OPINION – In some ways, the Information Age has done for Western civilization what Gutenberg’s printing press did in the 15th century.
Publishing the Gutenberg Bible broke a stranglehold of power the elite held over the masses by making it possible for an average person to read the scriptures for themselves. Prior to that shift, people were dependent upon those in power to tell them what the scriptures said.
The resulting power shift opened the doors for the Reformation, the Renaissance and the subsequent Enlightenment that followed. Enlightenment thinking set the stage for the founding of America’s ground-breaking system of natural rights, limited government and unprecedented human freedom.
Of course, at every turn, the elite fought to keep the masses under their control. Religious wars and the Inquisition were two of the more visible manifestations of the elite’s desperation.
A similar scenario is playing out today regarding the free flow of information online.
The Information Age has put the accumulated knowledge of mankind at the fingertips of anyone who desires it. It has also allowed for a freer flow of information in bypassing the official journals and news organs that once served as gatekeepers for the elite.
Over time, mass media became a useful tool for providing the public with an approved narrative the elite wished for them to believe. As our nation’s political system eventually became rife with crony-capitalism and the influence peddling that accompanies it, our once free press became propaganda outlets for the elite by joining ranks with them.
This cozy partnership has resulted in a type of institutional blindness that has caused the elite classes to grossly overestimate their ability to influence public opinion. Nowhere was this more evident than in the open anguish seen on election night earlier this month as the masses failed to be swayed by media dogma.
The harder the mass media urged Americans to reject Donald Trump, the more people realized they were being harangued by a modern day Orwellian Ministry of Truth. Their votes were a clear rebuke to the elite and their highly paid spin-meisters.
Now the elite are regrouping and attempting once again to regain control of the narrative that reflects what they consider allowable opinion. Their current efforts to censor and discredit what they refer to as “fake news sites” is powerful evidence that the masses are slipping beyond their control.
To be fair, there is no shortage of questionable and distorted information available online. The idea that the public is being misled only by those websites which question the official narrative is as hysterical as it is wrong.
It’s telling that most of the recent compilations of “untrustworthy” sites somehow exclude any of the chosen mouthpieces preferred by the elite. Even more telling is the fact that the elite have chosen to use some of their corporate partners rather than government to carry out the censorship they desire.
Facebook, Twitter and Google are daily fixtures in the lives of most people who use social media to share and access what they consider relevant information. When these three giants become the agent by which certain information is hidden or rejected due to its failure to stay within the bounds of approved opinion, the elite can simply claim private businesses have every right to control the content on their sites.
In one sense, they are correct. After all, no one forces us to utilize these privately owned fixtures of social media.
In a larger sense, however, the elite are clearly trying to control the flow of information necessary to allow a free people to make informed choices. That they are trying to prevent us from avoiding their preferred propaganda should be clear to all who have lost their taste for oligarchy-flavored lies.
The greatest irony of this situation arises from the fact that none of us should be dependent upon others to tell us what is to be accepted and what is not. That is the personal responsibility of every man and woman who chooses to take ownership of his or her worldview.
This means that each of us must be willing to actively develop our own ability to think critically and independently about the information we take in. The thing we must resist, at all costs, is the urge to outsource the vetting of that information to government or corporate censors.
Becoming a critical thinker used to be the mark of an educated individual. That meant studying and contemplating numerous points of view, both ancient and modern, and exposing oneself to challenging ideas.
Today, our mass media and places of higher education have become open-air asylums where budding minds are trained to shriek, chant slogans and retreat to purported safe places when encountering a differing point of view.
Which of these mindsets leads toward the type of world you would prefer to inhabit?
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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