Control of the news media is an instrumental, key feature to any totalitarian government. In contrast, the primary reason this experiment known as the United States has lasted so long under relatively free conditions is due to the preservation of free speech (and press) via the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In case you haven’t read it in a while, here’s the text:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Nowhere in there do I see an exception for “conspiracy theories,” but apparently Constitutional scholar Barack Obama has an alternative interpretation.
Pittsburgh (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Thursday decried America’s “wild, wild west” media environment for allowing conspiracy theorists a broad platform and destroying a common basis for debate.
Recalling past days when three television channels delivered fact-based news that most people trusted, Obama said democracy require citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions.
“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to,” Obama said at an innovation conference in Pittsburgh.
“There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world,”Obama added.
“That is hard to do, but I think it’s going to be necessary, it’s going to be possible,” he added.
“The answer is obviously not censorship, but it’s creating places where people can say ‘this is reliable’ and I’m still able to argue safely about facts and what we should do about it.”
The above may sound good on a superficial level to people with zero critical thinking skills, but even the most elementary analysis exposes it as the obvious and dangerous attack on free speech that it is. Let’s zero in on a few things he said in closer detail.
He describes the media environment as the “wild, wild west.” Kind of sounds like an environment in which people are free to say, publish or record whatever they want, and let the chips fall where they may. Seems consistent with the first amendment to me.
He notes that there needs to be “some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard.” This sounds good on the surface because, after all, who doesn’t want truth? The problem lies in the fact that governments can and do lie all the time about stuff of monumental significance. Let’s take the Iraq war for example. As I discussed in August’s post, Questioning Hillary’s Health is Not Conspiracy Theory: