Transcendentalism and Censorship

Transcendentalism bases its entire philosophy on individualism. From that individualism, we get the ideals of self-reliance, confidence, and free flow of information.

Of these ideals, free sharing of information may be the most important, because it gives rise to the others. If a person knows the facts are on their side, they are more likely to take action where they feel action is needed. They will become self-reliant, because only they can trust themselves to find the information they need. Free flow of information is our most valuable resource as a society. From this free exchange system, we develop ideas and debate them in open forums. Debate leads to understanding, which leads to change where change is required.

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The vitality of our political and social system, of our culture and our world, depends upon this development and this progress. In 2006, concerns about the lack of transparency in the government gave rise to WikiLeaks. A controversial organization founded by Julian Assange in association with Sunshine Press, WikiLeaks is operated out of Iceland. Within a year of its launch, the Internet activist group boasted an impressive database of more than 1.2 million documents. Best known for the Guantanamo Bay prisoner treatment files released in April of 2011, the reporters and whistleblowers at WikiLeaks have made public hundreds of thousands of files regarding government surveillance, including the files leaked by Edward Snowden, who now lives under temporary asylum in Russia.

The site describes itself as “uncensorable”, a distinction that is both true and vital to its function and the value of its information. Because of the efforts of the brave souls working for and under the umbrella of WikiLeaks, the world has access to information that otherwise would have remained under wraps for years after the fact, only to be declassified when their importance becomes trivial. Censorship has become an increasingly troubling issue. Its precursor and equally dangerous idea of surveillance places unforeseen value on privacy and how much we have under the current laws. The PATRIOT Act, for one, has broad implications that extend beyond national security needs and into something that bears a striking resemblance to tyranny.

Under this umbrella, the US government has begun an investigation of WikiLeaks. Under this umbrella, US citizens may have their communications intercepted, read, and recorded without their knowledge or consent. This obscures the free flow of information necessary to “effectively expose deception in government” (Supreme Court Ruling; Pentagon Papers). This obstruction damages the ability of the press to “prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell” (Supreme Court Ruling; Pentagon Papers). In keeping with its ideals, WikiLeaks keeps their sources anonymous to the best of their abilities.

They should not have to worry about the government when it comes to freedom of press. Our Constitutional rights ought to forbid it. For a long time, they have. But now we once again must guard our words, lest we be marked as traitors or terrorists. Ordinary citizens no longer have the confidence to speak freely, for fear of being labeled as dangerous or detrimental to the security of their country.

They are made to feel guilty for so much as trying to learn the truth, because the truth is dangerous. The truth is a threat to “national security”. To neutralize the threat, we must sacrifice our privacy and our “conscious to the legislators” (Thoreau). We must not “let anyone walk through [our] minds with their dirty feet” (Gandhi). We must speak when we wish to, say what we feel needs saying. We must do something to change this cycle before it spirals out of our control.

The first step is being bold enough to speak, bold enough to learn, bold enough to wander freely among the dissenters, bold enough to question. Then, with bold thoughts come bold actions. But we must take the first step. Support WikiLeaks by donating here.