WHEN I was in China, it was a faff going on some of my favourite websites. Although the censors of Beijing have not yet, to the best of my knowledge, blocked TCW Defending Freedom, anyone sitting in the Middle Kingdom and hoping to get onYouTube, Facebook or Google will be disappointed.
Not long after my departure from that sprawling metropolis, the sneezing bats of Wuhan gave the world a nasty case of the sniffles. But at that time, it was still just about possible to confidently tell your average Chinese interlocutor of the relative freedom of the West.
Yes, we could state, the internet there is free. We do not ban foreign news sources: We believe in the free exchange of information and the battle of ideas. The disinfectant of broad daylight will worm out the idiotic and the unworthy – that kind of stuff.
Of course, it’s getting harder to say with a straight face (years of Trump Derangement Syndrome and Brexit-related hysteria having done so much to destroy residual faith in the media), but it was just about doable.
But as Dr David Starkey so presciently observed, with the arrival of the Chinese virus, we have adopted a Chinese society. An acquaintance sent to me a screenshot of what happened when they tried to access Russia Today’s YouTube channel from within the UK. Instead of getting the usual assortment of Kremlin-approved views, visitors are greeted with the words: ‘This channel is not available in your country’.
Google has taken it upon itself to block Russian state media on YouTube. As ever, this decision has been met with seeming widespread adulation, with everyone keen as mustard for the unchecked juggernaut of Big Tech censorship to thunder on.
As the central nexus of the internet in the modern day, Big Tech firms have all-encompassing power, even able to silence the President of the United States. Yet Google et al are not our elected government and they are accountable to nobody; the outsourcing of political power to Silicon Valley continues uninterrupted.
Many are happy that the channel is banned. These are, perhaps, the same kinds who greeted Big Tech suppression of alternative narratives over the last two years with open arms, combating Covid ‘disinformation’. And, just as the spectre of global pestilence has miraculously disappeared, they find themselves firmly on the bandwagon of war.
Elites across the West have done so much to discredit themselves in recent years. I can no longer see a meaningful difference between the censoriousness of Beijing and the constant efforts of our governments and their rulers in Big Tech to silence dissenting opinion. As I sat in Beijing trying to look at the BBC, circumventing the Great Firewall with a VPN, little did I know I would soon have to do the same in Europe.
‘Democracy dies in darkness’, they like to tell us. Yet, by cutting off access to information that goes against the politically acceptable narrative in the West, our institutions continue to do their best in snuffing out any contrary opinions. Don’t think this is the only example: everything you read and hear from official sources is vetted and filtered.
There is nothing good to see in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet, as self-purported guardians of liberalism and freedom, I can see only double standards in our actions. How can the West claim to be protectors of intellectual and spiritual freedom after what has happened over the last two years? Does everyone, in their manic rush for war, not see what we have become?