The Corner

Politics & Policy

Fake News and Censorship

It ought to be pretty obvious by now that the notion of “fake news” (a real enough phenomenon, of course) is going to be a gift to censors on the make. I posted a little bit about this issue here and then wrote something on the topic for NRODT earlier this month, including a passage on measures now being proposed in France, noting this:

Meanwhile, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is pushing a law to battle fake news that includes allowing politicians to complain to a judge about the spreading of supposedly false information online during or shortly before an election. The judge has 48 hours to respond and can, under certain circumstances, block the offending item, a power that — call me a cynic — could, just possibly, be abused. Fake news, Macron told the U.S. Congress in April, is a “virus,” an attack on the spirit of democracy: “Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy, because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions.” That prettily complimentary, pretty delusional description (take your pick) leaves open the question as to who is to decide what is true — Quis custodiet? again — and where reason is to be found. The madness of crowds is a perennial risk, but a ruling caste convinced that it has all the answers can be more harmful still.

Speaking of which (and having no life) I happened to be looking a day or so ago at one of the earliest measures taken by the Bolsheviks after Lenin had seized power, a “temporary” set of regulations that allowed the new  regime to close down publications  of which it disapproved under certain “absolutely necessary” circumstances. These included (unsurprisingly) “calling for open resistance or insubordination to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government,” but also “sowing confusion by the obvious distortion of facts . . .”

Naturally it was left to the new government’s principal executive body to decide on what was an “obvious distortion of facts.”

We know how that worked out.


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