By Chuck Black
In the past, this blog has discussed media as it relates to science and the space industry, in articles such as the November 17th, 2013 post, “The 2013 Canadian Space Summit Media Panel,” and the February 4th, 2013 post, “Hiding Science Behind Academic Journal Paywalls.”
We’ve also applauded, as outlined in the November 8th, 2015 post, “A New Era for Canadian Space or More of the Same?,” when then newly minted Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains fulfilled a Liberal party campaign promise to allow government scientists and experts to comment on their work to the media and to the public, without interference from their political masters.
And we’ve complained loudly when, as outlined in the September 29th, 2014 post, “No Visas for Russian and Chinese Space Delegates to Attend IAC 2014,” the Federal Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused access to senior members of both the Chinese and Russian delegation to attend the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2015), which was held in Toronto, ON from September 29th to October 3rd, 2014.
But the recent refusal to allow independent Canadian journalist Lauren Southern to enter the United Kingdom (UK) to report on UK immigration and the domestic political situation is problematic to all journalists, everywhere.
As outlined in the March 13th, 2018 Independent post, “Lauren Southern: Far-right Canadian activist detained in Calais and banned from entering UK,” Southern was denied entry into the UK because, “her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.”
Southern is known online for her you-tube videos, and is considered as an independant representative of the growing new media. As outlined on her Wikipedia page:
Lauren Cherie Southern (born June 16th, 1995) is a Canadian far-right political activist, Internet personality, and journalist associated with the alt-right. In 2015, Southern ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in the Canadian federal election.
She worked for The Rebel Media until March 2017. Southern continues to work independently and publishes videos on YouTube.
To be fair, the reference for Southern’s categorization as a “far-right political activist,” is from the July 27th, 2017 Canadaland podcast, “Why Lauren Southern Got Banned From Patreon.” According to Canadaland:
The Patreon account of former Rebel Media personality Lauren Southern was banned late last week by the subscription-based crowdfunding website, following a lobbying campaign by the UK based anti-extremism charity HOPE not hate.
“Yes, HOPE not hate lobbied Patreon directly, and they removed everyone connected to Defend Europe (a European based identitarian focused political organization which Southern reported on and was active in, but which was also actively at odds with the viewpoints promoted by HOPE not hate) from their service,” Hope not hate director of communications Nick Ryan told CANADALAND in an email.
A Patreon representative informed Southern by email last Thursday that her account was being banned because some of her actions were “likely to cause loss of life” but didn’t elaborate further on any specific actions that prompted the ban.
Patreon is a popular crowdfunding platform used by independent media creators, including CANADALAND (and the Commercial Space blog), that allows “patrons” to pledge support via recurring payments.
Curiously enough, HOPE not hate also has other aspects to its agenda. As outlined on its website, the organization grew out as a response to the gains made by the British National Party (BNP) in the middle 2000’s.
HOPE not hate opposed the BNP and eventually took credit for its collapse.
So Southern and HOPE not hate both had agendas and viewpoints to disseminate. Southern simply preferred to state her biases in her editorials, unlike others, who preferred campaigns designed to “defund” and “de-platform” their opponents.
Much of the rest of our current media landscape also comes with an attached agenda.
This includes traditional media outlets such as the CBC, and more alternative outlets such as the Vancouver BC based Universe Today (a competitor to this blog, since we both cover many of the same topics) and Toronto, ON based Rebel Media (where Southern used to work).
For example, its interesting to note how Kent, WA based Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos gets such wonderful coverage of his rocket company from the Washington DC based Washington Post, which Bezos also owns.
Even Elon Musk might just be looking to get into the media business. As outlined in the March 14th, 2018 Gizmodo post, “Elon Musk Starts Media Business, Possibly Named ‘Thud!,’ Musk has certainly made suggestions in that area.
In essence, there is nothing wrong with setting up your own media outlet, or bringing a viewpoint to your posts. The problem isn’t even when other organizations (like HOPE not hate) with contrary viewpoints seek to compete in the marketplace of ideas in order to advocate and effect change.
The problem occurs when governments, often in response to lobbying efforts from organizations like HOPE not hate, take it upon themselves to censor people like Southern.
When that happens we all need to take note and object.
Otherwise, the freedom to research, assess, develop independent conclusions then speak and subject those conclusions to peer review via publication and exposure to a wider audience, is in jeopardy.
This is what seems to have happened to Lauren Southern.
As journalists and commentators, we need to point this out and object to it, in order to prevent those same surreptitious actions from secretly hanging over the heads of each and every one of us.
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.