The Internet, coupled with the gradually loosening-up of traditional restraints imposed on us over centuries by a ruthless hierarchical social system, is now confronting us with a new subtle but visible danger. Witness the 2008 presidential electoral process in the United States. For the first time our great nation is about to break a once thought unbreakable barrier erected by ossified traditions and a ruthless and corrupted socio-political system. This year’s election by one of our two major political parties of a presidential candidate —an African American or a woman—is proof that we, the people, have finally matured and truly deserve to think of ourselves as “We The People…” in the Land of the Free”.
This liberating process, however, is being undermined by a misguided understanding of the meaning of freedom. And the Internet, that universal forum for free thought, where everyone can publish anything unhampered by editorial corroboration, is unwittingly corrupting the very freedom it was meant to promote.
From the beginning of this year’s electoral campaign, our e-mail boxes are being overwhelmed by forwarded attachments—sent to us by friends and others—of uncorroborated writings by individuals often unknown to us extolling or decrying this or that virtue or vice of the candidates.
The sheer volume of these attachments, plus the wealth of what is freely published and accessed in what former vice president Al Gore called the Information Super Highway, is overwhelming and cluttering our understanding now.
The fact that at the same time we are being bombarded by a 24/7 news coverage that in its ceaseless need to appear up-to-date and newsworthy often resorts to a news coverage overload, dangerously flirting with irresponsible reporting, represents a clear and present danger to our democracy.
Indeed, the information overload to which we are continuously exposed can easily be turned into disinformation, a development we cannot allow to happen.