Can't stop the signal
Bans are blunt, crude weapons. Banning something is like trying to stem bloodloss with a chainsaw. It’s not that you’re not helping; it’s that you’re making things worse on yourself
Bans are blunt, crude weapons. Banning something is like trying to stem bloodloss with a chainsaw. It’s not that you’re not helping; it’s that you’re making things worse on yourself. Because information, like life, finds a way. And as much as that may sound like the war-cry of a revolution, it isn’t. In 2015, it’s just fact. Whether it’s the Snowden files, or a shaky camera phone video of an ex-serviceman being beaten up by cops in Bangalore, or a documentary you don’t want people to see. Information just finds a way.
When you ban something, you’re not proving that you don’t understand the power of freedom of expression, or the right to contrary positions, or the ethical implications of suppressing voices. That stuff is almost secondary. You’re proving something worse; you’re proving that you aren’t aware of the fundamentals of space-time. You’re proving you don’t know what year it is. You’re proving that you don’t understand that people figured out a long time ago that information is entirely too important to be subject to the whims and principles (I use the word loosely) of governments and power structures. Every single development in the history of information, from the Gutenberg press to the Internet has by accident or design, worked to wrest narratives out of institutional hands. Can’t say it on TV? Someone will write a book. Can’t buy the book? Someone will make a movie. Can’t say it in a movie? Someone will put it on the internet, which is where things really become fun.
If you can’t say it on one corner of the internet, someone will say it on another corner of it. Capture that flag, and they’ll put it in another. Capture all there is to capture, and some kid in a basement will just create more internet for you to put your voice on. There’s something very important that power-structures need to understand about the internet; if there’s one thing the people on it love more than pornography, it’s being told they can’t have something. In 2015 if you’re going to ban a film, here’s some other stuff you should ban; gravity, thermodynamic forces, the march of time, corrosion, farting, and parents worrying about children. Because the net effect of your ban on each of those things is exactly the same; they’ll just go on happening. To quote one of my favourite movies, Serenity, “You can’t stop the signal.” The internet is a place of spectacular, glorious anarchy. It was created by the US Department of Defense, remember? And if history teaches us anything, it is that weapons created by the US military always fall into the hands of the other side.
There’s only one realistic way to ban information or alternate narratives about an event in 2015; don’t let the fallout event happen. You want to stop people making documentaries about rape and terrifying misogyny? Get rid of the misogyny. Ah but that doesn’t sound like fun does it, dear power structures? Of course it doesn’t. Because that would take sincerity.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi