Lately I have been immersing myself into readings and speeches regarding democracy, specifically the securing of essential freedoms in America and throughout the world. I just finished a book by Bill Moyers called Moyers on Democracy, a collection of speeches and writings on a wide-range of topics that directly affect democracy: influence of media, religion and politics.
In one particular speech called “Democracy, Secrecy, and Idealogy,” Moyers writes about the role of the citizen journalist in a free digital press:
The greatest challenge to the plantation mentality of the media giants is the innovation and expression made possible by the digital revolution. I may still prefer the newspaper for its investigative journalism and in-depth analysis, but we now have in our hands the means to tell a different story than Big Media tells. I mean the other story of America that says free speech is not just corporate speech, that news is not just what officials say it is, that people are not just chattel in the field, living the boss man’s story. This is the real gift of the digital revolution. The Internet, and cell phones and digital cameras that can transmit images over the Internet, make possible a nation of storytellers—every citizen a Tom Paine.
Where are we?
The world finds itself in the grips of a social-digital revolution, powered by mobile devices, cheaper and more readily available technology, and increasingly abundant high-speed connectivity.
Dictatorships and violators of human rights are being toppled by ideological and political freedoms inherent in the availability of technology. Businesses are thriving in an expanding technological free market, benefiting from the innovation and imagination of a global collective of creative and industrial entrepreneurs. Everyday people are finding their voice as they talk about what matters to them, ranging from the banal and mundane to the hopes and fears of what is to come.
The power that is inherent in the social-digital revolution is that of the freedom of communication. Regardless of ideology, religious or political viewpoint, or perceived bias, everyone is free to communicate whatever they want. The controls of the press imposed by the Constitution regarding libel do not apply to the individual voice of the social-digital revolutionist.
What are journalists, reporters and media conglomerates to do when the power of the press is subjected to the everyday view of the people, no longer controlled by the press itself? As more and more newspapers lose readership of the printed word to the delivery of real-time information on digital devices, and people turn away from the broadcast news in favor of up-to-the-minute reports on YouTube and various Internet video sources, there is panic and a clamor for control.
Is It A Revolution?
When I talked about this idea on Facebook, I was asked point-blank if I thought the social-digital revolution was really a revolution. Without a doubt it is because we are battling for control of the freedom to express the truth, communicate our opinion, and to ensure that our voice is heard.
I’m not naive to believe that there are forces that would like to clamp down and silence dissenting voices. It’s not just dictators of foreign countries, but also corporations and political organizations that would love to get away with their crimes without being held accountable by the public.
Recently, there have been talks about the creation of Internet kill switches that would shut down the flow of information in a given country. China censors heavily what can or cannot be viewed online. We like to believe as Americans that this could never happen to us, but as long as the power and control of communication rests in the hands of conglomerates that are in bed with the government, we might just find ourselves fighting a lopsided revolution against a powerful enemy.
I enjoy the freedom that I have to express my opinion in an online forum. However, if I did not have it or could only say certain things legally, would I still write? Would I find other ways to fully express my opinion and my search for the truth? I like to believe that I would, but I am not sure because I have become comfortable with my freedoms. I have become complacent and accepted the status quo. I don’t think I am the only one either. How many of us are waking up, just like Neo did in The Matrix, to find ourselves having been lobotomized and brainwashed into giving our freedoms away?
I believe that every citizen of the world needs to read or see Moyers’ speech “Journalism Matters” because he talks about the way people in other countries give their lives for the preservation and communication of the truth. That is why the social-digital revolution is just that, a revolution, because there are still people willing to die for the truth.
What is the truth that you are willing to die for? Are you willing? Or have you become a nameless widget in a fictional world pursuing a dream that is no longer reality? Moyers ends “Journalism Matters” with these simple words:
I had to learn all over again that what’s important for the journalist is not how close you are to power but how close you are to reality.
It’s time that we return to reality. That is the only way to hold those that have power accountable for their actions.