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“Fake news” and “post-truth” are popular neologisms — but they have actually been part of the political landscape for long.  What is far more worrisome is the phenomenon that there are “real facts” that cry out for action, e.g. massive tax evasion, corporate bribery, economic exploitation, ecocide, extreme poverty, excessive military expenses, primitive war-mongering, aggression, unilateral sanctions — and yet these facts are largely ignored or trivialized by politicians and media alike, because they are somehow “inconvenient”.  Sooner or later, however, these “facts without consequences” will engender an imbalance and a destabilizing sense of incoherence.  When important facts are deliberately kept out of the political narrative, this quite naturally generates “populism”, because, as Spinoza wrote in his Ethics, “nature abhors a vacuum”.  No wonder that when the elites ignore facts, the vacuum is filled by populists. The phenomenon of selective indignation and application of the law à la carte predictably subverts the system of governance and makes societies lose faith in the rule of law, or at least in the “establishment”. The attempt to deal with “fake news” through censorship and “hate speech” legislation is futile and will only lead to totalitarianism. What is needed is easier access to all pertinent information and pluralistic views, more open debate — not less!  The internet must remain free of political controls – whether by government or the private sector. There must not be “filters” to test the truth of digital exchanges. The only legitimate controls are those to suppress pornography and racketeering. Yet, we live in an era of “government secrecy”, which facilitates corruption. Whistleblowers are treated as “unpatriotic” and subjected to various witch hunts.  What we really need is a “culture of civilized dissent” – where everyone can express his/her opinions without the threat of career death and social ostracism.  We need to reaffirm the right to be wrong — because only by preserving the possibility to err do we remain independent. The alternative is homologation, robotization, Orwellian dystopia. The conformism of the current Zeitgeist is unworthy of democratic societies.  It is up to us to vindicate the right to know and the right to dissent.  That is the freedom we want.

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