opinion | Banning thoughts we don’t like is not the best approach


“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its shame.” – Oscar Wilde.

One might think that liberal democracy in the middle of the third century would now be joyously blessed with the widest possible range of ideas and opinions. One may be wrong.

Conservatives, for example, routinely discover new threats in the books. In Missouri, “books containing anything considered sexually explicit” are banned from school libraries, albeit with some exceptions for “artistic” or “informational” materials. In Texas, members of a school staff were asked to “check out all copies of a list of more than 40 books” until further review. In Idaho, Christian conservatives have demanded that 400 books, many on LGBTQ or ambiguous topics, be banned from a public library — even though they are not on the shelves.

When it comes to schools, a reasonable parental contribution to the required studies is appropriate. But if sons and daughters cannot be trusted to comply with parents’ instructions regarding perusal of library books, the staff should not be to blame. Besides, parents who fear exposure to controversial ideas or images may spoil their young may, as the infamous Mr. Wilde notes, display shame. After all, thinking about new ideas and then accepting, rejecting, or reconsidering them occasionally should be a long-term journey for everyone.

But many on the left are no better off, as evidenced by the crusade to clean the Internet of “disinformation”. Insisting on restricting “inaccurate or misleading” information detracts from people’s right to be wrong—in fact something we all have to tolerate—or acknowledging that what appears to be wrong today sometimes proves true tomorrow. Examples abound.

In 2020, the story of the infamous Hunter Biden laptop was deemed “disinformation” in a letter signed by more than 50 former intelligence officials. Both Facebook and Twitter severely limited users’ ability to share New York Post reports, and eventually Twitter banned them entirely (a move that backfired). We now know (and many said at the time) that those decisions were wrong. Facebook’s recent comments by Mark Zuckerberg raise troubling questions about a possible role for the FBI in suppressing the story.

The recent admission by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the response to the coronavirus pandemic has included critical errors, “from testing to data to communications,” makes clear that social media companies have been misguided in their policies of directing people to what they saw as health sources.” reliable” (In the words of Twitter) when users searched for information about COVID-19. But decisions about who is to be trusted should not be left to the chiefs of social media. For example, The Post reported that Twitter was recently found guilty of describing factual tweets as misinformation.

Social media companies are constantly urged to play down the impact of former President Donald Trump’s exposed allegations of election fraud in 2020. But online opinion monitoring, particularly on political issues, is an authoritarian act based on the assumption that Americans smart enough to identify falsehoods should They are empowered to block them to protect their most gullible neighbours. Based on opinion polls, titanic efforts to suppress Trump’s fraud theories have not succeeded. why? Because, like religion, what people believe about politics is based more on faith than on provable fact.

When it comes to Trump, the lies are not one-sided. Lies about him thrive on the internet. Many still insist that he was installed by the Russians in 2016. To this day, journalists and columnists often repeat the false claim that Trump suggested people take bleach to fight the coronavirus. The list goes on, but the world and democracy will survive lies about Trump and Trump’s lies.

Instead of playing the whack-a-mole game with pointless lies, we must realize that the intrinsic power of truth remains the best and most powerful weapon against deception. Lies can never be eliminated, but confronting them with the truth frequently is a necessary task, especially for respected fact-checkers. Yes, spreading lies on social media can have ill effects, but countless books have inspired true crimes and deadly violence as well. Censorship is not the answer. The marketplace of ideas has always included false or misleading claims and opinions. But as Shakespeare assured us, “in the end the truth will come out.”

There are signs that social media companies are tired of playing the role of “truth police” and limiting their efforts to uninstall platform users over political statements. Although such moves have been criticized by those who insist on some kind of truth brigade to inevitably impose subjective norms, we may eventually go back to the days of the social media giants as they intended – mere aggregators of information and passive platforms for a wide range of voices.

Whether you think of bestsellers by famous authors, or bogus posts by bloggers downstairs, Americans must be reminded frequently that protecting their freedom of expression depends on tolerance and defending the rights of others to express their thoughts and opinions—particularly those they find most objectionable or even false. .

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