As we struggle to come to terms with new forms of how we share information one of the more frightening responses has been a tidal wave a governmental and cultural repression from both ends of the political spectrum. Whether it be from governments, such as China, Russia, Kenya, India or the USA, or from demographic or institutional cultural groups such as college campuses, white supremacists or Christian, Hindu, and Muslim bigots the goal is the same: don’t challenge anything I say or do or I will publicly shame you, question your honor, call you a traitor, or kill you.
Dealing with constantly recurring repression of speech and communication such as this is much like the old carni game of whack a mole. Every time a mole pops its head up through one of the holes on a board and you whack it with your wooden mallet, two more moles pop up through other holes in the board and you have to try and whack them too. It is a miraculously frustrating yet engaging carni game. In the case of the repression of free speech and communication it is just as frustrating, but less engaging as it is frightening.
The historical pattern is that all governments, even democratic governments, have an institutional bias against free speech. The more totalitarian the government the more it will spend time suppressing and limiting free speech and attempting to limit the sharing of information. The common justifications among all the forms of government are national security, patriotism, or protecting the general population from some perceived or made up danger.
The justification for such repression by demographic groups or cultural institutions within a country ranges from showing respect for groups under the continuing curse of historic discrimination to self indulgent efforts to protect personal comfort from intellectual challenge. Racism is an endemic problem in American culture which requires continuous challenge. Self indulgence and intellectual fear deserve no response but dismissal.
The problem of how to deal with repression of free speech and communication has now become even more complicated than it has always been by the viral spreading and intrusion of so-called social media. Governments who have long been the great providers of dis-information are becoming more and more expert at the use and manipulation of social media to confuse, abuse and submerge actions and discussions that they do not want. The individual use of social media has now morphed into the electric equivalent of mass man providing a new, broader source, for the creation of the individual action which coagulates into the mindless responses of multiple expressions of mass stupidity or ignorance.
There is no solution to the continuing efforts of governmental, cultural or institutional efforts to control or repress free speech and open communication. History is very clear that there is no argument or action we can take as a country or as individuals within our country to put an end to efforts to control our speech and free ability to talk with each other. Probably the best that can be done is know such efforts at suppression are always out there and some of the ways in which it works and then to play your own game of whack a mole. When you read about it, be sure to think to yourself that it is happening and that it should not happen. Make it a question when you have the chance to talk to elected officials. Challenge (politely) people who tell you that certain actions should be taken to protect us from (fill in the blank) if those actions include or require controlling or stopping free speech and communication. It is a never ending game of whack a mole. It is frustrating. It is very important.