces the Web to the same meaningless drivel as Fox News. Worse, all the paranoid idiocy acts as a smoke screen to undermine the legal process. When you have a bunch of loonies marching down the street demanding government investigations of the patently absurd, it drowns out the voices of those of us who want investigations of the provable crimes committed by the Bush Administration.
Of course we can depend on the Libertarians to be the loudest voice preventing us from fixing this problem. Libertarians fight off the establishment of standards on the Web as hard as they fight the establishment of standards on all other media. To the Libertarian, lies, misinformation, bigotry, and defamation are all part of free speech. Requirements that statements be true and verifiable are considered censorship to the Libertarian. Laws that protect minorities from defamation bring on accusations of oppression. Libertarians deliberately confuse fact with opinion, and claim that an requiring an opinion to be stated as an opinion is a threat to their First Amendment rights.
One AIDS denier whom I banned from Do Something America, and later ran into on another board, called this nonsense The Marketplace of Ideas. According to him, everybody should be free to post anything that they want without consequences, and it is the reader who has to pick out what is true or untrue. With that sort of logic, Bayer can use rat poison for aspirin filler, and it’s up to the consumer to tell if it’s safe to take. Nobody has the time to check every piece of drivel that comes through the Internet. Besides, a lot of the conspiracy theories are backed with either the logic of madness or the logic of some damned good PR agents.
The lack of journalistic standards, enforcement of defamation laws, and prevention of rumor mongering reduces the Web to Fox McNews. The only people who have anything to fear from establishing standards are the corporations. Reliable information would cause their downfall. If Bush was not protected by a fog of conspiracy theories, he might have been prosecuted for the actual incompetence that led to Sept. 11th. The statement of opinions would remain protected free speech as long as such opinions do not lead to harm to individuals or minorities. So the establishment of standards would not silence Libertarians as they claim. It would only cause the end of the most damnable form of censorship ever created.