A penny for your opinions

Self-expression is the new entertainment, says Arianna Huffington. I would add that self-expression as entertainment is replacing information as the content most retailed on air and web.  Witness the comically misnamed Fox News, which is an expensive but effective way for Rupert Murdoch to express himself. Witness Alan Jones, whose part-ownership of 2GB makes him the equivalent of a self-publishing novelist. Witness, most recently, the regrettable Kyle Sandilands, who seems to take perverse delight in demonstrating that his value as a radio host is in inverse proportion to his contribution as a human being. (The exodus of his sponsors seems to indicate a downgrading of his currency, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t ever, ever go away.)

For these self-expressers, the least charge of misinformation yields the disclaimer ‘opinion,’ which in turn is sustained on the grounds of entertainment. Opinion doesn’t have to be truthful or civil, particularly when neither sells as well as violations of both. In fact to seek these qualities seems to spark wild declamations about freedom of speech.  The defenders of offenders like Bolt, Sandilands, Hadley and Jones seem to feel that censorship and tyranny are poised to choke our long-cherished freedom, and only await opportunity to leap from the shadows and silence the chorus of our democracy. Yet those arguing for freedom of speech as an absolute and without limits have radically undervalued the other values by which we manage to live democratically. It seems to me that we are most protective of those goods we are least in danger of losing. We are afraid of silencing diversity when we are most in danger of cacophony. We are afraid of losing our liberty when our more likely loss is liberality. And we are afraid of losing opinion when what’s ebbing away is truth.