Chuck Carroll

Is Censorship Really a Thing in the US?

Published: 2023-07-29

I'm currently in Buôn Ma Thuột, Việt Nam. When I was here last year, I told some friends that websites like the BBC and Medium are blocked by the Vietnamese government. The reasons are primarily because the BBC or some Medium blogger said something mean about the government, so they decided to block these websites entirely from being viewed in their country, however the reasons are mostly irrelevant. One of the responses I got was "the US isn't that far off from blocking websites they don't want us to see" and this really surprised me.

In the United States (and probably most humans in modern times), we are so overwhelmed with information, it's becoming increasingly difficult to uncover "the truth" much less determine what's actually important. We receive information through the lens of "the news" and social media, constantly being flooded with useless information. Entertainment, memes, infortainment, etc. "What's important" is political/celebrity nonsense. In fact, most of what we consider to be "the news" is simply information designed to entertain.

The term "censorship" has been used in the US primarily when someone gets banned from a social media platform, but from my perspective, this is not censorship. This is a private platform that nobody has the right to be on. And in my opinion, nobody should be on them to begin with. Nor is "freedom of speech" the same as "freedom of reach". The problem is that people are building their lives around these social apps and the believe they need them in their lives. I speak from experience when I say when you take them out of your life, you don't lose that much, and if anything, you benefit greatly.

One of my favorite quotes from Yuval Noah Harari is from his book Homo Deus is "[i]n the 21st century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. People just don't know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore." Perhaps that's how censorship actually works in the United States.

I highly doubt there's going to be censorship (or the same kind of censorship) at the levels we're seeing in other countries in the world, such as China, anytime soon in the US. We're already overloaded with information to a degree that what's truly important is treated as just another piece of entertainment or passing story that we forget about once the news cycle has moved on.

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