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In Search of the Truth

By Jerry Brownstein

Legal & Real Estate

Home, Garden & Decoration

Global Topics

Inside Ibiza

Health & Wellness

Ibiza Optimista

Published in Ibicasa Magazine on 15/02/2024 Sharing Link

It has been said that, “Democracy dies in darkness.” This is why freedom of the press and freedom of speech have always been at the very core of a democratic state. These freedoms go hand in hand with diligent journalism as the pillars of a free society. They have a crucial role to play in holding government leaders accountable, publicizing issues that need attention, and educating citizens so they can make informed decisions. Yet in recent years it has become more and more difficult to know where to find the truth about what is happening in the world. The majority of people used to get their news from television or newspapers - the Mainstream Media (MSM). They trusted that most of what they were told was true about politics, the economy, health and foreign relations. Of course there was always some bias coming from these sources, but it was generally felt that there were good reporters involved who were working to discover the real facts of any situation.
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Today these traditional MSM sources of news are still reliable for keeping us informed about urgent events: storms, earthquakes, plane crashes, etc.. But when it comes to deeper news and real journalism they have become less trusted - and for good reason. Over the past few decades it feels more and more that the MSM has been parroting what their advertisers or government agencies want them to say. The 2003 war in Iraq was started over false information about weapons of mass destruction. More recently, much of what we were told by the MSM about covid turned out to be false: “The lock-down will only be for two weeks.” “The mRNA shots will keep you from getting covid.” Later... “You can get covid but the shot will keep you from transmitting it.” It has become a pattern that the MSM tells us what government agencies and corporations want us to hear, while those who express legitimate doubts are vilified and censored.
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These are glaring examples of how the MSM is not doing its job of truthfully informing the public. Of course there are still courageous journalists who are doggedly seeking the truth, but they have mostly been driven out of the mainstream. This makes it extremely difficult for the average person to know what is really going on. What are the solutions to this situation? Having lost faith in the traditional MSM, many have turned to alternative sources, mostly on the internet. This has spurred the creation of countless websites and podcasts that offer information, news and opinions from a wide range of perspectives. To a great extent this has resulted in a much needed renaissance of free speech and free journalism, but it is a double-edged sword. While it is beneficial that there is a greater selection of sources for information, it is also true that many of them are not credible, and some are intentionally malicious. In addition, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), and the technology of “deep fakes” that look and sound completely real, increase the danger of misinformation. The simple solution would be to ban any information that is intentionally false, misleading or malicious. The problem with that is obvious: who gets the power to decide what is banned?
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If the government becomes the final arbiter of what can be said, then the most important aspect of free speech will be lost. It is no surprise that totalitarian governments of the past and present always cement their power with complete suppression of free thought. In the old Soviet Union and today’s oppressive governments in China, North Korea, Iran, etc., the people only see and hear the propaganda of their government. Protecting a democratic society from such tyranny by holding leaders accountable was the main reason why free speech was put into the US Constitution - and every true democracy has followed that original principle. Free speech in the EU is protected under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. 

So if the government should not be allowed to censor free speech, then who decides what is censored on private media? This is a question that has become extremely important with the growth of the internet, as social media sites are now the main source of information for millions of people. These companies (Twitter (X), Facebook, YouTube etc.) have grown so large that the public has a vital interest in making sure that free speech is upheld on their platforms. Up until now they have been unregulated, and allowed to make their own judgements as to what content appears on their sites. Sometimes they completely ban a person whom they do not agree with, but they also have more subtle ways of suppressing information. “Shadow-banning” is a way of setting up the algorithm so that posts they do not approve of are shown to much less people. Other indirect ways to censor posts without totally banning them are demonetizing them, or putting a “Warning!” under the post or video. Keeping this power over free speech in the hands of unregulated private organizations is dangerous and undemocratic, but what can be done about it?
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Free Speech is Essential to Democracy

The EU has attempted to regulate online platforms with the Digital Services Act (DSA). It seeks to “curb illegal content, hate speech, and disinformation while promoting fair competition and consumer protection.” This sounds very noble, but it does not answer the key question: Who decides if something is “disinformation”, or “hate speech”, etc.. Once again we come up against the problem that these judgements can be very subjective and biased. In many cases there are alternative views that have merit and need to be heard. So we don’t want to give a faceless government agency the power to arbitrarily censor valid opinions, but neither do we want private companies doing it. What to do?
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We have come full circle. If a free society must allow freedom of expression (within basic limits), then how can you find the truth in this world of infinite alternatives? Your best protection is common sense. Look for sources of information which have proven to you, or to someone you trust, that they are honest, open and well-researched. See if what they are saying makes sense to you - in both your mind and your feelings. Perhaps most important of all is to ask yourself the classic question: “Cui Bono” (who benefits). This means to be sceptical of information coming from any person or organization that stands to gain financially or otherwise from what they are saying. For instance, if the head of a big pharmaceutical company says that its new product is “safe and effective”, this is not a source that you can trust. By the same token, you should be sceptical of a scientist who gets funding from that company; or media that gets advertising revenue from it; or doctors who receive benefits from it. This basic rule applies to all areas of information, and it will help you to find truth in the digital age.
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The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth 
~Carl Jung~

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MUHAMMAD ALI: 1942-2016


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