A prize for press freedom
Journalism, it has been said, is literature written in a hurry – and forgotten even faster.
Today, when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to two journalists, Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Murator from Russia, journalism may be granted a less transient professional status.
The Nobel committee that awarded the prize cited as reason that the two laureates fought for freedom of expression at a time when democracy is increasingly threatened by both authoritarian governance and the fake news being disseminated. by Big Tech.
Democracy is certainly not only threatened, but in the intensive care unit, on an unreliable survival system, in the Philippines and Russia, as in many other parts of the world.
Much of this threat to democracy, paradoxically enough, does not come from a lack of tools for communication but from an oversupply of such channels.
In the former USSR, any form of information was almost impossible to obtain except through state propaganda. There were no city maps, no phone books.
The two government-run news outlets, Tass and Pravda, were literally literature, in the sense that they contained fiction and are best forgotten even faster than before. In today’s world, however, it is not the lack of information that threatens freedom of thought and expression, but its opposite. The unexplored seas of social media, created by Big Tech, are full of dangerous icebergs, dangerous shoals and reefs of disinformation.
When we rely on such electronic media, we are not using any product, we are the product, as the Israeli political philosopher Yuval Noah Harari has strongly argued. Ingeniously hidden algorithms monitor everything we search for on social media and from that search they form a personality profile for each user. All of our preferences – from our choice of pizza, to the books or newspapers we read, to our political inclinations – are identified and our biases are either reinforced or subtly altered for commercial or ideological exploitation.
It’s not just the anti-Trump paranoiacs on the liberal left who believe that in the penultimate US presidential election, Russian hackers played a central role in influencing voter behavior.
At the height of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, Norman Mailer coined the word “factoid” to refer to a fabricated “fact”, a untruth that has been used so often in public discourse that it has become. ultimately came to be seen as a truth.
Today, the making of lies has become a growth industry on steroids, so much so that single quotation marks referring to fake should be removed from factoids and used to parenthesize “facts”.
The false has put on the garment of the truth, and the truth has put on the variegation of the false. But this is not the only reversal, the only paradox of the information age that we should rather call the age of malware, a viral disease that does not affect our software but the infinitely more subtle circuits of our subconscious.
The more digital communication systems multiply, the more barriers or areas of conflict they create. Marshall MacLuhan’s “global village” of the late 1960s became torn by deep fault lines on the basis of political ideology, religion, chauvinism and uber-nationalism.
The Greek philosopher Diogenes is said to have taken a lantern through the dark streets in search of an honest person, which was his way of saying that honesty had become a scarce, if not unavailable, commodity in Athens.
Today we need a Diogenes, someone who brings the illumination of truth into the shadow of lies and deception, if only to show that we live in a growing area of darkness that pass for the light of truth.
It is in this context of subversion of language and logic that the Nobel Committee deemed it appropriate to award its Peace Prize to two journalists who, in their work, have proved to be the exceptions to the mismanagement of a non-conformist media.
And that such exceptions are so newsworthy on a global scale only underscores the credibility crisis that the mass media has created for itself.
Diogenes would have approved the Nobel choice.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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