Governments, corporations, and elites have always been fearful of the power of a free press, because it is capable of exposing their lies, destroying their carefully crafted images, and undermining their authority. In recent years, alternative journalism has been growing and more people are relying on social media platforms as sources of news and information. In response, the corporate state, digital conglomerates, and the mainstream media have been increasingly supportive of the silencing and censoring of alternative media outlets and voices that challenge the official narrative on most issues.
At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, “Australian eSafety commissioner” Julie Inman Grant stated that “freedom of speech is not the same thing as a free for all,” and that “we are going to need a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online—from freedom of speech … to be free from online violence.” Meanwhile, the Canadian government is seeking to restrict independent media and the freedom of expression via the implementation of Bill C-11, which would allow it to regulate all online audiovisual platforms on the internet, including content on Spotify, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast clients.
Similarly, the UK is seeking to introduce an Online Safety Bill, the US “paused” the establishment of a Disinformation Governance Board following backlash, and the European Union approved its own Digital Services Act, all of which aim to limit the freedom of speech. Attempts by elites and politicians to silence dissenters and critical thinkers is not something new. In fact, history is full of examples of “the persecution of men of science, the burning of scientific books, and the systematic eradication of the intelligentsia of the subjected people.”1
However, these current efforts to curtail freedom of speech and press by supposedly liberal governments are still somewhat ironic, given that even “the most intolerant of churches, the Roman Catholic Church, even at the canonization of a saint, admits, and listens patiently to, a ‘devil’s advocate.’ The holiest of men, it appears, cannot be admitted to posthumous honors, until all that the devil could say against him is known and weighed.”2
The corporate state, digital conglomerates, and the mainstream media want to ensure that they have the exclusive authority to dictate people’s opinions, wants, and choices through their sophisticated propaganda techniques. To do so, they have even resorted to transforming falsehoods into truth. In fact, the word truth has already had its original meaning altered, as those who speak the truth on certain subjects are now regularly accused of spreading hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation.
Presently, truth is no “longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter of whether in any particular instance the evidence (or the standing of those proclaiming it) warrants a belief; it becomes something to be laid down by authority, something which has to be believed in the interest of the unity of the organized effort, and which may have to be altered as the exigencies of this organised effort require it.”3
However, modifying the definition of truth comes with the potential for great peril, as truth-seeking often contributes to human progress in that it leads to discoveries that ultimately benefit society at large. It should be noted that truth is by no means the only word whose meaning has been changed recently in order for it to serve as an instrument of propaganda; others include freedom, justice, law, right, equality, diversity, woman, pandemic, vaccine, etc. This is highly concerning, because such attempts at the “perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals” of the ruling class are expressed is a consistent feature of totalitarian regimes.4
As a number of liberal-democratic governments increasingly move toward totalitarianism, they want people to forget that there is “the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation.”5 According to them, “public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken public support.”6
In fact, they believe that all views and opinions that might cast doubt or create hesitation need to be restricted in all disciplines and on all platforms. This is because “the disinterested search for truth cannot be allowed” when “the vindication of the official views becomes the sole object” of the ruling class.7 In other words, the control of information is practiced and the uniformity of views is enforced in all fields under totalitarian rule.