Free Speech news headline on a copy of the  United States Constitution and the US flag. Photo: iStock
Free Speech news headline on a copy of the United States Constitution and the US flag. Photo: iStock
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Censorship of some political opinions silences parts of the population. That is true in parts of Asia. But that’s not the end of the story. Censorship, though in a lighter sense, also exists in the West. This Western-lite kind of censorship undermines those advocating for freedom of speech as a global human right, fueling the counterargument that the West is hypocritical.

Why does this perception exist in the world? Arguably one needs to share the same blind spot, in line with the opinion of media elites, disregarding that certain content is given constant attention by media elites, while content against their views is disenfranchised, even silenced, and is not printed, posted, or broadcasted by media elites with a consensus on certain issues. But it’s getting problematic for democracy, when media elites do not grant others the same right, instead acting as content “gatekeepers” (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi), protecting their bastion, their panels as their echo chamber, and propagating their views (often declared as “truth”) while silencing all those they dislike, disenfranchising and marginalizing them from being aired and suppressing them to the realm of legends (often code for social media).

While media elites act as prophets of the truth, their behavior – by many perceived as suppression – makes a class conflict obvious. A class conflict between the so-called upper class, fancying themselves to be educated, definitely in control of established media, and the silent majority, the silenced majority, often defamed by the upper echelon of media elites as not classy, not educated enough to be represented with their opinions, and therefore at best only having their voices heard in social media.

Is it really best to silence those you dislike? Doesn’t it make them “martyrs”? Doesn’t censorship (even the lite form), highlighting one piece of content and silencing the other, highlight a democracy’s deficiencies? Doesn’t also lite censorship prove the immaturity of a democracy? Is it a fake democracy then, ruled by a few, whose best thought is silencing, censoring those they dislike, people whose opinions are not in line with theirs?

What happened to freedom of speech in public discourse? Did we ever have it?

What happened to freedom of speech in public discourse? Did we ever have it? How serious are media elites about freedom of speech in times of democratization via social media (where everyone with access can express his/her opinion)? How serious are media elites about freedom of speech when, under their reign, political content they dislike is censored in one way or another, and if some had their way, would also be on social media.

Western media elites are obviously serious about freedom of speech, but seemingly only to maintain power, only as long as they are hearing what they like, meanwhile censoring content that is not to their liking. As you cannot have freedom of speech without democratization and emancipation, do media elites really understand the underlying principle of free speech?

Do you really think that in the old days, when the US Constitution was crafted and the First Amendment for freedom of speech was implemented, that the situation on the streets was civilized or educated, ie everyone behaved well and only used nice words? The opposite was the case when the ideas of Voltaire and of other philosophers built the groundwork for the US Constitution ratified in 1788. 

Now, do media elites really think that the aformentioned philosophers didn’t thoroughly tthink through what they wrote? Do media elites really think their writings were crafted only to respect the opinions and views of the rich, powerful and educated?

It’s very concerning to see media elites in power taking these liberties, but not granting them to others, since they silence certain voices, certain segments of the population that express views they dislike. Are media elites thinking that if they silence opposing opinions consistently they can extinguish them? Wouldn’t it be better for media elites, instead of disenfranchising, silencing opinions they dislike and having to deny allegations of censoring, patronizing, policing, disciplining the public for divergent opinions – also known as “educating the public” – not to silence the public, but to train themselves and the public in ideological criticism and the sociology of knowledge? They need to be aware of the three sluice gates through which partisan interests can infiltrate: information, selection and application, influenced by what media elites think is best for the country, ie what they think it means to be on the right side of history?

How healthy is a democracy in which media elites have nothing better to do than use their power to exclude large parts of the population, manipulating the public from their ivory towers? Highly ideologized censorship exists not just in parts of Asia but also in a lighter form in the West.

Dr. Dr. phil. Immanuel Fruhmann is an Austrian philosopher and educationist specialized in philosophy of science and language, cultural and social philosophy, as well as adult education, with years of experience in analysis of geopolitics and giving philosophical and educational insights to the public. He is psychotherapist in training and works as coach and consultant as well as writer.
Fruhmann is a Knight of the Order of St George, a European Order of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine, as well as vice president of the Austrian Education Alliance, associated member of the Kinderbüro (political lobby for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child), and the Austrian Economic League.