Last Friday’s shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand which ended with 50 dead and just as many injured have rung the global bell on a call for tougher media censorship.
Yesterday an open letter from Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who is the head of Counter-Terrorism Policing in the UK was published on the counter-terrorism website.
Basu’s letter is a plea for the UK Government to recognise the threat that the free flow of information can have on a nation and to do something about it.
Basu points out the ironic fact that “the same media companies who have lambasted social media platforms for not acting fast enough to remove extremist content are simultaneously publishing uncensored Daesh propaganda on their websites, or make the rambling ‘manifestos’ of crazed killers available for download.”
He said extremist propaganda that might reach tens of thousands of people through their own channels or networks has the potential to reach tens of millions if a national newspaper published it.
He goes onto say in summary that:
‘Society needs to look carefully at itself. We cannot simply hide behind the mantra of freedom of speech. That freedom is not an absolute right, it is not the freedom to cause harm – that is why our hate speech legislation exists.’ [source]
Basu continually refers to this dangerous information that the UK’s media is publishing as Terrorist propaganda, which he claims inspires other potential terrorists into action, he bases this assessment from the statements of terrorists his team have interviewed over the years.
I think it is undeniable that information can be dangerous, it can reinforce beliefs and prejudices, it can raise one’s emotions causing anger and fear. This is true whether the information is accurate or not. Information which has been designed to produce a specific public emotional response, propaganda, is even more dangerous – But, it’s not the root of the problem, it merely accelerates an exceptionally small minority of people to do what they were inevitably going to do anyway.
Censoring our media is a far more dangerous path to take, with dire consequences. A government which controls its media and dictates the flow of information is a Government who has a self-perpetuating power and thus unbreakable control over its people.
While we have been condemning dictatorships across the World for decades with the oppression they place upon their people through censorship and their own propaganda we are voluntarily begging for it ourselves, a little bit at a time.