We flourish, as writers, as a society, hell, as a species, with our ground fertilized by hard-won freedoms. Often freedoms paid for in blood and treasure.
But always, these are fragile. And – despite the provable fact that we all do better long term for these things being conserved and nurtured… there is always some dim-witted idiot who thinks their personal immediate short-term advantage is best served by abusing these. They think that because it serves their interest NOW, that it’ll never come around to them, and bite them the ass.
And of course, there is collateral damage.
And no. The arrow of history does not point one way, and many ‘new and progressive’ things have been around before. And some of them didn’t work then and probably won’t now. And others worked well and were good for their societies (Like women Medical Doctors in Afghanistan, training alongside male Doctors in the 1960’s , or some of the laws of Ancient Rome) and… are lost again, sometimes for centuries.
Yes, the world has generally become a better place to live. I know there is a current drive to rewrite parts of history to make it fit current mores, which comes up with things women always being in the military… and conveniently leaving out the fact that, yes, while those few cases did occur, they were exceptionally rare. About 1 in every million rare.
Actually, despite revisionism, the past is not fluid. The future is not certain.
What future we end up with depends rather heavily on what freedoms we conserve.
We – as writers, alive and writing now, have a level of freedom – thanks to technology — undreamed of by ANY previous time. It’s the scale of reach that is the thing, despite the attempts of publishers, the legacy media, and of course politicians and governments and mega-corporations to restrict the written word to what they want readers to get. As I said earlier, this is typical short-sighted stupid… but we have a large supply of that as a species. Yes, I know. They all assume they’re serving their best short-term interests, and will always stay in control, and it will never bite them in the ass.
History (not the revisionist version) says otherwise.
Of course there is a lot of collateral damage, from here to there.
And that collateral damage… is us.
We’re seeing new laws against ‘hate-speech’ coming out various countries. “Oh but hate-speech is bad, surely that is good?”
Only if you are foolish enough to assume that the definition of ‘hate-speech’ will not rapidly grow to be: ‘Any speech I disagree with, or find inconvenient, or can’t counter’. And trust me, sooner or later the purity spiral will see everyone run afoul of this.
An EU court has already ruled that this ‘hate-speech’ as found in one of their countries MUST be censored world-wide. As my grandmother said: “Ugly is not important, but beware stupid.” So, Bravo, EU moronic judges (and ‘moronic’ is meant as a literal description of their logical thinking skills, although, unfortunately it may be insulting. Dear morons, I apologize, I did not mean to belittle you with that comparison). Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China, Zimbabwe or North Korea for that matter, can now hold you to your own standard. All they need is their court to hold your citizen guilty of hate-speech and they are silenced. A real win. NOT.
And sooner or later that will spread to books, especially e-books, and they will use Amazon (and any other publisher) as their enforcer.
History says these entities will roll over and co-operate. And yes, it will do them no good. But… collateral damage.
Facebook, having recently criticized their Chinese equivalent for censorship, decided that they’d censor posts that contain the name of the individual thought to be so-called ‘whistle-blower’ a CIA operative called Eric Ciaramella, and apply unilateral banishment on some posters.
There is no legal requirement for them or anyone but the panjandrum who jumped through extra hoops to make this complaint an issue to NOT speculate on the name. There is nothing to stop – if the speculation wrong – said panjandrum saying they are wrong. There is nothing to stop the Star chamber’s chief inquisitor saying they are wrong – if he can do so without lying. Admittedly, that might not convince many people. There is nothing to stop – if the speculation is wrong – the actual individual stepping forward and showing themselves an honorable man, and sparing this Eric Ciaramella. The name is widely circulated in almost every bit of media, except the legacy media, who too are doing their bit to censor it.
The only reason for their conduct appears political – to side with one faction they have been shown to favor. Today that faction (maybe you love them, so you think it is fine)… tomorrow, it may well be someone who hates you or what you write.
Facebook says you can TRUST them to maintain an electronic currency.
But can you trust someone who arbitrarily censors you?
Can you trust someone who can and does make your words vanish on a whim? Who could make your identity vanish? Who can, at will, to please say the Chinese (or Canadian or Equatorial Guinean) panjandrum who told them your speech was hateful or disagreed with some possibly trivial detail of their point of view, make you a non-person (along with the funds – or hard work you invested in building up your own platform to sell books on – that benefitted them, too).
But… just going Luddite won’t work either.
We need to work on making networks OUTSIDE these behemoths control, particularly those selling themselves as free of censorship. (I am attempting to plant myself on MeWe). Follow people OFF Facebook and Twitter. Go to their sites, build your own. Build your own mailing lists so even Amazon doesn’t limit you.
At the moment one can still do both. But we all need to work on becoming anti-fragile. And we all need to value these freedoms. Censorship, even if you loathe the speaker, and disagree with every word, is something we need to counter at every turn.