Katherine Shehadeh

How Many?

Censorship can destroy freedom, but some level of “censorship” (or oversight) can also create an environment that enables freedom to flourish for those who may otherwise be unfairly targeted by false, often hate-filled rhetoric. My piece is a reflection on what happens when we are so focused on restricting any and all forms of censorship that we allow dangerous viewpoints, often controlled by the wealthy, elite, to flood the marketplace.
Throughout history and now with the spread of fake news (actual fake news, not the kind complained of by that formerly powerful person), we can see how widespread suffering can be perpetuated by unchecked speech, i.e., through vaccine and pandemic-related disinformation, etc. We already have limitations on free speech when it comes to incitement, but as my piece points out, we often allow the political elite to get away with using their platform and resources to spread dangerous information that does not necessarily rise to incitement, and this sometimes has dire consequences. Who really knows how many lives could be saved if we didn’t allow elites to make outrageous claims that influenced public opinion? After all, slavery was once grounded in religion, Syrian refugees were likened to terrorists coming to take over countries, and anyone can see the result of massive disinformation surrounding the pandemic. Reflecting on this, it makes one wonder just how many lives could (and should) have been allowed to flourish if we would be willing to do something to combat disinformation — even if that means agreeing to some level of censorship.