Modern censorship is more dangerous than open totalitarianism, it being concealed and incorporated in our daily routine, says Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, commenting on the insider leak detailing Google’s news blacklist.
The intellectual told RT he’s not advocating for online anarchy, comparing it to snuff movies in hardcore pornography – some regulation should be in place to block harmful content on the internet, he says. But hiding political motives for suppressing voices online is what worries Zizek the most.
“We all know we have to censor things at some level, but the main rule for me is that the process should be transparent. Not in the way – I’m talking about the developed West – it is done now, when all of a sudden somebody is prohibited and you are not even allowed to debate it,” Zizek explains. The “false choice” between politically correct censorship and radical liberalism is a trap, he believes.
Zizek does even think about this pragmatically for a moment:
This week, conservative transparency group Project Veritas published documents it received from an ex-Google employee. The documents appeared to confirm that Google can boost or de-rank news sources based on a seemingly biased set of internal rules. Calling the practices “dark and nefarious” the whistleblower, Zachary Vorhies, also leaked a doc detailing Google’s “blacklist” that lists nearly 500 websites, including both conservative and leftist media outlets.
Zizek believes the Big Tech's practice of blacklists and shadow bans could prove an opportunity for right-wing activists to show themselves as a group fighting establishment politics and targeted for their opposition. The philosopher thinks this tactic will actually backfire against liberals by giving “the new populist right a position where they can say: you see, we’re the true alternative, we’re the true oppressed.”
I also agree with Zizek on this:
Google is likely not the only tech megacorporation with a tight grip on their users’ digital menu, Zizek argues – but “the process isn’t some kind of a dark plot,” rather an inconspicuous slide “into a new, controlled society.”
And the wonderful parting thought:
One doesn’t know anymore “if there is secret police following you or somebody reading your letters,” and this in Zizek’s mind is what differentiates it from the totalitarianism of the past. Modern control is hidden and undeclared, Zizek says.
I do not think that it is a concentrated effort necessarily by everyone involved to bring about 1984, but rather, it is people who think they are actually doing good and honoring free speech by censoring. It's rather not unlike the church moms who wanted to ban Cannibal Corpse in the 1980s: they see something objectionable and offensive and do not believe that it constitutes free speech because they think it is not edifying to society.
They may be entirely right, but the proper way to handle it is to criticize it publicly and wait for the trend to pass -- not to begin the long march into censorship and commence stripping regular folks of their rights.
August 8th, 2019