Saturday, April 23, 2022

Matters of Opinion


“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” – United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations ratified the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948.  No doubt they anticipated that advancements in technology would provide greater access to information and ideas.  More information and more ideas delivered to more people in less time and at lower costs.  But could they have imagined instant messaging on a global scale?  Millions of smart phones capturing images, recording events and transmitting them to the masses in real time?  Information and ideas, good and bad, truth and fiction going viral?  And to what consequence?


Certainly they understood the risks of “fake news” and propaganda.  A war had just been won against Fascism and the Cold War with Communism was on going.  In a world of print media, radio, movies and coming soon, television; there would be a battle for hearts and minds.  But it was manageable.  It had to be manageable.


The generation making that Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is mostly gone now.  Their children are old and fading away.  And their childrens’ children and grandchildren are mostly divided and disillusioned.  The battle for hearts and minds rages 24/7 and there is no escape.  The search for truth has given way to demands for tolerance of whatever ideology the loudest voices declare to be worthy.  


For all practical purposes human rights no longer include the right “to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media”.   As it turns out, receiving and imparting information in a world without shared values is only manageable by censorship and control.  And so the question becomes who gets to censor and who has control?  Welcome to the 21st Century.


“Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”-The White Queen from Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)