Information Policy

Abstract: This article rejects not only censorship, but the entire way that the Government controls society. Government control expresses a dictatorial message and constitutes an effort to silence criticism and dissident views. The article argues that, despite censorship and other controls by the Government, technological progress will make it ever easier for voices to get heard that reject the Government as an institution. The article concludes that it is more important to promote optionality, than to protest against evil messages.

A. The Goverment's Deceit

Every dictator instinctively knows that absolute power comes not just from the barrel of a gun, but from control over communications. Whenever a coup d'etat is contemplated, the first targets are communication facilities such as broadcasting stations, newspapers and telephone exchanges. To control transport facilities such as roads, bridges, airports, railway stations and harbours seems of lesser importance. The occupation of parliament buildings is merely symbolic by comparison.

One easy way of measuring how much a country is under dictatorship, is by looking at the amount of prescriptions and restrictions imposed by the Government on the media. In the case of Australia, only a very limited number of TV-stations is allowed to operate, generally only three so-called commercial channels and two government-owned channels. The Government is in the process of adding a third government-owned channel to this list. The owners of the commercial stations are hand-picked by the Government and generally indulge in this privileged situation by identifying themselves closely with the Government.

This situation is a direct result of what is often referred to as Information Policy, specifically policy regarding telecommunications and the media. As the media have links to many other areas, such as advertising, music, sport, gambling, education, libraries, computers, tourism, arts and culture, and many users of telecommunications are heavily dependent on good quality services, what the Government formulates as Information Policy therefore affects virtually the entire society.

Given the importance of Information Policy, one would expect the Government's plans in this area to be clearly stipulated in a document that is thoroughly and publicly discussed in Parliament from time to time. But this is clearly not the case. As discussed in the article Access Restricted , the reason why the Government acts as if it has problems formulating its policy is not that it lacks a clear strategy on communications. The Government's official Information Policy is to improve access to communications, network reliability and consumer protection, etc. But none of this works out because the Government's hidden agenda is in conflict with its official policy.

B. The hidden Agenda

The Government's hidden agenda is to prevent dissident views to emerge and to get heard. The Government unleashes a battery of regulations, an arsenal of tax, funding and other financial controls and an overload of dis-information on society. Simply pointing out the inconsistencies within the Government's official Information Policy is no guarantee for improvement. The Government encourages many short-sighted, self interested opinions to have a say, each of which claims more funding, privileges, etc. This makes that any attack on specific details of the Government's policy is likely to be interpreted as yet another voice that only adds to the confusion.

The quantity of dis-information thus created by the Government is such that few people are interested in reading yet another critical article about say the Information Super-Highway. Simply pointing out the awful consequences of the Government's destructive policies may not be convincing enough. Constructive alternatives must be formulated and presented.

C. The Power of the Word

The Government aims to silence dissident voices. It does this by making it hard for anyone who does not walk in line to get access to communications facilities. Criminal prosecution is only one way it uses to silence its critics. It also encourages civil action against anything more than trivial reports in the media. And it encourages a huge amount of dis-information in the hope that a lone dissenting voice will not get heard amidst the noise.

Although all this makes it hard to confront the Government and get heard, information technology is making this more and more easy.

As computers get more powerful, cheaper and easier to use, the number of articles and texts that are published is rising exponentially. Nevertheless, it becomes ever easier to select those texts that one is interested in. Most texts in databases or on CD-ROM allow for searches by keywords; the inclusion of the words Information Technology and Information Super-Highway in this article increases the likelihood that people with a interest in this area will spot it.

The Government makes it hard for dissident views to get heard, e.g. by simply outlawing them domestically and by making it expensive to access overseas databases. But technology defies all such hurdles with increasing ease. Computers can read, copy, encrypt, store and transfer text by means of a single keystroke and send it from one continent to another in a matter of seconds.

Another reason why it is easy to expose the evil of the Government is that regarding information, quality is much more important than quantsty. The Government may list hundreds of arguments why it should intervene in say telecommunications or broadcasting in the way it does, but a single counter-argument has the potential to wipe all of them away. In fact, it may take only a word such as Optionality to make people see through all the false arguments the Government uses to justify its evil conduct. One computer-search using the word Optionality in combination with the policy issue one is interested in, may be sufficient to give one the insight one was looking for.

D. Why Prohibition fails

The Government rules society by controlling many activities directly and much of the remainder indirectly by appointing privileged collaborators, by prohibitive regulations and the threat of punishment. In such a system, business practices and human relations sink to the level of the lowest common denominator. Many complain that businesses rip off customers. But the pseudo-competitive atmosphere created by the Government encourages strategies that promise short-term financial success, resulting in many businesses operating on the edge of what is acceptable by law.

Similarly, public spaces such as roads, parks, shopping malls and railway stations are among the places where one is least safe. Assaults, rape, verbal abuse and murder may not occur on a daily basis, but the way people look at each other is very revealing. Victims can remain unattended for hours, while passers-by conveniently look the other way.

All this is not normal human conduct, but this is the result of an oppressive system. People are punished when they break the law, which is ruling by negative example. Crime makes the headlines in newspapers virtually every day. The Government offers no positive examples, no incentives for better than mediocre behaviour.

Criminal prosecution, censorship and other regulatory control does not improve the quality of information being exchanged between people. The deceit of the Government is that it pretends to protect consumer interests, to improve access to and quality of information, while it effectively restricts access in all kinds of ways, which spreads an evil message.

To silence anyone's views, however incorrect or dictatorial they may be, is the wrong approach. To outlaw people with views one disagrees with, is the very method the Government uses. The answer is Optionality. In a world that respects Optionality, few people will be interested in dictatorial views in the first place. On the subject of information, quality is more important than quantity. Prohibiting certain views, in the hope that they will go away, often achieves the opposite and reinforces such views, because prohibition itself sends out the ugly message of censorship and dictatorial control. As technology makes it ever easier for people to select the information they are interested in, few will want to listen to dictatorial views, while the prohibition itself puts an unwanted message in the spotlight. As technology progresses, a relatively minor effort will be sufficient to reply to views that one opposes. The answer to views that one does not like should not be prohibition, but reply!

E. Information that counts

Information Policy generally focuses on topics such as sport and sex on TV, educational software, scientific texts in databases, etc. But more relevant is the information expressed by this dictatorial system called the Government, that rules over every aspect of society and in the process sends out the evil message that dictatorship is the way to organise society. The Government's hidden agenda is to silence any views that disagree with its rule. This hidden agenda should be exposed. But what is even more important than identifying all this evil, is to come up with visions of better worlds, visions that in our view will have to incorporate and promote Optionality. One such vision is DonParagon's Vision of the Future.

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