The Redemptive Power of the Internet: ‘Truth Will Out’ E-mail
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 00:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Anti-bullfighting Wall Mural in Spain photo by blmurchLAUNCELOT: Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son: give me your blessing: truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may, but at the length truth will out.
  - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1596

Many would argue that the Internet has given rise to more lies, more misinformation and more scams—and that it is eroding our society. Like slime mold sussing out the shortest route to the food source, any of us will seek out the sites that appeal most to our individual interests and ideologies. Websites have the power to suck in millions and sway them to a particular point of view. If readers are unlikely to see issues within a broader historical perspective—and carry fear of losing their present way of life in an ever-changing world—there is no shortage of websites to exploit their fears to misinform them. They enchant their fans like the circus master drawing crowds to see the freak.

If the headlines of the past few years are any indication though, a growing presence of writers, journalists, artists, activists, native peoples, youth and old are demanding transparency, honesty and accountability. From the recent WikiLeaks snafu, to exposing the criminality surrounding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to Catalonia’s recent bullfighting ban, people are using the Web to call other people on the shortsightedness and futility of war, greed and violence—exposing the raw truth and shaming their fellow humans for such callousness. I see this trend increasing.

The current transfer of communications allows truth to bubble up to the surface at an unmatched speed. Not to pick on the Catholic Church, but remember how long it took the Pope to ask forgiveness for 2,000 years of attacks on women and minorities, among other injustices? More than three and a half centuries after the trial of Galileo Galilei! As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger confessed in 2000, “Even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel.” The Internet makes the pressure all the more palpable, and has been a godsend for truth-telling. And whether the information you connect with is truthful or not, that’s what freedom of information looks like.

It’s thanks to the Internet that stories like the recent firing of Shirley Sherrod confirm that truth will out. The website that twisted and blew the whole thing out of proportion was shamefully exposed. And because the Internet provides a platform for telling the other side of the story, net neutrality is constantly under siege by those powers who want to keep the masses hoodwinked.

Climategate is a prime example of using the Web to influence public opinion, with the truth finally outstripping the hoax. Calculated to blow up just before last December’s Copenhagen Summit, hackers skewed climate scientists’ private email to persuade the public that the researchers conspired to deceive the public. Five independent panel reviews of the email exchanges have since found no skewing of data and no conspiracy whatsoever. On the other hand, anybody with access to a browser can read the growing volume of physical science that supports with certainty that humans are affecting the climate.

At the moment, we all have a place around this big kitchen table. Whether your font of news is indisputably the real source or not, don’t let anyone swipe your seat.

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