Friday, January 27, 2012

Freedom of Speech: Bothersome, but Valuable

I got carried away while writing my 'in the news' post for this week. That happens fairly often. This time, I'd gone off on a tangent about freedom of speech, American culture over the last half-century, and what happened when Information Age technology hit old-school autocratic regimes.

There seemed to be enough for another post, so I copied what I'd written, polished it off a little, and here it is:

Freedom of Speech, in Principle and Practice

The America I grew up in had constitutional guarantees of free speech.

In principle, this gave most citizens the ability to share their ideas with others.

In practice, a person was free to share ideas with family, neighbors, and co-workers. Reaching a wider audience usually meant going to one of the culture's information gatekeepers: a relatively small number of news and magazine editors; book publishers; entertainment producers; and educators.

If those information gatekeepers didn't what they saw, the idea stopped there. That's an over-simplification, and I've posed about information gatekeepers before. Fairly often, including:

McCarthyism, Political Correctness, and Deposed Autocrats

I remember the 'good old days,' when America was flushing McCarthyism out of its system. That, and the heyday of political correctness, together with having a pretty good memory, are reasons that I don't miss 'the good old days.'

I think McCarthyism was a bad idea. I think there really was a 'communist menace,' but by the time I started paying attention, it was hard to see through the psychological detritus, paranoia, and blacklists.

A few decades later, a different set of idealistic do-gooders gave us political correctness. With similar results. Like Fred Astaire sang, tomato, tomahto. I've been over this before:
Then the Internet started upsetting apple carts around the globe. Old-school autocrats in places like Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt would have died eventually: and eventually a successor would fail to maintain power. Instead, starting about a year ago, their regimes fell. I think Information Age technology, and the social structures developing around it, are at least partly responsible. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (December 30, 2011))

Getting Published, Then and Now

For folks who were on the same page as America's information gatekeepers, getting ideas circulated meant being a skillful writer or performer. And being in the right place, at the right time, with the right material.

Everyone else had to be very, very:
  1. Skilled
  2. Persistent
  3. 'Lucky'
  4. All of the above
There were ways around old-school editors and the establishment media, of course. I remember when the undeground press gave 'regular Americans' conniptions. Later, when 'the establishment' had changed, 'little old ladies in tennis shoes' used fax machines to 'deceive' The Masses. Or to get the truth out. Different folks saw that sort of thing in different ways.

It's Different, When You're In Charge

Quite a few of the campus radicals of my youth grew up, had successful careers in media and politics: and have been telling each other what they want to hear for decades.

The 'official' version of reality has had time to deviate quite a bit from what the rest of us live with. I think most folks are level-headed enough to tell the difference between ideologically-driven piffle and facts. Once we've had a chance to hear something besides what our 'betters' think is good for us, that is.

Many folks who aren't part of the 'in' group are probably doubting secular equivalents to the perennial 'End Times prophecy,' angst over spotted owls that can only live in virgin forests (and K-Mart signs), and nostalgic efforts to re-live the days of Stokely Carmichael. My opinion.

It's no wonder that America's (new) establishment fears open discussion and uncensored opinions online.

I don't, putting it mildly, agree with everything I see online. But I like living in a world where my 'betters' can't decide what I should and should not see. I've posted about this before, too:


Left-footer said...

A fine analysis and overview on a topic about which I feel strongly.

I'll read your linked older posts later - it's 10 p.m. here and work tomorrow.

Tweeting and linking. God bless!

Brian Gill said...


Thanks for the good words.

And may God's blessings be yours.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.