After collapse of communism, elites still control media in nearly all former Soviet states, particularly Uzbekistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Russia, where leaders intimidate and punish political opponents. In 2011, members of Pussy Riot, a punk rock collective, were jailed, essentially for criticizing Russian autocrats. A short while ago, St Petersburg police swarmed the home and offices of Pavel Durov, founder of VKontakte, a social media website serving more than 200 million users. It had temerity to allow criticism of Vladimir Putin and his associates. We observed but believed that our democratic nations were better.
Heedless westerners imagine that we enjoy freedom of expression through electronic media and published material. Many claim our nations have moral superiority over states that routinely censor information. However, freedom of speech can be constrained without heavy handed state actions; it can be restrained effectively by less obvious actions.
American thinker Noam Chomsky described North American media:
“They naturally remain within the basic agenda that’s pretty much set by their owners and their market, which is other businesses. It’d be amazing if it departed very much from that. Also, [the media] is very closely linked to state power, and that gives you not literal censorship but constraints…
“Public broadcasting has always been very narrowly bounded. I mean, it pushes the edge slightly beyond commercial broadcasting, but not very much. There are a lot of illusions about that…”
One long promoted claim about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation concerns alleged political bias. Robert Hackett wrote about that at blog Policy Note:
“To anybody following CBC TV’s news and current affairs over the past five years, it’s no surprise that far from tilting leftward, the Mother Corp gives disproportionate access to Conservative politicians, as noted in Peter Stursberg’s book (see Charlie Smith’s article in the Georgia Straight). An even broader concern is how CBC is framing issues. For example, neoliberal commentators like Andrew Coyne have virtually free rein for free market fundamentalist rants…
“The myth of ‘left liberal media’ is relentlessly promoted by those with a vested interest in shifting the political goalposts further to the right. Democracies need strong independent public broadcasters, but CBC is not well fulfilling its mandate to represent fairly the political diversity of Canadians, including the nearly one-third of voters who made the NDP Canada’s official opposition last year…”
Canada’s Conservative Party is moving to ensure the existing tilt moves further to the right. Under its budget implementation bill, the federal cabinet has, according to The Hill Times, taken authority to approve salaries, working conditions and collective bargaining positions for the CBC. Anyone committed to media independence should abhor this act of control.
Brought up on western propaganda following WWII, I felt in my soul the USA was an heroic preserver of freedom and democracy, principled like no other nation. My father was American and my childhood heroes were led by comic book characters like the Blackhawk Squadron. I have friends in that nation that I respect without limit but, I’m now wondering what the hell happened in America in recent years. The nation that led the fight for civil rights is now leading the fight to destroy them.
The next generations of not-Americans will have an entirely different view from the one I was exposed to in early days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says American monitoring of friends is unacceptable and can’t be tolerated. Propublica reveals that American authorities maintain records of most telephone calls and monitor vast amounts of the world’s internet traffic. Technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook routinely provide access to or hand over customer information to government agencies. Electronic Frontier Foundation says “without a doubt” the NSA collects massive amounts of data about Canadian citizens.
German publication Der Speiegel, says Barack Obama is viewed as the embodiment of the very “Big Brother” once sketched by George Orwell, the unsrupuous dictator who spies on, monitors and controls every citizen. In fact, trust is broken between the USA and nations that should be its allies. It’s both sad and scary when the self-styled leader of the free world chooses to lead the enemies of freedom.