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Saturday 19 June 2021

Recommended The era of censorship

The era of censorship

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The then president of the United States, Ronald Reagan used to often tell the joke of an American bragging to a Russian that he could visit the White House, and beating his fists on his desk, saying, "President, I don't want to. like the way you manage our country ”. When the Russian replies that even in Russia one could go to the Kremlin and tell Mikhail Gorbachev: "Mr. President, I don't like the way Reagan runs his country."

The essence of the joke is that in Russia - then as now - there is no freedom of expression and democracy.

Indeed, both Americans and Europeans like to think that they live in countries where freedom of the press and freedom of expression are respected. On the contrary, Russians, Chinese and Iranians, just to name a few, live under dictatorship, that is, authoritarian states, without freedom of the press or of expression.

While in democratic states it is thought to enjoy the freedom of the press, in authoritarian states it is known that the media are controlled, and therefore who can, tends to follow the media imported (mostly illegally) from democratic states, believing that the latter are impartial and objective. At least until a few years ago. Today in authoritarian states people are beginning to suspect that even the so-called free press is biased, with false news, censored and full of propaganda (read advertising), which come to determine the election results and political programs.

By trying to impartially examine various forms of censorship, we can identify five widely used ones: state censorship, corporate censorship, social censorship, privacy laws, and libel laws.

State censorship is what is practiced in countries such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and other authoritarian states, where it takes different forms, such as direct and indirect ownership of the media and various strategies, such as suppression of news or the conditioning of the same. These practices also extend to film, television, theater, and even texting on cell phones or over the Internet. In China, for example, a department of the Chinese Communist Party (one of the country's multiple censorship bodies) employs two million people to monitor and censor various media content.

In democracies, however, censorship takes different forms, but at all levels it begins with self-censorship and political filters, bearing in mind that by definition an editorial director cannot be impartial.

Then there is the so-called "corporate censorship", in which media owners control and condition news by choosing who reports it, establishing an editorial line (for example, progressive or conservative) and limiting or facilitating access to those who reflect. their "values." Corporate censorship tends to take the positions of incumbent governments, especially with regard to foreign policy. The most recent examples come from the war in Iraq, the war in Syria and prejudices towards authoritarian states. Corporate censorship is a widely discussed topic in academia and illustrated in many books (to name one: "United States of Banana" by Puerto Rican scholar Giannina Brasch). Also, in the United States, the First Amendment protects against government censorship, but not corporate censorship or hate speech.

Social censorship is now emerging in established democracies, enforced by what is sarcastically referred to as the "Political Correct Police Force" and integrated with advocates of "Cancel Culture". These influential progressive groups have the power to get people fired, embarrass non-conformist individuals, and discredit those who deviate from the single school of thought.

Furthermore, in countries such as Italy, for example, censorship is widely applied, threatening lawsuits for defamation, which could undermine the survival of small publications. Italy is also unique because most of the professional journalists are registered at the state level. Furthermore, defamation is a criminal offense in Italy, while in the United States it is a matter of civil law.

In China, defamation is used to prosecute dissidents who have "slandered the Chinese people" by expressing views that do not comply with government mandates.

It should also be remembered that democracies, especially those in Western Europe, have strict privacy laws, which however tend to protect the rich and powerful, who have a lot to hide from the public.

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