The free flow of information is crucial in a troubled world

Authoritarian governments strive to stifle the flow of information in order to create information vacuums. These voids can then be filled by the despot’s propaganda and lies. The ultimate goal is to eliminate critical thinking from a society. Conformity is then enforced, and the powerful can claim that they have brought “unity” to their people. Of course, in the process, citizens lose their human dignity and their ability to seek any semblance of truth outside of received wisdom.

The Russian military may be slow on the ground in Ukraine, but the Russian government is going all out in its attempt to restrict information both to its own citizens and to the outside world. The Russian government has blocked Facebook and most social media sites. He took countless demonstrators to who knows where.

Russia also passed a law giving the Kremlin absolute power to clamp down on independent journalism. Journalists who publish “fake” news – as determined by Russian authorities, of course – can be jailed for up to 15 years. Independent Russian journalists have been shut down and many international journalists are leaving Russia for fear of arrest.

United Nations experts who study freedom of expression issues said in a statement by the United Nations Human Rights Council: “Russia’s recent adoption of a punitive ‘false news’ law war” is an alarming decision by the government to gag and blindfold an entire population”. The statement said the move amounted to a “total information blackout” on the war.

Now Putin is coldly calling for a cleansing of Russian society to get rid of “bastards and traitors” who do not support his regime.

China, meanwhile, is also a key player in the manipulation of global information. China controls the flow of information on any topic with an iron fist, especially regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What happens in Ukraine – both militarily and in terms of message control – is important to the Chinese government.

China is learning a lot about how to handle news of an unwarranted invasion. This education could be useful if/when China moves to Taiwan. Chinese authorities have given specific advice to social media sites about allowed Ukrainian content. State-run Chinese news outlets brushed off reports of any pro-Western material on Ukraine.

In America, information flows more freely under the protection of the First Amendment.

It seems, however, that some Americans would be fine with a touch of Russian-style information control. Hosts of ABC gabfest, ‘The View’ this week called for a Justice Department investigation into the Fox News Channel commentator Tucker-CarlsonTucker CarlsonFive Things to Watch for in Zelensky’s Address to Congressional Panel on ‘The View’ Calls on DOJ to Probe Tucker Carlson on Putin’s Rhetoric The Hill’s Morning Report – Featured by Facebook – Will Russia Use chemical weapons? CONTINUED. According to Ana NavarreAna Violeta NavarroPanel on ‘The View’ calls on DOJ to probe Tucker Carlson on Putin’s rhetoric Joy Behar on Graham’s statement: ‘You don’t think Putin could use this as propaganda?’ The Memo: Stacey Abrams faces growing fury over no-mask photo MORE of “The View,” Carlson’s pro-Russian talk of Ukraine made him a “foreign asset” to Putin.

Not to be outdone, MSNBC analyst and former Democratic senator from Missouri Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGlobal Lobbying Senate braces for muted battle over Breyer successor Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE said Carlson’s comments are “really, really close to betrayal”.

In fact, whatever one thinks of Carlson, he is not close to betrayal.

And the day the DOJ starts investigating experts for doing expertise, the First Amendment will crumble.

representing Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierOvernight Energy & Environment – Biden Tries To Reverse Trump On Power Plants 23 House Democrats Call For Biden To Keep All Climate Funds In Build Back Better Overnight Energy & Environment – EPA Reveals A new pollution monitoring in the South MORE (D-Wash.) recently showed confusion over the philosophy of the First Amendment, say in a podcast interview that anyone who didn’t blame Putin for high gas prices was “un-American.” In fact, real Americans can blame the Easter Bunny for gas prices if they want to. They would be incorrect, but so is Schrier for suggesting people can’t blame President BidenJoe BidenBelarusian President says Putin ‘completely sane’ and ‘in better shape than ever’ Arizona Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 for gas prices if they feel like it.

American citizens at least have a chance to learn multiple perspectives on Ukraine, and may even be able to piece together a mosaic close to the truth. The framers of the constitution bet on a market of ideas allowing citizens to receive multiple contributions – and for the free press and free speakers to feed this market.

It should be remembered that Tucker Carlson successfully defended himself against a libel suit with the argument that no reasonable person would believe what he said.

Letting people think and say what they want is, indeed, risky in a free society. Absurd perspectives will certainly be offered – especially if they are likely to be popular and generate money for the speaker – but in the end a free society must trust that reason will prevail.

Americans and their leaders must engage in this process. The alternative, as demonstrated in places like Russia, destroys human decency and reason.

Jeffrey McCall is a media critic and professor of communications at DePauw University. He has worked as a radio news director, journalist and political media consultant. Follow him on Twitter @Prof_McCall.

Christy J. Olson