Today I left a WhatsApp group called ‘Free Speech’. It should have been called ‘Fear Speech’.
The problem with not allowing people to say what they are thinking openly online (or anywhere else) is that they rightly believe they are being silenced for a nefarious reason – because in reality what other reason is there to silence someone? – and then they huddle in little groups and whisper their concerns.
This is a problem not for those in charge who want to crack down on free speech, but for the people in the groups themselves. Devoid of the usual give and take of ideas within regular human discourse, these groups become magnifying chambers. “Have you heard…?” is trumped by “Yes, but did you know that…?”, all designed to elicit gasps of incredulity and fear.
And so what starts out as a laudable idea – a neutral place where people can say what they really thing, becomes a crucible for data to be transformed into rumour and intrigue, all passed around with the utmost piety by those who declare that is is their right to know.
Of course it is their right to know, but know what? And how do they know? Snippets of information on the internet are pored over as ‘clues,’ but no-one can assemble the full picture, and how do you know the information is legitimate in the first place? Freedom is all well and good, but the freedom to scare yourself silly over what may turn out to have been a false rumour? What’s the point?
So as I say, today I logged off, logged out. Facebook is holding less interest for me also, and all the others. It’s all just noise noise noise, no one really knows what the true facts on the ground are because no one has the ability to travel the world looking for the primary evidence in every case. This, of course, is the consequence of losing our media entirely and replacing it en-masse with a propaganda machine, but that is a topic for another day.
I do believe that the world is what you make of it. The planet is such a vast place, far bigger than the Malthusian doomsayers will admit. Even a smallish city holds unlimited potential. There is just too much choice for it to be otherwise. I can obsess over politics and corona, or I can read a book, play some music, draw a picture, write a blog post. I can look at a video of an empty hospital, or I can look at the plants in my garden, or the stray cats in the sun. When I shift my perspective – quite literally: when I put something else in front of my eyes – my whole world transforms.
Why live in fear when I can live in hope, and joy, and beauty?