23 November 2014

Darkness and Bullshit


“T
he more people know about what’s happening, the harder it is to control them,” Lao-Tse put it two and a half millennia ago or so. And make no mistake about it—he was on the side of keeping people in the dark and feeding them bullshit. Lao-Tse would have hated the internet. How do you keep people in the dark when they can find out what is going on with the click of a button? You can still baffle them with crap, of course, burying key information under tons of of garbage, as the mad tea-partiers have figured out, but it is a problem that remains to be resolved in human affairs, as Judge Story might have observed, whether a nation can be permanent where keeping people uninformed and suppressing information constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable state. Future experience should settle the problem, I suppose.
Today is the International Day to End Impunity on the five-year anniversary of a mass murder in the Philippines in which thirty-four correspondents, editors, cameramen, writers, and other journalists were murdered by supporters of a thuggish politician who apparently figured this was the best way to influence the vote. (Mad tea-partiers take note! Why stop with merely suppressing the vote, when murder can put an end to voting altogether?) Their party seems to have expelled the (alleged) perpertrators, and the trial is still going on, despite the diminishing list of witnesses, whose mysterious murders continue to plague the prosecution.
According to the official site the day is intended “to demand accountability for the journalists, media workers, activists, lawyers and many others who have been targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and empower organisations, government bodies and individuals to help dismantle systems of impunity around the world.” It’s an uphill struggle. I live in a country where impunity is handed out like party favors to corrupt prosecutors who connive to sent the innocent to the death chamber, to high officials who order prisoners tortured in the name of national security, to companies that spy on their customers illegally at the behest of shady politicians, to celebrities who drug and rape young women for their private amusement, to businesses that poison our air and rivers and oceans, to criminals of all stripes and breeds and credos. It’s some comfort that the US hasn’t descended to the depths of the Philippines, I guess, but I’d feel a lot better if the city set on a hill was a beacon of light, rather than a den of darkness.

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