"We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest -- which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves." ~ Thomas Jefferson
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In a free society, there's plenty of room for conspiracy theories. Anyone with a strange idea or a vivid imagination has the full right to spread those thoughts to anyone willing to listen. It might sound pretty strange that obvious idiots should have the right to make idiots out of other people, but that's part of what comes with freedom: Nobody can say what must or must not be.
That's the beauty of it'idiots too have a place in society, and they have a right to say whatever they wish. Just like you and me. If some idiot claims a freckled bunny rabbit from outer space has made all sodas out of zebra poo, then let him. I don't have to believe it, and I don't even have to listen. In a free society, there is information and disinformation in abundance, and I'm the only one to decide what piece of information I'm to listen to and believe in.
Sure, that probably makes some people totally wacko if they go around believing everything (or nothing) people say. But that's better than having a monopoly of thought that can easily go the wrong way and thereby fill every brain in the population with lies and destructive philosophies. In a society where information is allowed to be free (but not necessarily without cost) and any thought can be communicated, people have a greater chance of avoiding bad ideas.
That's also what makes the free market superior to any planned system. Some people are stubbornly pursuing impossible tasks and will eventually face the consequences, whereas others are extremely successful. It is the former, the people who make the wrong choices, who are the true heroes of the market, since they are the ones who dared trying and who took the chance (but bet on the wrong horse). They are also the ones who can more easily get up again when they fall, and they pose an example to everybody else: Don't do what I did. Thanks to them, most people don't have to make the same mistake. Everybody learns, thus everybody's better off.
But our Western society is not free in that (or any) sense, there is no such thing as free speech or freedom of the press. Most countries have reward systems where the media is paid off by government for supplying the public with the right kind of information (usually called 'neutral' such). If you say the wrong things or wear the wrong kinds of clothing, you risk getting thrown in jail.
The 'Cartoon Crisis' is a good example of how far our modern society has gone down the road of censorship and in-the-box thinking. A few fundamentalists in very unfree countries very far away don't like what's published in a Danish newspaper. Most of us would say 'So what?' and go on, but it has become an international crisis. Why? The answer: politics.
There is always only one reason you cannot say or think certain things, and that is because the ruling elite doesn't approve of it. The Danish cartoons were published in a time when imperial America is trying to make friends with fundamentalists in the Middle East . The number one priority for the US government is to clean up the mess in Iraq in order to move on to Iran or Syria, but the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten made it a lot more difficult for Bush II and his allies.
Also, the cartoons expressed something many people probably feel deep down: a skepticism towards the unknown, and an increasing fear of what seems to be going on in the Middle East . But these are feelings that are not allowed, and that's why the cartoons were so condemned internationally. The cartoons were a direct hit on political correctness and thereby threatened a lot of what had been 'invested' in political processes all over the globe. Actually, it probably ruined quite a few of those investments and therefore the deed had to be denounced. From the political class, the attack came swiftly: 'you are risking peace and prosperity, this prank of yours can lead to war.'
(Politics, as we all know, tries to establish global peace, and politicians work hard to create enough wealth for all of us to be happy forever. The publishing of those cartoons ruthlessly thwarted everything politics had built.)
The media, blackmailed through government reward systems and anxious to keep their licenses, immediately backed up their governments, even though a few brave editors (most of them seem to have lost their jobs) practiced freedom of the press and republished the cartoons. In times such as these, it is refreshing to see brave individuals such as those editors and the twelve intellectuals unafraid of speaking out and willing to discuss the real issues.
But that's not how we deal with things nowadays, we don't talk about them'we cover them up and bury them deep. The 'war on terrorism' has made some things very simple: either you're with us or against us. If you have a different view on things, you should shut up; in these times we need to show unity.
As things are, most people have been silenced. Perhaps it is because they actually believe the nonsense, or because they are afraid to stand tall for what they really believe. ' Liberty of thought is the life of the soul,' claimed Voltaire. But a Voltaire of our times would be imprisoned (if at all published), and never again heard of. Or perhaps he would take refuge on the Internet, as many of today's critics of the state of affairs have.
The Internet is probably the only real exception to the homogeneity of information, an oasis of free speech. The blogs are our contemporary counterpart of Voltaire's writings; the bloggers are the only ones who consistently speak up and say exactly what they want to say. This is where information is free, and new ideas are spread by the minute. And it is virtually impossible to stop news published on blogs; as soon as something is published, it is spread in a decentralized manner and reaches millions within hours.
Only bloggers provide the 'other side' of the story, the one not communicated or controlled by government. On the Internet, no one seems afraid of saying 'public truths' are public lies. Bloggers comment on things the media don't ever want to touch, like the conspiratory 9/11 documentary Loose Change. Wherever people can tell their view without being censored, wherever there is a conspiracy theory about the government conspiring against its population, there is freedom of speech.
How do we know the blogs tell the truth? We cannot'and that's the beauty of it. In a time when people are effectively brainwashed through public schooling and the blackmailed press, the only truths out there are bound to end up on blogs somewhere. Most of the information might be lies and fairy tales, but at least one gets to choose what to believe in.