Saturday April 18, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
14o C
09o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Freedom in the digital age

By Paschos Mandravelis

Socrates and Jesus are seen today as two of the biggest thinkers in history. At their time, however, their ideas were deemed disrespectful to god and dangerous to society in other words, a threat to the status quo. As a result, they were both sentenced to death; not for something they did but for something they said. Socrates and Jesus, of course, never published a book or kept a blog. Given the technological limitations of that time, their ideas could only be disseminated orally. To be sure, they were not the only thinkers to voice an opinion. However, most of their contemporaries talked rubbish and, as a result, their ideas were soon forgotten.

John Locke has gone down as one of the biggest modern political philosophers. Persecuted in Britain, he published his seminal work, Two Treatises of Government, anonymously in the Netherlands. Locke, of course, did not have a blog either. Typography was the technology of the time. We now know that most of what was printed at back then was of little value or consisted of slanderous attacks on political opponents. This was used as an excuse by the ruling class to silence truly subversive speech. Here is a law passed by Cardinal Richelieu in France, January 1629:

Any printers, book sellers, or binders who may print or cause to be printed defamatory books or pamphlets will be punished as disturbers of the peace, and thereby deprived of all of their privileges and immunities and declared incapable of ever being able to engage in the profession of printer or book dealer...

And in order to avoid the abuses, disorders, and confusions that occur daily through the impression of an infinity of scandalous books and defamatory pamphlets, without the names of their authors, nor the publishers, nor the place where they were printed, because of the great number of book sellers, printers, and binders present in your said Realm, and especially in your good city of Paris where the abuses are so frequent, it will be expressly prohibited.

Today, technology has brought some old problems back to the surface. The anonymity of blogs and social media irks the elites of the world. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter, China blocked access to certain websites and in Greece, young people get hit with blasphemy charges for mocking religion or certain established politicians. It is true of course that most of what goes up on online platforms is trash. Some of it may even be slander but like at the time of oral speech or typography these too will be relegated to historical oblivion. However, rubbish is the cost you have to pay for making space for useful and truly revolutionary speech.

For this reason it is important that one is free to speak, write or publish their thoughts, notwithstanding the fact that he or she who does so is not necessarily in the right or has anything revolutionary to say. By banning ideas that seem insulting to the dominant way of thinking we risk missing out on useful ones; we risk social stagnation and decline. The world moves forward on the back of ideas even if the collateral damage is having to tolerate an even bigger share of worthless chatter.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday May 1, 2014 (20:50)  
Back to the beginning
Protecting a key asset
The Armenian genocide and Hagia Sophia
Crime against education
Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due to begin a five-day visit to the US on Monday. He will begin his trip by meeting Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, where he will also hold ta...
Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has asked Greece to investigate the vandalism of two mosques in Komotini following incidents on Friday. Turkey requests Greek authorities to clarify as soon as ...
Inside News
US Treasury secretary urges Greece to reach debt deal
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (photo) is urging Greece to reach a deal with its creditors, warning that a default would "create immediate hardship for Greece" and damage the world economy. Gr...
Greece poised to sign gas deal with Russia, says German weekly
Greece is poised to sign a gas deal with Russia as early as Tuesday which could bring 3-5 billion euros into depleted government coffers, German magazine Der Spiegel reported, citing a senio...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Triumph for Olympiakos at Barcelona
Olympiakos produced its best away performance so far this season to defeat host Barcelona 76-63 on Friday and snatch the home advantage in the Euroleague play-offs. The Reds have now tied th...
BASKETBALL
Another heavy loss for improved Panathinaikos in Moscow
Panathinaikos raised its performance since Tuesday but still suffered a 20-point loss at CSKA Moscow on Thursday to find itself trailing 2-0 after Game 2 of the Euroleague play-offs. Having ...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. US Treasury secretary urges Greece to reach debt deal
2. Greece poised to sign gas deal with Russia, says German weekly
3. Russia gas deal would not solve Greeces problems, says Schaeuble
4. Spanish official slams Greece, says time running out
5. Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
6. Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
more news
Today
This Week
1. Back to the beginning
2. Golden Dawn on trial amid conflict over court venue
3. Terrorism suspects caught following German request
4. Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
5. Protecting a key asset
6. Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
Today
This Week
1. Quarantine for Greek bank subsidiaries in neighboring countries
2. Greece and lenders head back to technical talks
3. Contraband is big business in Greece
4. FYROM push expected at EU meeting
5. Islands of eastern Aegean struggle as migrant influx triples
6. Greek finance ministry hits back at German newspaper report
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.