Monday, 18 April 2016

Really Free?

I was thinking today about the concept of freedom and how it plays out in society.

We are told a 'free press' is a highly desirable thing, that if journalists are not allowed complete freedom they won't be free to accurately report the news. But if new sources are allowed complete freedom without regulation; they are free to inaccurately report the news, free to misrepresent facts, and free to even invent them.

I've heard people on the left and the right make claim that The BBC is biased to the left or right. I don't think there's a grain of truth in those allegations however; The BBC make great efforts to remain  unbiased and they do a great job of this. It must be hard for The BBC journalists to stick to such a neutral line, sometimes you perceive them sighing with the effort of it all.

The point is, journalists should have free access to open all doors necessary to find out the facts, but they should be bound in law to accurately report information. Journalists should not be free to manipulate us. An appropriate balance of rules and freedoms is needed to be codified into law in this area.

Some people think that absolute freedom is the ultimate goal; and that by opposing absolute freedom that you are somehow uptight, trying to overly control etc - they think that absolute freedom is a wonderful emancipation. This kind of talk sounds perfect in theory, but it's one of these ideologies that sounds great and works great for a month or two, but then the realities of human nature begin to play out in the dynamic.

A bit like how in Animal Farm, in the beginning of their socialist utopia, 'all animals are equal' but after a while the Pigs took control and that line was amended to say 'some animals are more equal than others'. Hard left socialism won't work, just the same as hard right market fundamentalism won't work. George Orwell was very smart to understand that both extremes are dangerous.

Market fundamentalism is easily sold to many of us: as what's better than being free right? But too much freedom in the market will enable those who have the most money and land, those who have gained a monopoly over the means of production to take advantage of their powerful position. Wages + rights diminish for the workers, by workers I mean for the 99% of us, teachers, factory staff, doctors etc.

I don't want to be misunderstood as being all negative about humanity, as humans we have a great deal of goodness in us, of course we do. What  I mean though is if we are not realistic and honest about the real nature of humanity, we will create foolish ideologies. Realism about the human condition has to be a consideration when shaping policy.

Absolute freedom in fact will allow the bad side of human nature to make us prisoners, beware anyone who advocates total freedom. Instead we need a healthy balance of rules and freedoms in society.

James Bickle