Arbitrariness and Censorship Are Back in the West
Upon the invention of printing, many authors challenged the preconceptions of their time. It took four centuries of struggle for the West to finally guarantee freedom of expression. However, with the invention of the Internet, authorship was democratized and freedom of expression was immediately challenged. It may take several centuries to absorb this shock and restore freedom of expression. In the meantime, censorship is back.
When we founded the Voltaire Network in 1994, our first concern was to defend freedom of expression in France, and then around the world.
Today, however, this concept is, in our view, distorted and fought against. We will therefore try to define this ideal further.
The circulation of ideas experienced a considerable boom with the invention of modern typography at the end of the 15th century. It was no longer possible to blindly believe authorities; everyone could make up their own mind.
It was agreed that although debate was indispensable to the evolution of human thought, certain ideas would be harmful to society and should therefore be censored. The authorities had to determine what was useful and what was harmful. But the creation of the famous Index librorum prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books) by Pope Paul IV did not prevent the spread of anti-Papist ideas.
Our view, on the contrary, is that in most cases censorship is more harmful than the ideas it prohibits. All societies that practice censorship end up being frozen. That is why all censorship authorities were once overthrown.
At that point, two great schools clash. Article 11 of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) stipulates that the law must determine and repress abuses of freedom of expression, while the First Amendment to the US Constitution (1791) states that no law may limit this freedom.
The United States was a nation in formation, newly emancipated from the British monarchy. It was not yet aware of the difficulties of living in society, but it had already suffered from the abuses of the Power of London. They therefore had a conception of freedom without limits.
It took nearly a cent
Article from LewRockwell