This weekend, the non-progressive internet was talking bad about Alexandre de Moraes because he said that the internet gave voice to imbeciles, but the Judiciary will not be omitted and it is there to save us. Discounting the second part, that is, the solution offered to us whether we like it or not, the same phrase circulated years ago very complimentary on the internet. Umberto Eco (1932 – 2016) was the one who said it. If a political authority who goes around arresting others tells us that we are using a tool that gives voice to idiots, indirect-direct is well understood, and there people will use the internet to throw virtual tomatoes at him. But if a prestigious European laureate writer says the same thing, people immediately emerge, all over the internet, saying that’s what it is. very smart writer said that the internet has given a voice to legions of imbeciles, so it must be true. Since I use the internet to hunch over, I need to make sure I’m not an imbecile myself. Now, I’m going to put myself under the umbrella of this smart man, because then I’m sure I’m not an imbecile, since I agree with him. Fools are the others, who don’t have an Echo book to decorate their bookshelf. Come to think of it, I don’t have it myself. I urgently need to buy a copy of O Nome da Rosa. I’m going to put it on the table next to a cup of coffee and post it to Instagram in black and white, with the caption: ‘The internet has given imbeciles a voice.’ And so it can be seen that the late Eco was right, the internet really gave a voice to legions of imbeciles.
But also, what means of communication does not give a voice to a legion of imbeciles ? Let us curse at once the Sumerian who invented cuneiform writing, which preceded papyri, parchment, printing and instant internet publishing.
Book fetishism or control?
Intuitively, the imbecile who echoes Eco knows that’s not the case, since he likes to fetishize the book object. Books written by imbeciles abound in this world. And, as anything that increases the amount of ideas in general, increases the amount of stupid ideas, we can say that the first character to increase the amount of idiots with voice was Gutenberg. Before him, to make a single book, it was necessary to copy letter by letter.
With the movable type machine, the production of books in series became much easier, opening up the way to make it viable for individual individuals, without any institutional affiliation, to write their own books with innovative ideas, whether good or bad. No wonder Gutenberg is seen favorably in Western History. On the other hand, social networks are seen as evil by the same people who see Gutenberg’s invention as a good.
Let’s go to Eco’s original sentence and the context. The year was 2015; the event, a master class given to journalists in Turin after receiving the title of doctor honoris causa in communication. The speech printed by the newspaper La Stampa in 11 June
was: “I social media danno diritto di parola a legioni di imbecilli che prima parlavano solo al bar dopo un bicchiere di vino , senza danneggiare la collettività. Venivano suddenly messi a tacere, meanwhile he won the stesso diritto di parola di a Nobel Prize. It’s l’invasione degli imbecilli”. I translate it like this: “Social networks give the right to free expression to legions of imbeciles who previously only spoke in the bar after a glass of wine, without causing damage to the community. In an instant they were silenced, whereas now they have the same right to free expression as a Nobel laureate. It’s the invasion of imbeciles.” Isn’t it palpable authoritarianism? I must remember that Egas Moniz won a Nobel, and it is a pity that he did not remain silent.
This speech by Eco was considered important enough to appear in the English-speaking entry on the octogenarian in the Wikipedia (translating “diritto di parola” as “right to speak”), as well as to appear in Época magazine, after his death, as one of his memorable ideas. Here is Época’s translation: “Social media gave the right to speak to legions of imbeciles who, previously, only spoke at the bar, after a glass of wine, without causing harm to the community. They were immediately told to shut up, whereas now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner.” Social media is synonymous with social networking; right to speak literally translates to “right to speak”. As “diritto di parola”, literally “right to speak”, is synonymous with “libertà di parola”, which is the usual Italian term for “freedom of speech”, I chose “right to free expression”. It is very clear in the Italian that it is the exercise of a fundamental right of liberal democracies that causes Eco’s discomfort.
A translation that obscures this is “giving voice”. She first appeared in 2015, on Terra, with the so-called “Social networks gave a voice to a legion of imbeciles”. Alexandre de Moraes’ sentence is slightly different: “Platforms and the internet have given imbeciles a voice”.
But I must say that the first result I found when searching on Google “ umberto eco internet” was a translation almost identical to the phrase by Alexandre de Moraes: “The internet gave a voice to a legion of imbeciles”. To my surprise, it is on the Frontiers of Thought portal. The author of the article, a well-known conservative liberal scholar named Eduardo Wolf, supports Eco.
As the result is the first to appear, it is natural to assume that the censor minister thought: “What is that phrase by Eco about the assholes on the internet?” and reproduced the translation in accordance with Wolf’s article.
In practice, liberal theory is different
Umberto Eco was really a pioneer. In 2015, he exposed the common sentiment of journalists that would prevail years later: social networks are out of control, freedom of expression is a problem and, for their own good, the community must give up this freedom to trust journalists again. What they want is to return to the status quo ante , in which Gutenberg had allowed enough media to have journalists, writers and academics expressing themselves, but not aunts. from the zap. It is a call for the restoration of credibility of traditional journalism by means outside journalism. There is no room for self-criticism, since anyone who prefers the internet to the newspaper is an imbecile.
Well then. As a journalist’s taste, just half a dozen sentences without much justification became a sensation, a truth of the universe capable of fixing the performance that will win for lack of signatures. Alexandre de Moraes presented the solution for journalists and academics on duty: arrest or censor.
But as this is too radical a solution, intermediaries and justifications have to be put in place. It is never a mere loss of rights, but a matter of life and death that requires energetic intervention. I quote Wolf: “From the hornist madness about ‘fraud’ in the American elections to the anti-vaccination campaigns (even in the midst of the pandemic), it seems that the main form of imbecility practiced and disseminated on the internet is precisely this plethora of conspiracy theories, many of which end up have fatal results (see deaths on the Capitol, or spread of a lethal virus)”. For him “now We are all keenly watching the expansion of so many new forms of conspiracy theories affecting our lives (ballot box fraud, vaccines that turn people into alligators, etc.)”. Who knows someone who believes in a vaccine that turns into an alligator? Bolsonaro made an obvious hyperbole to explain the serious problem of legal accountability for side effects.
How to solve this urgent problem, which will kill people and end democracy? Eco offered two solutions that Wolf considers optimistic: fact-checking agency and media literacy (the latter, not yet very popular in Brazil, is school indoctrination to make kids believe fact-checking agencies). Eco did not name the horses, but described them: “It would be necessary to exercise this criticism – filtering, distinguishing – on the internet itself. I always say that the first subject to be taught in schools should be about how to use the internet: how to analyze and filter information. The problem is that not even teachers are prepared for this. It was in this sense that I recently defended that newspapers, instead of becoming victims of the internet, repeating what circulates on the net, should dedicate space to the analysis of the information that circulates on the websites, showing readers what is serious, what is a hoax [boato, fake news], for example. Are the newspapers ready for this? It would take specialized people in different areas.”
It is true that we need a critical sense when dealing with the internet. But experience teaches what are the results of instituting official critical thinking or of teaching critical thinking classes: censorship and indoctrination. Because liberalism, in theory, implies distrust of the centralization of power. And mere common sense, older than liberalism, has been asking since the time when Latin was spoken: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will watch over the watchers? Just now we’ve seen a fact-checking agency have to pay damages for calling others conspirators. Are we going to propose that Alexandre de Moraes check the check agencies?
Lack of common sense
) The moral of the story is that study, theoretical knowledge, or erudition is useless, if common sense takes a little walk and conformist frivolity takes over. With this, all the justifications can be invented to explain why vulture should be called my blonde, or why creating a Ministry of Truth and a Bramatti Jugend is a liberal thing, yes.
In fact, it is possible to locate an important sector of Western civilization that has reasons to regret Gutenberg’s invention: the Counter-Reformation, since the multiplication of copies of the Bible made viable the heretical idea that each man could read the Bible alone and interpret it according to your own judgment. An underemphasized consequence of the schism in Western Christendom, in my view, is the end of the taboo on humanity’s common origin. Pre-Adamitism, a heresy for the Vatican, gained a secular and scientific version in human polygyny, which supported scientific racism. This prevailed with more force in Protestant countries, a sign that the inquisitorial censorship must have been effective in combating this idea that ran through books and more books. And as much as we like free speech and don’t want to move into the Middle Ages, we have to recognize that not everything is just good or just bad. Censorship isn’t just bad; freedom is not just good. Once we choose freedom, all censorship has to be rare and very well founded. Among us, racism has been a crime for decades; therefore, it is an idea that has been under censorship for decades in our democracy. Not for a scientific reason, but for a moral reason.
I understand that the Church promoted censorship thinking about a harmonious and static society, since a divine reason for this was recognized. But what about these pseudo-liberals, what do they want? They don’t say “you are a heretic”; say “you are an imbecile”. Okay, I’m an idiot, because I run from Covid vaccines like the devil from the cross and deny the infallibility of the TSE. And you, pseudo-liberal, are what? Who invested him with authority? The inquisitor at least had a vast theological and legal body to back up his reprimands, and you could understand why a heretic was a heretic. Pseudo-liberals do not. They base everything on slogans of the moment. They don’t even have the courage to admit that they make moral choices; pass through scientific and technical. They are cowards who really need censorship, because they have no way to defend themselves.