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No news is bad news

Posted by: | September 11, 2012 | No Comment |

The wait for urgent news causes universal anxiety. Once the anticipation has become too much to bear, we reassure ourselves with a universal anecdote; “no news is good news.”  Is no news really good news? The effect of censorship on news during the French Revolution tells us otherwise.

News publications during the French Revolution needed approval from the King. There were strict rules regarding what news could be distributed. Religion, government authority, and finance articles could not be printed. The punishment for distributing news about these topics was death. This strict government censorship led to the establishment of libelles.

Libelles were underground news books that printed scandalous stories of little substance and truth. Though they were unreliable sources of news, they were seen as more reliable than the government controlled publications. The omission of significant events in government approved publications led to the belief that underground publications were more reliable. Though these underground publications were seen as more reliable, they were still hard to come by.

Since obtaining news was so difficult, the French began to rely on word of mouth. Word of mouth is very unreliable, anyone who has played a game of telephone can attest to that. During this time, news consisted of very little truth and rumors caused uproars and riots among the middle and lower class.

This begs the question; does censorship lead to revolution? There certainly seems to be a connection between censorship and civil unrest. Syria, Iran, and North Korea top the list of 10 most censored countries.

Recent effects of government censorship on the stability of a country can be seen in Syria. As seen during the French Revolution, oppression paired unreliable news leads to revolution. The revolution in Syria has been accompanied by a media blackout, a severe form of government censorship and oppression. Freedom of the press is not granted in Syria, leaving citizens with inadequate and unreliable news.

Freedom of the press is granted to Americans by the first amendment. 

This freedom is important because it encourages a marketplace of ideas, self-governance, and liberty. These ideals help maintain a level of social stability in America. Civil unrest occurs when government infringes upon rights such as freedom of the press.

The French Revolution is one of the first examples of the effect of censorship on the stability of a civilization. This revolution shows us the importance of a free press and why the first amendment has been so important in shaping the success of America.


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