Yet for all its utopian boosters, it cannot be just another form of publishing. The new medium brings a new message and that is: censorship is doomed because banned material can flit round cyberspace as informed people fact-check online and expose the mistakes of the complacent mainstream.
Unfortunately, there is barely a word of truth in either claim. Traditional censors are finding it surprisingly easy to operate on the internet and stunted party-line thinking has never been so prevalent. Two contemporary examples of shabby thought will explain why the high hopes that technology would automatically generate informed public discourse are fake.
Recently, the Sydney Peace Foundation announced that it had awarded its 2009 peace prize to "the world-renowned journalist, author and film-maker" John Pilger. The jury's citation praised him, for his "courage as a foreign and war correspondent in enabling the voices of the powerless to be heard. For commitment to peace with justice by exposing and holding governments to account for human rights abuses and for fearless challenges to censorship in any form."
The confused syntax was warning enough that at some subliminal level the Sydney pacifists realised that outsiders might not see Pilger as a man of peace. On the contrary, he embodies why it is impossible for many to regard the rich world's Left as a force for good. When al-Qaeda and the remnants of the Ba'athist secret police were slaughtering civilians in Iraq in 2004, and as I remember it denouncing human rights as unIslamic as well, an interviewer asked Pilger, "Do you think the anti-war movement should be supporting Iraq's anti-occupation resistance?"
"Yes, I do," Pilger replied. "We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the Bush gang will attack another country. If they succeed, a grievous blow will be suffered by the Bush gang."
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