“No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”- thank you, Patrick Stokes
Dyson et al. (1994) coined cyberspace “the land of knowledge”. This is because finally, in this parallel reality, humans now have scale and speed at their fingertips, allowing them control and coordination of information via digital networks (Mitew, 2014).
Information on anything and everything can be found on the Internet, and while this is usually a huge advantage of being connected to the network society, as cyberspace continues to grow and spread information quicker than ever, things are controllably getting out of control. I say controllably because that is just what digital networks and citizens of this society have; control. Well, to a certain extent.
In more recent times, large companies and governments have implemented measures in order to control what information they can from becoming accessible to Internet users. Control of information has always been highly contested especially on the Internet, but there are both negatives and positives to demanding absolute freedom or liberty in cyberspace.
Barlow’s 1996 ‘Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace’ declared, “You (the government) have no moral right to rule us… we are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity”. While Barlow’s declaration sounds ideal, it is also extremely utopian and slightly ignorant.
What if, hypothetically, someone’s expression, belief, or opinion is that they have the right to access/produce/share child pornography or abusive material on the Internet? Following Barlow’s Declaration model, everyone and anyone would have the right to participate in the harmful and morally indecent exploitation of children who do not have a say for themselves.
Patrick Stokes, Philosophy lecturer at Deakin University wrote a wonderfully accurate article on the topic of people being ‘entitled’ to their opinion and freedom of expression. He put it down to “you are not entitled to your opinion, you are only entitled to what you can argue for,” noting that people need to recognise when a ‘belief’ has become indefensible.
What do you think? Is Barlow’s Declaration correct or should we base our beliefs on Stokes’ notion?
Barlow, J.P. 1996, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’
Dyson, E., Gilder, G., Keyworth, G., Toffler, A. 1994, ‘Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age’
Mitew, T 2014, “Understanding the Network Society Paradigm”, <http://youtu.be/BY2YR1hkGzA?list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j>
Stokes, P 2012, “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”, The Conversation, 5 October. <http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978>