Investigate journalist Sharyl Attkisson says combatting censorship in today’s media and big tech landscape requires Americans to “speak up” and stand firm against people and groups that seek to silence them.
“I think the most important single thing people can do is to speak up and not be bullied by the people that want to keep the voices silent so that it appears, in this artificial world that we live in online, that everybody’s on the same page and everybody thinks the same thing and this is okay,” Attkisson told The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders program.
“Don’t be kowtowed into not speaking out. Don’t act like that’s okay.”
Attkisson, author of “The Smear,” has been researching how information has been controlled in the United States, particularly by political and corporate interest groups. She said these groups began ramping up their efforts to control information once Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. But these groups, she argued, began realizing Americans were not “getting on board” with their messaging and, as a result, started to act out of desperation.
“The reason they’re being so heavy-handed about information and access is because people are not getting on board with what they’re supposed to think and do. They’re not acting the way they’re supposed to act after their information is controlled. And I think it was very frightening for them to see,” she said.
“As I said, they almost entirely controlled the media landscape in 2016 but Trump still won the election. How did that happen? Well, they blamed the internet.”
This comes as big tech companies have drawn intense scrutiny for perceived political bias and alleged unbalanced moderation of users content. Critics say much of the companies’ moderation in the past year has unfairly targeted conservative speech and speech from individuals deemed to be supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, groups on the other side of the aisle have been taking issue with how social media companies are operating, claiming that the Silicon Valley companies have failed to adequately address “misinformation” that is being proliferated online.
Attkisson said these political and corporate interest groups spent the last four years—during Trump’s presidency—working “very hard to control the internet.” However, it still did not go their way. The 2020 presidential election became one of the most disputed elections and, although President Joe Biden ascended to the White House, Trump still received more votes “than they imagined he would get,” she argued.
“It’s sort of like the wind trying to blow the raincoat off the man when actually you can get the raincoat off with the sun. The harder they try to control the information, the harder some people work, and the more obvious their control is, and the more we resist in terms of wanting our information free and unfettered,” she said.
Despite their efforts, Attkisson said she believes the pendulum will eventually swing the other way. But in the meantime, Americans should not fall for their tactics by gathering all their information online. Instead, Americans should try living “outside of that box,” talk to people in the real world, and try to understand the extent of how disconnected the news and social media are from reality.
She said, for example, that when she traveled around the country in the past year, she encountered some small communities that did not experience any spikes or repercussions during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic despite not ever locking down. She said that while the pandemic hit some places very hard, it did not affect other places at all.
“So, what you see on the news sometimes keeps us … hyper-focused, as if it’s, in an exaggerated sense, on phenomenons that are real and happening in some places but certainly not the story that’s being told of all of America. And I think that’s true of a lot of different issues that are being discussed today,” she said.
She also added that Americans should not succumb to attempts by these groups to ostracize individuals with differing viewpoints.
“They want you to think, they want to create this impression that if you have a viewpoint or you believe facts that they don’t want you to believe, that you’re an outlier, you’re sort of fringe,” she said. “That’s what they want you to think, even when you may not be, but it’s to create an impression online that you shouldn’t speak out or you shouldn’t say what you think or say what you believe because it’s so far out there and so off the norm when it’s not.”