Reviews | Banning ideas we don’t like isn’t the best approach

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

You would think that a liberal democracy in the middle of its third century is happily basking in the widest possible range of ideas and opinions. We would be wrong.

Curators, for example, regularly discover new threats in the books. In Missouri, “books containing anything considered sexually explicit” are banned from school libraries, with some exceptions for “artistic” or “informational” material. In Texas, school staff have been charged to “print all copies of a list of more than 40 books” until further review. In Idaho, Christian conservatives demanded that 400 books, many of them on LGBTQ or occult topics, be banned from a public library – even if they are not on the shelves.

As far as schools are concerned, a reasonable parental contribution on the required studies is appropriate. But if sons and daughters cannot be trusted to comply with parents’ instructions regarding reading library books, the staff should not be blamed. Furthermore, parents who fear that exposure to controversial ideas or images will corrupt their children may be, as the notorious Mr. Wilde has observed, manifesting their own shame. After all, considering new ideas and then accepting them, rejecting them or sometimes reconsidering them should be the journey of a lifetime.

But many on the left are no better, as evidenced by the crusades to cleanse the internet of “misinformation.” Insisting on restricting “inaccurate or misleading” information does not respect people’s right to be wrong – which indeed we must all tolerate – or to recognize that what seems wrong today sometimes turns out to be true tomorrow. Examples abound.

In 2020, the story of the famous Hunter Biden laptop was considered probable “misinformation” in a letter signed by more than 50 former intelligence officials. Facebook and Twitter severely limited the ability for users to share reports from the New York Post and possibly Twitter outright banned it (a move that backfired). We know now (and many said so at the time) that those decisions were wrong. Recent Comments by Facebook’s 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 included serious errors, “from testing to data to communications”, demonstrates that the ssocial media companies have been misguided in their policies to direct people to what they considered to be “authoritative” sources of health (as twitter says) when users searched for information about covid-19. But decisions about who is trustworthy shouldn’t be left to social media bosses. For example, The Post reports that Twitter was even recently guilty of labeling factual tweets as disinformation.

Social media companies are constantly urged to mitigate the effect of former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims about 2020 voter fraud. But monitoring opinion online, especially on political issues, is a condescending action based on the assumption that Americans who are smart enough to identify lies should be empowered to ban them for the protection of their more gullible neighbors. Based on vote, Herculean efforts to suppress Trump’s fraud theories are not working. Why? Because, like religion, what people think about politics is based more on faith than on demonstrable facts.

When it comes to Trump, the lies are not one-sided. Lies about him are flourishing online. Many always insist it was installed by the Russians in 2016. To this day, journalists and columnists often repeat the claim debunked that trump suggested people ingest bleach to fight covid. The list goes on, but the world and democracy will survive the lies about Trump and the lies of Trump.

Rather than playing a futile game of molestation with lies, we should recognize that the intrinsic power of truth remains the best and strongest weapon against deception. Lies can never be erased, but repeatedly countering them with the truth is a necessary task, especially for respected fact checkers. Yes, spreading lies on social media can have ill effects, but countless books have inspired deadly real-life crime and violence too. 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.”

The are signs that social media companies are tired of playing “truth police” and are stifling their efforts to misrepresent political statements to users. Although such moves are criticized by those who insist that some kind of truth brigade enforces what are inevitably subjective standards, we could eventually return to the days when the social media giants were what they wanted. – simple information aggregators and passive platforms for a wide range of voices.

Whether it’s best-selling books by big-name authors or bogus posts by basement bloggers, Americans need to be reminded frequently that protecting their own free speech depends on tolerance and advocating for the rights of others to express their ideas and opinions, especially those they find. the most reprehensible or even deceptive.

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