A blog reader wrote to thank me for sharing the latest PEW Research Center’s survey about Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. In the main, the attitudes expressed there were similar to those found in the PEN survey I discussed earlier. (Bog 12/2/13) Snowden’s revelations about the NSA have had a chilling effect on free speech.
I’m not surprised. We’re social animals and prefer to live with the herd rather than become a pariah. When confronted by controversy, many of us fall silent. The PEW survey revealed that while 86% of respondents would discuss the NSA revelations in person with a friend or relative, but that number dropped to half when it came to airing those views on social media.
The PEW report offered no explanation about this “spiraling into silence,” as the researchers called it, though it isn’t difficult to guess why it happens. We don’t know some of our social media friends as well as our personal ones so we are cautious not to offend. Unfortunately, to affect public policy, opinions should be aired and social media is a perfect place for open debate.
To be fair, the PEW survey was done before the extent of NSA’s prism program became common knowledge. At the time, only 26% of those surveyed said they were interested in the story; 34% said they were “somewhat Interested; 19% reported being mildly interested and 20% admitted they were uninterested.
This last group, the 20% of those uninterested in the NSA’s surveillance program, are of greatest concern to me. Reticence in the face of controversy is understandable. In fact, a little cowardice has some benefit, as it gives a person time to think. Indifference, on the other hand, is a serious matter, especially when our country faces tumult at home and abroad. Cowardice might be forgiven. Indifference, never.
(Courtesy of theaterbristol.net.com)