Stop the word, save the world

Sometimes reading an Italian newspaper can provide you with news that otherwise would remain unnoticed in the more globalized Anglo-Saxon mainstream mass media. This is particularly true when the guy in the spotlight is an Italian professor and lawyer, who today is the Vice President of the European Commission, Prof. Franco Frattini. Frattini is certainly not a Google supporter. In different cases, he has criticised the company and their policies. Of course, Google is certainly not a paladin of privacy at all, and the way in which it manages the billions of data and information about us makes it a bit Big Brotherish. Prof. Frattini, who is the commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice, is a cybersceptic and this is certainly not something unusual for Italian politicians. Not unusual is also the Italian, and increasingly EU, tradition of suggesting ridiculous solutions to serious issues.

So, the not-so new Sphinx’s riddle of the century, ‘how can we stop terrorism and genocides and the horrible things that human beings do to each other?’, Frattini’s answer is very Islamic: ‘seek knowledge as far as China’, as the not-so-strong, but very famous and popular Hadith puts it. What does China teach about Google? Well that it can be safely used, even under a dictatorship and illiberal ideology, as long as certain key words and websites have been cleansed. So, the European commissioner who has to help Europe to achieve freedom and justice, decided to draft a plan to ‘omit’ certain words from Google and make it impossible to find the pages which list them. Among the words that he has listed are ‘bomb’, ‘genocide’, and ‘terrorism’.

Possibly we can think of how the list can be longer under the Googlephobic commissioner: jihad, bin-Laden, Palestine (yes you know Muslims can become upset), but also Holocaust (it is still the most famous of all genocides), the recipe for brownies, chocolate and cheese cakes, junkfood, ….Hey…hey, somebody may say, ‘Dr Marranci, what the hell have cheese cakes to do with the other dangerous words?’ Well, Frattini, who wishes to gift us with the ultimate security, has replied to critics of his decision to ask Google to censor ‘dangerous’ words asserting, ‘I think that the main important thing is to guarantee and give priority to the security and wellbeing of people, and most importantly the right to life.’ And yes, cheesecake, junkfood, and pizzas (with Hut or without) kill. They kill more people in the West than terrorism.

Frattini thinks to save the world by stopping words. Of course, as the reply of Google highlights, it is not banning words that will make us safer. Frattini, also undermines the fantasy and creativity of cybernauts and the plasticity of languages. If you ban a word you can substitute it with another, create a cyber-slang which changes everyday.

More than terrorism and fanaticism, I am increasingly concerned about the idiocy that 9/11 and its aftermath have induced in our, increasingly freedomphobic, politicians.

Banning words was, and remains, the first step towards silencing not just our mouths but also our minds. This extreme-hermeneuticism, which is clearly increasing, is an extreme danger. It is not by banning books, words, or ideas that we may prevent people from committing atrocities. Hitler did not Google Nazism, or Holocaust. These words were not the perpetrators of the slaughter of millions of people. So Karadzic did not type the word ‘genocide’ in order to know how to mass murder 200,000 Muslims in the most recent genocide of European history, under the shameful eyes of the European Union.

An old saying suggests that ‘silence is golden’; Frattini’s gold will be the most precious.

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