By Enrique Tessieri
The job of autocratic regimes is still made easy today thanks to faulty technology and infrastructure. If a military regime usurped power from a democratically elected government, it can literally “turn off the lights” and keep the population in a news and information blackout.
While some may claim that this could never happen in Europe, where access to information is supposed to be our inalienable right, news and information blackouts do take place in many parts of the world. Some countries where this occurs are Myanmar, Turkmenistan, North Korea and in remote areas where basic infrastructure like electricity and telephone services are not available.
Even if we live in Europe in the dead center of the information highway (an old term but still valid), some of us strangely prefer to treat news in the same way as countries like Syria, Cuba, Saudi Arabia or China.
Things have got so bad in these nations that many of their inhabitants have learned to trust those who have placed their civil rights in cold storage and be highly suspicious of those who are trying to regain them.
Just because we live in Europe and have access to information doesn’t mean that we are not in danger of falling into the same trap as countries like Belarus, China or Vietnam. Wikileaks is a good example that this problem exists in countries that claim to be open and democratic.
But who are these groups in Europe that want to switch off the information and news lights?
They are none other than right-wing populist parties. We all know their names: Sweden Democrats, Jobbik, Perussuomalaiset, Danish People’s Party, National Front of France, Lega Nord, Slovak National Party, British National Party to name a few.
Certainly switching off the news and information lights would be impossible in Europe in the same way as Cuba. However, there are many ways to skin the news and information cat. On of the most effective ways is with the help of rhetoric, populism and nationalism used by these parties, which are anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-minority and anti-Islam.
Let’s take for instance the anti-immigration “switch.” If we accept the arguments of these parties who picture immigrants as social-welfare shoppers, rapists, criminals etc, our fear shuts down our reasoning and ability to register news and information that is well-balanced and objective. We end up living in a self-imposed news and information blackout thanks to our fear.
What these right-wing populist parties haven’t told you, however, is that we are the only ones who have the power to turn on or off that crucial switch.
Our civil rights have to be defended everyday.