Truth is subjective. We believe what we want to believe and ignore or deny the rest. Political scientists know this. Governments can, to a large degree, shape truth for many reasons. Joseph Goebbels knew this; Carl Rove knows this.
But media has changed in the intervening years. Goebbels didn’t have to deal with the anarchy of the Internet. As a medium, the Internet has the audacity of providing information without filters, submitted from anywhere and anyone, without regard of outside entities, business or political constraints, or political correctness. The Internet is literally the voice of the people, characteristic of mob mentality, and subject to misinformation and misinterpretation. So dynamic in its manifestations it is difficult to study; by the time academics formulate a experiment, the nature of the medium has evolved. Nonetheless, citizens turn to the ‘Net in increasing numbers precisely because it is unfiltered. It’s rawness is its’ virtue.
This poses problems with entities vested toward governance. As any spin doctor knows, the control of information is vital to maintaining status quo in governmental structures. The Internet subverts attempts at control in accelerated fashion, worrying the ruling elite and challenging ponderous institutional structures with its plasticity.
As governments try to counteract the flow of uncensored information and fail, tactics become desperate. Witness the increased need for Internet watchdog groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that a growing number of jailed journalists have come from the online sphere. According to an AP report, nearly one third of incarcerated journalists have been jailed due to their online activities.
The bulk of Internet journalists in jail - 49 in total - shows that "authoritarian states are becoming more determined to control the Internet," said Joel Simon, the New York-based group’s executive director.
"It wasn’t so long ago that people were talking about the Internet as a new medium that could never be controlled," he said. "The reality is that governments are now recognizing they need to control the Internet to control information."
Other noteworthy imprisoned Internet journalists include U.S. video blogger Joshua Wolf, who refused to give a grand jury his footage of a 2005 protest against a G-8 economic summit, and China’s Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence for posting online instructions by the government on how to cover the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Please note the reference to "authoritarian governments" preceding a paragraph linking the US and China. Lets all ponder that together…
If jailing people fails to deter the dissemination of raw facts by unaffiliated bathrobe journalists or the braver corporate variety, expect government to begin to regulate Internet activity with the goal of suppressing certain embarrassing news.
Truth is clearly objective on the Internet. An adage for the age might be: One Man’s Truth is Another Man’s Spin. Look to who doing the spinning and ask yourself "Whom do they serve?" Personally, I’d rather be served by the likes of Joshua Wolf than Karl Rove. What say you?