I used to think Big Brother represented the failings of a centralised government, but as COVID accelerates our move towards a monolithic belief system, I am beginning to see it a little differently.
Instead, it is forming as a pseudo-collective conscience dogmatic in its extermination of thought outside the orthodoxy. It is manifesting in a neo-puritan class building societal constructs where if you’re not with them, then you’re against them. And, with virtue ostensibly on their side, these leaders of progressive culture are ruthlessly hunting down dissidents and nailing them to the wall for the public to see.
We cannot become complacent, however. If we allow this new wave of hyper-morality to crash upon our shores, it will have a drowning effect. One of the most alarming trends emerging is the erosion of freedom of expression. We can all agree the notion ought to be a fundamental human right, but that does not mean it is enjoyed by all. In fact, the latest report from Freedom House found just 42 per cent of countries share this luxury — the lowest in the past 15 years.
We seem to forget freedom is a gift given to us by the great people who used it as the basis to build our democratic privileges. It’s a very fragile social contract. One we must nurture and protect to pass on to the next generation. In short, it’s something we inherited, let’s not take it for granted.
In our hedonistic society, we act as if human existence started a couple of hundred years ago. Despite technological and ideological advances bringing billions of people above the poverty line, this myopia leaves us feeling indestructible, a dangerous place to be for any civilisation.
Now, let’s put things into perspective; the universal application of free speech is a relatively new concept unique to our modern world. The United Nations only enshrined it in 1948, and even then, countries are not obligated to follow this declaration — meaning it is not guaranteed.
If history has taught us anything, there are evil people who will do whatever it takes to rob us of that right and assume power through tyranny. This may seem like doom-mongering but remember, World War Two ended 77 years ago, it’s been 73 years since free speech was internationally recognised, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and today? Look north to China.
For these reasons, we must be concerned about Big Tech’s march on speech. Although, it needs to be noted these corporations have a legal right to construct their own terms of service and remove anything that violates it.
For a libertarian, this is where things become tricky, as companies should be able to do whatever they please within the law’s guidelines. However, these platforms have become the town square of our time, connecting 3.96 billion people. Humankind has never before dealt with such instantaneous communication, breaking down the barriers that separated us in the past.
The phenomenon is omnipresent and has become the main realm for political discussion — if you are not on social media, you do not have a voice. This is why YouTube’s decision to suspend Sky News is a terrifying attack on our democracy.
The fact the Palaszczuk government can spread misinformation about AstraZeneca via Twitter, and, after admitting he caused some vaccine hesitancy, the ABC’s Norman Swan liken the Sydney vaccination program to testing guinea pigs, suggests this is not about truth at all. More so, which side of politics you are on.
The left may feel like this means they have won the contest of ideas, but this is fool’s gold. Rather, they are killing the debate within the public sphere — one of the most important foundations of our egalitarian society.
By accepting these kinds of bans, we are allowing unelected institutions to become arbiters of the truth. This never ends well and showcases all the hallmarks of authoritarianism. Truth should be arrived at through open debate, not by a singular power who, in YouTube’s case, capriciously cancelled a media outlet without providing specific reasons.
Make no mistake, if we continue down this path, we are heading towards a totalitarian movement. A frightening New York Times article, YouTube Videos Brainwashed My Father. Can I Reprogram His Feed?, highlights how deep the groupthink can go. The piece answers a question a reader asks about whether she should hack into her Father’s computer and alter his algorithm, so he will view content she approves of.
This is exactly what happens in 1984 when parents are petrified of their children out of fear of being dobbed into the Thought Police. Worryingly, individuals are now using Big Tech to influence their loved ones.
The left is short-sighted not to stand up for Sky News. As the old adage goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Once the new moral code tightens its noose, not even they will be able to live up to these standards and become censored themselves.
Unfortunately, when that day of reckoning comes, it will be too late. All they will hear when they call out for help is their own echo in a beehive that was once buzzing with ideas.
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