I’m currently reading Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. It’s an epic Russian novel about World War II, centered on Stalingrad-but really a critique of the Soviet Union. There are many great passages in the book, but I’m particularly taken by this one about a former editor of a Communist paper:
Sagaydak had a particularly fine grasp of such matters. He had worked on a newspaper for a long time; first he had been responsible for the news pages, then for the agricultural section. After that he had worked for about two years as editor of one of the Kiev papers. He considered that the aim of his newspaper was to educate the reader-not indiscriminately to disseminate chaotic information about all kind of probably fortuitous events. In his role as editor Sagaydak might have considered it appropriate to pass over some event: a very bad harvest, an ideologically inconsistent poem, a formalist painting, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, an earthquake, or the destruction of a battleship. He might prefer to lose his eyes to a terrible fire in a mine or a tidal wave that had swept thousands of people off the face of the earth. In his view these events had no meaning and he saw no reason why he should bring them to the notice of readers, journalists and writers. Sometimes he would have to give his own explanation of an event; this was often boldly original and entirely contradictory to ordinary ways of thought. He himself felt that his power his skill and experience as an editor were revealed by his ability to bring to the consciousness of his readers only those ideas that were necessary and of true educational benefit.
This is a brilliant way of describing self-censorship and paternalism. One of the true joys of living in today’s Internet-connected world is that despite the Facebook algorithm telling you what to do, despite the trolls, despite the filter bubbles, despite the content farms, despite Google’s algorithm – the truth is still out there and if you’re willing to look, you can find it. No one can truly censor your inputs (although the Chinese sure are trying…).