Censorship in the most censorious age

This essay is a reply to a comment by Michael H on an editorial I wrote in August about the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the Tor Project defending the right for the American neo-Nazi online Daily Stormer to be granted hosting and DNS propagation.  It started as a reply to the reply, but grew longer than expected, and is therefore presented as an essay in its own right.

Fifteen, twenty years ago I would probably have agreed with all of Michael H’s points.  What happened since then included the personal experience of watching Western centre-left parties become conservative, and conservatives become openly, unashamedly corrupt lackeys of short-sighted plutocrats.  Short-sighted because they act nihilistically to destroy a consumer base they need to sustain their own profitability over the longer term, and to maintain stable societies in which consumption, not civil strife, is the leitmotif.

Equally importantly, I have been able to study the nature and effect of an ascendant technocrat profession, of which I am a small part, and of social media, which are actually sales and marketing channels, functioning as propaganda networks, and thereby effectively stunting democratic institutions and public civic engagement.  It doesn’t matter whether this is deliberate or unintentional.  Consequences accrue regardless.

If that sounds like the beginning of a conspiracy theory, by the time I’m done here, I think I will have illustrated just how banal rather than deliberately malevolent such influences really are, in line with Hannah Arendt’s analysis of Third Reich war criminals:

Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet and this is its horror!-it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.

– Amos Elon, ‘Introduction’ in Hannah Arendt (2006), Eichmann in Jerusalem.  London: Penguin.

Hannah Arendt

Michael H says:

On the face of the facts, that Neo-Nazi website should be blocked if those with access to power to block could be trusted in perpetuity. I would include extremist religious groups promoting violence as targets for this also.

It seems to me that the idea of being able to trust censors ‘in perpetuity’ not to abuse their power is idealistic, but reliant on an unrealistic, absolute position.

It assumes there is a fixed position of what is eternally right and proper, as an object of trust.  I argue that no such position can or does exist, and without it, the question of abuse of power becomes impossible to locate or define in the abstract, or as an objective conception.  It must always be personal opinion.  To express personal opinion, no position of trust ‘in perpetuity’ is necessary.

No one can or should be trusted in perpetuity.  Least of all censors.  Trust must emanate from contextually grounded, transparently argued, and equally transparently executed motivations and actions.  What I do today is no guarantor of what I will do tomorrow.  How about you?  But if I explain what I will do tomorrow, and have a record of sticking to the goals, methods, and outcomes I have explained, maybe I will have credibility, and even goodwill, in my favour.

To propose why my argument for censorship should be seen as credible, I need to step back from my original editorial about the Daily Stormer, and explain some base assumptions I take for granted in reaching the conclusions I do, as they apply both to the original argument and the new context of Milo Yiannopoulos’s Australian ‘Troll Academy’ speaking tour.

To do that I will present:

  1. An explanation of why I think absolutes should be avoided in discussion because they are absent in reality;
  2. An explanation of how critical analysis of context and personal judgement are the actual and correct replacements for absolute positions; and
  3. An explanation of how we are already past any reasonable limits to public and private censorship, arising largely from social media penetration, and an ascendant technocrat mind-set fixed on reductionism and literalism.

It is on the basis of these explanations that I will then show why the specifics mentioned by Michael H are a far lesser concern than the everyday personal behaviours of ordinary citizens.

Fixed positions are religion

A priori rules in philosophy are those which are monolithic, unquestionable, and accepted as given.  In other words, rules that are presented as if they were the word of god, to be obeyed without question.

In effect a priori rules remove the power of human judgement, infantilising people as incapable or untrustworthy to make decisions that affect their own lives.  And yet, every absolute rule that displaces judgement is one devised by human beings.  No deity has ever dictated or enforced such rules.  The people who devise and impose a priori rules propose in doing so an inherent inequality between people–between those who make rules, and those who must follow them.

You could conceive of such rules as academic, legal, political, and social conveniences to simplify complex positions and functions.  The trouble occurs when people forget that absolutes are abstractions, and start treating them like inflexible commandments.  Then absolutes become the instruments of totalitarianism.  Totalitarianism includes most political ideology and all religion for their common feature: at some stage in examining their demands, the examiner is compelled to either –

  • accept a priori rules by coercion, or
  • accept a priori rules on faith alone, or
  • be struck by the contradictions inherent in a priori rules, since they are all irrational and irreconcilable with reality.

The most effective opposition to a priori rules in thought and conduct that I am familiar with comes from Jean Paul Sartre’s 1945 lecture, published in 1946, Existentialism and Humanism, also known as Existentialism is a Humanism.  I have written on this work at length.

Jean Paul Sartre, 1945

In this short tract, Sartre proposes, as a contretemps to religious determinism, that ‘… we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse.’ [My emphasis.]

Writing elsewhere about this sentence, I called it ‘profound’ and ‘one of the most elegant literary renditions of any idea in the modern era’.  My admiration was so fulsome that I wondered whether there had been a mistranslation of ‘numinous’ for ‘luminous’.  But after weeks of looking for the evidence, I could find no indication that a mistranslation has ever been identified or alleged.  I went on to argue:

What would be the difference in meaning? The sentence with ‘luminous’ is elegant and borders on the brilliant. It evokes the visual of a brightly illuminated, and illuminating, path of values that is in fact a fantasy across literary, ethical, and æsthetic dimensions.  Is there any confusion about Sartre’s meaning?  Not to me, in almost thirty years of contemplating it, but I suspect that a large and growing number of people will have trouble with this because it has no literal interpretation that makes sense.  You have to be able to think in abstract and unfixed meanings across multiple topics, stretching from history to philosophy, and from politics to religion.  It is not at all amenable to a reductionist determinism that seeks to pin down an inherent and atomically reducible, precise meaning contained in the words.  As if the words could stand alone and apart from intention and audience.

For fundamentalist audiences, however, the word ‘numinous’ would be more fortunate because it restricts meaning to theologically defined values.  That meaning would be more limited than any intention one might derive from ‘luminous’, which can attach to any paradigm being proposed as a bright and shining example that illuminates human thinking on ethics and moral action.  How one can explain this profound difference to the intellectually stunted people who cannot think figuratively is not a problem I can address, let alone resolve.  However, it does mean that such people will never understand fully what it is to be human, and to be humanist.  That demographic includes a surprisingly large cohort of nominally educated people who would shrink away from considering themselves the fundamentalist literalists they are.

This is not a game of semantics.  The different meanings being considered are important in understanding Sartre’s description of mankind, which he argues is ‘forlorn’, as if abandoned by a higher authority it invented, and therefore without choice about reaching judgements and making decisions for which it must accept absolute responsibility.  Translate that to individuals: every grown human is individually responsible for its decisions and actions.  No excuses, no absolutions, and no choice.  No fence-sitting either.  Even inaction is a decision.

When I wrote those words I was taken to task by a Frenchman who had helped me track the provenance of the word ‘luminous’.  He argued that I was being needlessly arrogant, or elitist, in proposing that there are people who are intellectually too stunted to understand that absolutes are hypothetical conveniences.  People I conceive of as too ignorant or stupid to recognise that no human rules cannot be disobeyed or questioned, and are definitely not literal truths that eliminate the potential for all other interpretations.

Unfortunately I propose that this is precisely the case: billions of religious people, and now a bourgeoning mass of technocrats, act like fundamentalist literalists–meaning they insist on the existence of a priori rules, and refuse to acknowledge the existence and complexity of multiple meanings contained in all human interaction and communication, and even in the physical laws of the universe, which we now know are less fixed than we once imagined (see, for example, the New Scientist).

However, we do not even need to deny the existence of god or the validity of religious belief to propose that only human ideas and actions have agency in our history and contemporary lives.  It flows naturally that this means we are indeed absolutely responsible for each choice we make, with no recourse to ridiculous arguments that ‘god wills it’, or ‘the devil made me do it’.  But it also means that any absolute rule we impose is a human rule, not one that is necessary or divinely ordained.

My critique is therefore not so much of absolute rules themselves.  It is of people who suppose there is no choice but to make such rules, and who therefore abrogate their own power of judgement, and, where they have influence to do so, prohibit the exercise of judgement by others.  Such thinking and action is equivalent to intellectual slavery.  It exists at law in all social policing, and most especially in ‘security’ rules.

Context and judgement

If absolute rules are eschewed, and a plurality of options is accepted as normal, individual and collective judgement relies on interpreting context and applying ethical and political reasoning.  This is always subjective, even when people claim objective intentions and outcomes.

For example, the context for this essay includes the perspective of an America ruled by a Republican Party and President who openly encourage neo-Nazis to believe their perspective is valid, and that they have a right to act on their ideas.  It is an America in which corporations are practically above the law, acting entirely as they see fit, regardless of law or public interest considerations.  Other people may argue my perspective is flawed, and I am, and must be, prepared to back it with evidence.  Just not here and right now.

It is in that context that I welcome any force able to oppose neo-Nazis, even if they are corporations, whose own misdeeds are monumental.  I do so for the sake of realistic expectations.  Expectations about the power of the greatest evil (lawless corporations) to oppose or destroy a lesser one (neo-Nazis).  This is of course my own evaluation of the ethics and politics involved.  It includes the conclusion that there is no realistic way to destroy the greatest evil in the short term, but there is of destroying the secondary evil.

In supporting the greatest evil against the lesser one, I am fully aware that the lawless corporations already exercise direct and indirect censorship, drowning out any kind of Fourth Estate journalism in favour of corporate propaganda, the way News Corporation does it, and the way all social media corporations do it.

Nothing in my decision to support blocking neo-Nazi online resources implies my support or opposition for blocking or not blocking other groups.  Nothing in my decision restricts the analyses or decisions of others.  My case rest solely on my power to convince others that I put forward a better argument than any people opposing my position.  In other words, I do not seek to construct an absolute or universal rule with my argument.

In my opinion, each case of censorship must be made on its own merits, requiring separate and transparent reasoning.  I think I did that with my original comment.  And I assert that I am doing that here too.

Corporate versus government

Unlike Michael H, I see little difference between corporate or government censorship.  I think the distinction between corporations and government is an increasingly hypothetical one, especially in the USA.  Less rampantly also in Australia, which already has no news media worth thinking of in Fourth Estate terms–telling truth to power, or presenting critical analysis of events and deeds.  My perspective on this missing link in democratic institutions is illustrated in a recent commentary I wrote on ABC journalist Chris O’Brien’s performance in reporting on the coming Queensland State election.  While I don’t claim that O’Brien stands for all journalists, his kind of carelessness is nevertheless an increasingly notable characteristic of the profession called journalism.

I think we are already well past the place proposed by Michael H–that of any censorship encouraging a wider net for it.  Powerful and unwitting people alike are already extending direct and indirect censorship in ways we seem to ignore.  Or perhaps we are actually comfortable with that kind of censorship.

The technocrat demographic

It isn’t a comfortable position to take, but I see my own professional demographic as one of the principal enemies of democratic principles and practices.  Loosely speaking my profession is IT management, but the domain includes sub-management vocations like programming, web development, content management, search engine optimisation, and so on, ad nauseam.

I have written extensively on the catastrophic consequences of technocrat anti-intellectualism: The Ends of Rationality; Techno-narcissism: delusions about social media; The lens of insanity; Journalism: only you can fool yourself!; The case for public intellectuals; Politics of cowardice and bullying; Nietzsche: prophet of the sociopaths; Right Will hunting (badly); Misunderstanding strategy: reductionist determinism.

In a recent comment on the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, I was compelled to reiterate my core arguments in the historical context of a disastrous failure in planning and executing American military strategy.  There had been the idiotic persistence with ‘systems analysis’ whose modern equivalent is process re-engineering/business process management.  I argue that both are grand conceptual failures for their reductionism of the ‘facts’ to a manageable state, and a determinism based on models in which the ‘manageable facts’ become misinterpreted as truth, while actually distorting reality.

To explain that idea, I cited an apocryphal story told by Dr James Willbanks, who today occupies the General of the Army George C Marshall Chair of Military History at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Willbanks relates that one Friday afternoon a mainframe computer was fed with punchcards listing all 1967 data on ‘Numbers of ships, numbers of tanks, numbers of helicopters, artillery, machine guns, ammo – everything you could quantify’.  The computer is asked the question ‘when will we win in Vietnam’, and on Monday gives the answer: ‘You won in 1965!’  The rider is: ‘the enemy gets a vote, and they weren’t on the punch cards.’

One might today add that no human beings were on the punchcards because they had all been reduced to quanta, expected to behave as predictable robots whose every action and reaction could be precisely pre-determined.

This is a mindset encouraged by purely technical training, as opposed to generalist education.  It makes for a technocrat workforce, as desired by nominally conservative politicians, which can no longer think, because it regards scientific laws and algorithmic certainties as absolute givens, and the determinants of human ends, rather than as tools to be used by individuals to determine their own ends.  In effect, these technocrats are religionists by another name.

Coming to fundamentalism by way of science and the almighty algorithm is almost a cosmic joke.  Insisting on the infallibility of natural laws and equations to ‘fix’ reality into a monolithic given is not science.  True science relies on the principle that all science is theory open to challenge.  Eeven science that has been demonstrated to work for specific purposes remains  open to challenge.  Fixing science and IT-related math as a priori rules should be seen for what it is: a new religion followed blindly by millions of IT-trained simpletons.

If these hordes of barbarians were properly managed by people with the capacity to reason and address the ‘wicked’ problems inherent in social formation, they would be less of a problem than they are.  Unfortunately they are led by my peers and colleagues, who seem mostly no better educated or insightful than their subordinates.  Their collective stunted thinking bleeds into ideological reductionist literalism, meaning a proclivity to see all issues as engineering problems, with engineering solutions then proposed as deterministic truths imposed on human ends.  It is that determinism which breeds absolutism, and sympathy for totalitarian conceptions about human ends, like American libertarianism–very prevalent in Silicon Valley circles–and nationalist fascism, which is driven mostly by determinist conceptions of economics and social stratification.

From my perspective, the large and growing technocrat demographic is both a driving force for undermining democratic institutions, and for preventing the emergence of a new generation of idealists willing to defend and extend democratic principles, like freedom of speech, and liberty from tyranny.

The fruit of technocrat labour includes especially automation, job losses, the annihilation of the middle class, the legitimisation of new underclasses, and the rise of disposable entertainment transmitted by social media platforms as ‘content’.  The function of content is not to inform or educate people, but to distract them form their loss of privacy, and to focus their attention on continuous consumption of disposable, immaterial items, like pop songs, films, and software they will never own, rather than rent.

Lobotomy by social media

When we level accusations at corporations and government for subverting democratic ideals like free speech, we tend to overlook our own culpability in such trends.

Who complained enough to make it an election issue when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation established Fox News as a Christofascist propaganda network?  Who protested the corporate propaganda function of social media when we all abandoned independent news media?

Underlying this carelessness is what I propose bluntly as civic disengagement and the naïve assumption that maintaining democratic principles and institutions is someone else’s responsibility.  Just as we eschew responsibility when we complain that we are being lied to by social media corporations that never subscribed to Fourth Estate ideals, but we don’t demand that they be regulated to compel them to adhere to such standards.

We like to fool ourselves about a great many things, but I’m with Noam Chomsky when he says that if we are interested in truth or reality that we cannot directly apprehend, we need to find out for ourselves.  I cite him in my notes on the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary The Vietnam War:

Talking about how to teach people not to be duped by propaganda, American public intellectual Noam Chomsky said that it was not about persuading people you’re right, ‘but to challenge them to think it through for themselves’.  In the transcript of interviews that became the book Propaganda and the Public Mind (2001), Chomsky states that he is commonly challenged by people who say they can’t believe what he says because it challenges everything they have been taught to believe.  ‘You shouldn’t believe what I say is true,’ says Chomsky.  ‘The footnotes are there, so you can find out if you feel like it,’ but he warns that finding out is your responsibility: ‘Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.’

Noam Chomsky

The biggest liars in the known universe today are integral to the business models of Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and other social media.  They are called advertisers and trolls.

If we make no attempt to verify the identities of those who post, or of the assertions they post, we collaborate in the success of propaganda, the demise of Fourth Estate journalism, and the ascendancy of ‘post-truth’ delusions.  The proof of that pudding should be obvious, but can be easily verified.  Just days ago there was news reportage about Russian trolling of the 2016 US election campaign.  The reportage includes testimony from social media companies to the American Congressional Intelligence Committee of their own culpability in this trolling!  (see The New York Times or The Guardian).  Anyone can fake anything online.  And the guilt lies not with the liars, but with those of us gullible enough to believe anything without question or investigation.

It is almost as if we have surrendered to a collective cretinism.  A credulity formerly reserved for religious cults and people in the grip of senile dementia.

For me personally this means that choking off just a small part of the torrential flood of excrement that is internet ‘content’ is no great loss.  If it has any value, it will re-surface elsewhere, and will be sought out by thinking people regardless of censorship.

The Daily Stormer may not quite fit into the social media bracket, but part of its strategy was always to capitalise on the dedication of its support base in re-posting its hatespeech directly into social media platforms, via thousands of fake accounts, controlled as bots, and ignored by the social media corporations as valid ‘content’.  Valid because it does nothing to reduce social media corporate profits.  Valid because social media corporations have no discernible ethics or public interest responsibilities.  They will act only if an issue threatens to impact share prices or advertiser patronage.

This perspective leads me to think that rather than worrying about overt, old-fashioned notions of censorship, we ought to worry first about our own surrender to covert and online propaganda, which almost makes traditional censorship irrelevant.

Political correctness supports lies

In addition to the points above, the most powerful instigator for personal and institutional censorship in recent Western history has been political correctness.  Precisely because of my points about a priori principles.

If some topics brook no opposition, because they belong to sacred beliefs, and if some people cannot be critiqued for their actions, because they belong to sacred groups, what we have is religion by any other name.

I suspect Milo Yiannopoulos plays on his self-declared homosexuality to manipulate and annoy the politically correct crowd.  He guesses correctly that homosexuals today are seen as a sacred group which cannot be criticised without inviting a witch-hunt based on false accusations of homophobia, originating with, and motored by a self-appointed politically correct commissariat.  It’s such a simple truth I wonder why we are so uncomfortable with it: there can be despicable people who deserve censure in every demographic.  No one and nothing is sacred is a free society.

I have been pretty disgusted with our media and the academy about this point since the controversy about the confected history of Aboriginal massacres, during which Keith Windschuttle questioned widely cited ‘evidence’, conducted his own primary research, and found many citations to be circular and false (documented in his book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, (2002)).  By ‘circular’ I mean that after an original paper first made an assertion, that assertion was repeated by others, who then uncritically cited the citation of a citation of …

Windschuttle was widely excoriated, notably by Aboriginal academics, but his research was never refuted, meaning he was right.  No matter how much the politically correct commissars, and the do-gooder bien pensants wanted him to be wrong.  It was they, and others like them, who pioneered post-truth.  Not Trump and the neo-Nazis.  It was they who proposed that their own yearning for something to be true superseded reality, facts, and rationality.

I would urge anyone who is interested to consider, too, that this is precisely how Wikipedia operates: it proposes, as fact, any assertion and editor wishes to put forward, on the sole basis that a reference can point to someone else having said so.  This is why Wikipedia is always a bad source, and, in my view, the foremost tool of American cultural imperialism, eclipsing even Fox News, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.

Yiannopoulos

Before considering whether Milo Yiannopoulos should or should not be banned from speaking publicly, let’s ask ourselves about the motivations involved in his presence in Australia.

Yiannopoulos plays at hatespeech as show business, with little or no conception or concern about consequences.  As such he is a professional agent provocateur, meaning there is no doubt about his intentions (meaning motivation in a legal sense).  The title of his tour, Troll Academy, makes it clear he is here to teach Australian morons how to create social divisiveness, race hatred, and even Christofascist terrorism.

I think Michael H is wrong to suppose banning Yiannopoulos just draws attention to him: social media saturation and Australian Christofascist back-channels have already done that with advertisements for the man’s tour.  Implicit in Michael H’s observation seems to be also an assumption that social media should only feed to him material that matches his interests.  I find that belief naïve.  Social media corporations do not care about anyone’s interests, no matter how often they repeat that lie.

Yiannopoulos was probably granted a visa solely because our own federal government includes fellow travellers, mostly represented by Tony Abbott’s Christofascist faction of the Liberal Party of Australia, who aim at the same outcomes.

The WA premier, being from a different party, is probably playing politics in opposing Yiannopoulos, and not very smart politics at that, if he channels homophobia rather than excoriating the man for the criminal sociopath he is.

If the premier believes that laws are likely to be broken (see ‘Freedom of speech’ below), he can send plainclothes police to monitor any public meeting to determine whether relevant laws are being broken.  Plainclothes cops probably look exactly like the demographic Yiannopoulos seeks to appeal to.  And sending cops to spy on public gatherings is already an established practice in Australia.

I cannot say for certain whether that’s how it should be, since I would need to know specific contexts and details for each similar case, but I can say it is a reality with which the nation seems comfortable enough not to create a political backlash.

Freedom of speech

Now to turn to the heart of Michael H’s concern:

I believe in the implicit right of the individuals to freedom of speech.  I believe this right has been subverted already by government regulations and corporate power and would argue it shouldn’t be any further.

Once we start accepting exceptions to freedom of speech it makes it easier for government and corporations to expand restrictions at their whim.

It is a matter of fact that the High Court of Australia, in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520, declared an implied right of free speech associated with the constitutional ‘exercise [of] a free and informed choice as electors’ but not as personal rights. ‘Rather they preclude the curtailment of the protected freedom by the exercise of legislative or executive power.’ (FindLaw Australia)

This means only that legal curtailment of free speech is difficult, as evidenced by Peter Dutton’s retreat on laws threatening criminal charges against people disclosing conditions in Australian concentration camps.  Dutton backed down precisely because of advice the High Court was likely to uphold a challenge to his censorship laws (see ABC).

But Yiannopoulos is neither a political candidate, nor a spokesman for one in Australia.  Nor is he an elector here.  He has no rights at all to any kind of speech in this country.

Conversely, the WA Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 provides penalties for both incitement to racial hatred (Chapter XI), and incitement to commit any offence (Chapter LVII).  Similar clauses exist in all other state criminal codes.

Yiannopoulos is likely to say things that could give rise to prosecution.  But actual prosecution is unlikely.  Why bother?  Unless he causes an actual riot while still in Australia.

Conclusion

I agree with all of Michael H’s concerns–in principle.  But in practice I think they are merely rhetorical.  They have no grounding in reality.  Not even any probable reality.

If fairness or justice were a concern here, any and all people associated with Trump and his Republicans, including especially Trump himself, should be detained at the point of entry to Australia, subjected to a full cavity search, locked up for a few days, and then turned back.  That seems to be how they treat us and others.

Yiannopoulos is a creature of Steve Bannon, who is the ideologist of Trump’s Republicans, whether in the White House or not.  I would not shed a tear if Yiannopoulos burst into flames and was reduced to ashes.  But I wouldn’t personally set him on fire.  Nor do I care that he will probably find a ready audience of Australian idiots.  H, and they, are not the problem.  One Nation is.  Corey Bernardi’s Conservatives are.  The Federal Coalition is.  And so is the ALP, which has been silent on rolling back the most odious artifacts of the Coalition’s mean-spirited campaign of class warfare.

In that context it almost seems that concern about an American drama queen’s rights to speak nonsense is a pretty handy distraction for the active wreckers of this country.  While worrying about a show-pony, who is watching what our own elites are up to?

Part of my contempt for the hipster/Gen Y/social media generation is that, on the whole, its members are the least well educated, least civically engaged, and most arrogantly ignorant demographic I have observed in my lifetime, and probably for a couple of hundred years before that, too.  We should not really expect any civil rights to be a concern for them so long as they have money for tech toys and social media distractions.  And that says to me the future is not democratic, and has no room for notions like free speech.  Free WIFI, maybe.  But nothing related to the freedom to think or speak freely.

I support any measure that denies Yiannopoulos his intentions, or that humiliates and angers him.  His game is hate and violence.  Let’s give it to him.  In the spirit of Australians exceeding expectations on the world stage.

Fat chance.

Afterword

I have been criticised many times for loquaciousness.  I believe that complex ideas deserve detailed examination if they are to be taken seriously, in an adult fashion.  It is, in fact, a central theme of my essay that censorship is a far more complex issue than tractable by any habitual or expedient reduction of available facts and issues to a more simple abstraction for the sake of manageability.

It is not enough to adhere to the juvenile and empty Twitter generation formula of ‘I assert x’.  Mature thought and discussion requires instead ‘I assert x because a, b, c, d, …’.

The fact that this cannot be done on Twitter, and is rarely done on any social media platform, ought to serve as a warning about the quality of information derived from such sources.

The absence of reasoning backed assertion should serve as a warning in wider sense, wherever it is encountered.  It is that absence which Hannah Arendt saw as the banality of evil.

 

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