This book reviews the history of censorship all over the world in some detail. It is a sad but at least somewhat hopeful story because penalties for promoters of “dangerous ideas” became a lot milder than they used to be. For example, to lose a tenure track or managerial position in a woke company looks a lot less unpleasant than to be quartered or burned alive. Nevertheless, some essential things never change. The people out of power always support freedom of expression, while people in power always find such freedom cumbersome and causing troubles that should be suppressed by all means necessary. Whether these are English puritans, Russian Bolsheviks, or contemporary American Wokes, it is always the same. This book is pretty good for the first six chapters as the history. The 7th chapter about the current situation is hard to read due to the author’s severe case of Trump derangement syndrome. Sometimes it comes to the level of the caricature when, for example, the author simultaneously supports the court’s not allowing Trump to block some commenters on his Twitter account and the permanent blocking of Trump’s account by Twitter management.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that unlimited freedom of speech is an absolute necessity if people want to be free. No insult to individuals or groups, no amount of emotional distress, and no number of fake news could justify free speech limitation because it is impossible to find a fair judge who would separate truth from lies and facts from fakes. However, unlimited freedom often leads to its use by enemies of freedom to manipulate people into giving them power, which they use to deny freedoms to others. Nevertheless, I think that it is not an unsolvable problem. What could be done is to determine what is acceptable and what is not clearly and formally. For example, to insult somebody should be acceptable, but calling to cause physical harm should not. The way to separate fake news from real should not be giving some political activists power to become self-appointed fact-checkers. It would be much better to use well-established processes of the legal system and courts to define if some piece of information is fake and force the producer of such fake to provide the same amount of resources to clarify this fake. For example, the proper treatment of much fake news about Trump’s connections with Russians would force all media outlets to allocate the same resources to clear people’s minds from this fake. The lesson of being forced to allocate tens of thousand hours of prime time repeating that it was fake would cause CNN and others to be much more responsible in their reporting. It would be nice but probably never happen. What will happen is the infinite continuing attempts to manipulate people one way or another and the rise of AI tools to fight such manipulation.