Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Free Speech and Speaking Freely

Stanley Fish says the root of our problem with "fake news" is too much transparency, and that privacy and control of information flow are essential to real deliberation, and real freedom:
Another way to put this is to say that information, data and the unbounded flow of more and more speech can be politicized — it can, that is, be woven into a narrative that constricts rather than expands the area of free, rational choice. When that happens — and it will happen often — transparency and the unbounded flow of speech become instruments in the production of the very inequalities (economic, political, educational) that the gospel of openness promises to remove. And the more this gospel is preached and believed, the more that the answer to everything is assumed to be data uncorrupted by interests and motives, the easier it will be for interest and motives to operate under transparency’s cover.

This is so because speech and data presented as if they were independent of any mechanism of selectivity will float free of the standards of judgment that are always the content of such mechanisms. Removing or denying the existence of gatekeeping procedures will result not in a fair and open field of transparency but in a field where manipulation and deception find no obstacles.
I am beginning to think that this is true; that unlimited speech mainly empowers those who appeal to our lowest instincts. What we can do about that in the internet age, I have no idea.


Shadow said...

I think this is utter nonsense driven by a hidden desire to return to the days of hierarchical and elitist control of information, a time when those in the know could tell the fools what to know and how to think. It may be true that transparency is not always a good thing, but what is better?

"it can, that is, be woven into a narrative that constricts rather than expands the area of free, rational choice." So what? So can restrictions on transparency. Why bother teaching critical analysis in school if this is what you believe?

John said...

Presumably to Fish the point of elite education is so you can become one of the wise gatekeepers.

I have no particular affection for the media gatekeepers; that's why I write online. But I worry that the future of our world might be complete dis-aggregation into groups that have no common understanding of reality at all.

Shadow said...

Sigh, quite possible.