Our comfort with the terminology of the ‘freedom of the press,’ the media, and to an increasing extent social media has constructed an illusory perception of a free world where writers and commentators are at perfect liberty to say what they please without fear of recrimination. This is illusory because it is simply not the case that any form of media is free of all constraints on reportage. Chomsky has repeatedly highlighted the fact that the media – or at least the mainstream media – is a network of large corporations whose interests, albeit independent of government, are intricately tied up government and therefore serve the same corporate agenda.
Mainstream media’s function then, intentionally or otherwise, is to inform the public of events in such a fashion that it directs public opinion and consent in the direction of the government and the media’s (that is to say the social and political élite’s) agenda. This process is more or less transparent in each of the major media outlets, with Fox News perhaps going as far as becoming a parody of the process; resulting in the conclusion that information important for democracy is controlled or spun rather than shared for the purposes of forming informed opinion.
Technology has thankfully democratised both news sources and the means for their dissemination via cellular communications, the internet, and social media, however, this has failed to deliver a utopian information age – why? Well to cut a long story short: Our Western societies have been carefully constructed from the relations of working people to labour and the capital interests that control that labour and investment, and, therefore – to a large degree – the population itself. We all have to work, and within this relationship of capital and labour the information age acts as a double-edged sword; employers whose interests are those of government and the media have at their disposal the same access to information as their prospective employees. Individuals then are caught in the space between free expression and self-censorship.
One can say only what he or she pleases when one is free from the necessity of wage slavery. This enforced self-awareness may be fine so long as it merely restricts the number of expletives one uses on Twitter, but in a world where corporate and government interests are a primary cause of national and global injustice this requirement of self-censorship raises some serious ethical and moral dilemmas. Whistle-blowers like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowdon and others like Julian Assange may be modern Robin Hood figures, but few would really desire their lives. Given our present reality it is right to play the game insofar as it does not directly harm others, but it is clear that more subversive means of communication must be found. Try tweeting or blogging anonymously.