“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
― Mario Andretti
I’m guessing Mario would be very proud right now, because groupthink seems to have finally come to the conclusion that things are our of control in the information world. The idea of fake news is nothing new, yet the notion is monopolizing the media as if if was the next new thing. False reporting is certainly nothing new, as the term yellow journalism was coined in the mid-1890s to characterize the sensational journalism that used some yellow ink in the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World and William Randolph Hearst‘s New York Journal.
What is different about the creative reporting going on now? Perhaps it is the democratization of information outlets; today, anyone can be a reporter, and appear credible. This website is proof. So instead of wealthy turn-of-the-century media barons engaging in shamelessly biased reporting, now anyone can become an information source. I believe this is a good thing; as an American who was brought up to believe that free speech was a fundamental right, and that democracy is built on universal participation, I must believe that everyone should have a voice.
So what has gone wrong? It seems as if we are dancing dangerously close to seeing censorship as necessary for the preservation of our government, society and way of life. At the end of the day, it seems that the custodians of our literate products–librarians–will be the last guardians of free media. So we argue about who is dangerous, as in the recent YALSA guest blog “Libraries and the FBI Guidelines for Preventing Extremism in Schools” . Then the dueling begins with a post from The Annoyed Librarian in Library Journal “Librarians Fear the FBI More Than ISIS“. Does this mean that voices in the library world are starting to call for censorship?
Clearly, an evolution is taking place, and the end point will never be reached. Why? Because our perception is a moving target. How much control is too much? When do the limits of decency become dictatorship? This much seems certain: we must continue to uphold the right of free access to our media, both as producers and consumers. Remember, knowledge is still power.