We live in a time when U.S. politics is not only hyper-partisan, but toxic. Party activists on both sides of the divide assign a higher value to slurring those on the other side – and covering up for those on their side – than to telling the unvarnished truth.
In this hothouse environment, some well-meaning people assert that misinformation and “disinformation” threaten the very pillars of self-government.
The most obvious and immediate problem with this approach is hypocrisy: Many of those braying the loudest about misinformation have made wildly untrue assertions and statements themselves. The long-term problem is that freedom is and always will be utterly incompatible with a society in which the government or private media monopolies control the right of people to speak or write or broadcast without being censored.
In the waning days of December 1793, Thomas Paine was arrested in Paris. This was the height of the “Reign of Terror,” and the result of being detained on political charges, as Paine was, usually meant the guillotine. Paine certainly thought that was to be his fate.