Modern Censorship

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I have spent all my life living in a democratic society - at least that is what I believed until recently. I count the basic democratic rights as having the possibility to chose between two or more politicians for a public office, and secondly a free press. After all, it was the press that would ultimately inform me that I only had the choice between a bad person and one even worse, but at least there was still a choice. Without the liberty to receive such information, the election itself becomes undemocractic.

Only recently did I realize that the press was not free as I had assumed it to be. There were a few sensational discoveries to be found but now I have realised that they were exceptions to a different rule, that the press was subject to another kind of censorship. Imagining that the press is free reflects our optimistic desires much more than the reality. Since our opinions are strongly influenced by what we are informed of (and how it is told), and an often-repeated lie slowly becomes the truth in our imagination, we are underlying the powerful forces that decide the selection of news to be dealt with in the press. Suddenly I realised that I have been manipulated all the time, others have carefully selected my opinions and important fields may rather be found in the areas for which I had previously found no interest.

"How is this possible?" you may ask. How can such conformity be obtained without any strong guidance to the public opinion and by keeping even the journalists from knowing what their efforts are abused for? Part of the answer may be found in considering examples of this conformity, what happened and how it happened as seen from my viewpoint, if you haven't got an even better example. But before going into further detail, it is reasonable to consider the ‚Hyde Park Corner Phenomenon' as I like to call it.

In the north-eastern part of London's Hyde Park, you can get rid of your aggressions. For a long time, everyone could stand up and speak with a jester's liberty to anybody who cared to hear. There are no limits to what you (when we imagine you were the orator) can say but, therefore, there may be no real audience. No government and no single person was ever dismissed due to details first disclosed in Hyde Park Corner. Even if you were in right, there will hardly be any influential persons to hear about it, but perhaps there is a school class studying basic democratic rights. In consequence, it is highly unlikely that anyone in your audience will grasp the initiative to spread your thoughts to a broader circle. In effect, the system (call it a democracy if you please) will not be damaged and can laurel itself of having permitted your public contradiction which again manifests its democratic rooots. Your message will drown in the flood of apparently more important (and therefore eternally repeated) reports. But perhaps they will save the psychiatrist, since you have now been permittet to talk and get rid of your frustrations until your voice gets hoarse. Today there are many more ‚Hyde Park Corners,' some of them in the Internet (as this contribution) and they are doomed to remain unnoticed while seen by only an exclusive audience.

In the other end of the spectre, you may hear the news in the radio. You may hear the same news again on the same channel an hour later, and again and again. Later, you may find largely the same news on TV or in an Internet news channel, until you find further confirmation for them the next morning in the newspaper. Here, at least, there are many more types of information than the 4-10 chosen in the aerial channels for the day. Only, they expect your arrival at the job, so you will read some headlines and be very selective with, which items can be read to a greater detail. And while being selective yourself, you have no idea how the press can be selective in their choice, which news to print - and the invisible factor guiding this choice.

The events which aroused my disappointment with the press are not substantial to this dramatical discovery. It was strange to see how official authorities directed a theft. It was strange also to imagine what kind of political deals could be suspected behind this plot, and why this and that political power for diplomatic reasons preferred to keep (diplomatically) silent, as diplomats use to be when standing opposed to raw forces. But it was quite intolerable to realize that also the press seems to adhere to the same restrictions. With a few exceptions, it proved impossible to reach the ear of any press sources. Perhaps this was caused by the trick successfully distracting the press but as time passed by and still nothing happened, a stronger influence could also be presumed. It seems that there are other (politically directed) motives which restricts the liberty of the press to report, and thus influence their audience, some adverse things happening. And when this happens here, where else is it going on?

Even if an event receives the apparent grace of being reported, it is far from certain that justice will be done. It is possible completely to distort a report in giving attention exclusively to one part in a conflict. Thereby, the lamb is transfigured to a ferocious wolf or vice versa, and the reader, listener or viewer will not notice the difference unless they were directly involved in the case already. Anyhow, the reporter may find, a wolf does not deserve a defense and then some subjective, negative comments are added within the report.

Even my own area of medicine is characterized by selection of an enormous volume offered for printing, thereby giving priority to reports supporting the conventional view ("state of the art"). And since the printed jungle becomes more and more dense, such reports are repeated again and again while contradictions must be happy to be published even once - without necessarily being read.

Some decades ago, two brave journalists disclosed the Watergate affair, bringing Nixon's presidency to a premature end. Once the affair was rolling, they were helped by indiscretions from several sources. The present scandal in Germany may make you assume some parallels, only the journalists are not found in the first rank disclosing the story. And when they do, as happened to three journalists in Germany working on the scandalous affair of destruction and deletion of the majority of the governmental files at the end of Chancellor Kohl’s era, they are to be found at court, accused of  having disclosed secret affairs and convicted on Nov. 9 in sense of the charge, whereas the real scandal awaits the participants natural decay at old age. Could the Watergate-affair roll up again now? I am afraid that the invisible control with the press, in turn controlling our attention, will prevent anything similar from happening now.

The events which aroused my disappointment with the press are described elsewhere.

Revised Nov. 13&21, 2001 (addition of sentence concerning the Kohl-scandal)

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