Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Censorship and samizdat on the internet

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 25, 2022

Massive convoys of trucks are converging on the nation’s capital. About 50,000 truckers are involved. In one place the convoy stretches more than 40 miles—and that’s before the separate convoys, coming from different corners of the nation, meet for their final approach. Tens of thousands of people are lining the highways to show their support; women are bringing hot meals out to the truckers when they stop to rest.

Doesn’t that sound like a news story to you? It’s happening right now in Canada. But you probably haven’t read it in your local newspaper; you certainly haven’t seen it covered on the major-network reports.

If the truckers were protesting gender discrimination, or even the rising cost of diesel fuel, this protest—which produces some very dramatic visual images—would lead the nightly TV newscasts. But the Freedom Convoy is protesting Covid-lockdown restrictions, and the major media have very obviously resolved to spike stories about any such protests. And so… Silence.

Oh, I was able, with a bit of extra digging, to find a reasonably accurate Reuters story about the convoy. And CBC allowed that “hundreds” of truckers were protesting. But if you want any details at all, you need to look to non-traditional news providers, such as our friends at LifeSite News.

The mainstream media are not providing the news here; quite on the contrary they are deliberately suppressing the spread of public information. This is not a new phenomenon, of course; I have frequently commented on the curious blindness that afflicts reporters in Washington, DC every January, so that they do not notice the March for Life. But that willful blindness is now spreading, so that journalists ignore any developments of which their editors do not approve. Moreover, the self-appointed censors of social-media platforms do their best to shield readers from any facts that leak through the ever-tighter net.

And the major media are not alone in their campaign to restrict the flow of information. The same problem is very much in evidence in the field of education—especially higher education. (See Jordan Peterson’s explanation of why he finds it “morally untenable” to remain on the faculty of a major university.

We can complain—we often have complained—about liberal bias, in the media and in academe. But those complaints, too, are filtered out of mainstream conversations; they reach only those who are already inclined to agree, those who are open to alternate views. The fundamental problem, as Peterson explains, is that alternate views are actively suppressed, with increasing vigor and without apology.

Critics of the mainstream media outlets sometimes refer to them as the “legacy media.” The term is apt, I think. Like the fortunate offspring of wealthy families, these outlets have inherited powerful positions, built on the work of prior generations. Those prior generations amassed their influence by providing the public with information. The current leaders of the “legacy media” have abandoned that effort. Rather than giving people accurate information, and trusting responsible adults to form their own opinions, the mainstream media are now determined to shape opinions directly, telling people what they must think, suppressing contrary evidence and dissenting opinion. Today the most interesting news coverage is provided by upstart services, struggling to find an audience.

Complaints about “media bias” have very little impact. They, too, are filtered out of mainstream conversations, so that they reach only those people who already agree.

First, refuse to support the institutions that suppress the free flow of information. Insofar as possible, do not give them subscriptions, or tuition, or even attention.

Next, explore the alternatives. Not all of the new online sources of information are reliable; some discernment is necessary. Compare different accounts, and notice which outlets provide coverage that holds up to scrutiny. But do not be frightened away from new outlets simply because they are scorned by the legacy media.

Third and most important, inform your friends. And not only your Facebook “friends,” who may or may not actually be your real-life acquaintances. Share the news directly. Face-to-face conversations are always best, but email works well, too. Keep in mind that the internet was designed precisely to allow remote communications among people with shared interests. If the social-media giants thwart your efforts to share information, find other routes.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his heroic allies showed how underground communications—samizdat—could build a movement powerful enough to topple a political monolith. As the Soviet empire collapsed, the bid to control the spread of information will collapse, too. “Facts,” as John Adams said, “are stubborn things.” The truth will out.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jan. 25, 2022 5:50 PM ET USA

    Yes, "the truth will out." But until it does, lies can chew up many lives and souls. The paths of the three great tyrannies of the 20th century—in Russia, Germany, and China—teach us how important it is to smash falsehood and evil as soon as those things arise, when they're still relatively weak, rather than staying quiet until they've seized absolute power.