As the year ends and a new year begins at this most urgent of times, we must ask ourselves what kind of world we want and what will bring out the best that we can be. It is in our answers and actions that we will find hope in 2022.
Humanity has a great capacity for choice to be a moral protector and defender, instead of a predator, and this is a choice we all have. Humans are a unique part of the animal kingdom as homo sapiens because we have a conscience, but history has shown that peace is not our natural state.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the aspirational Nobel Peace Prize to people with courage, creativity and curiosity that inspire us, who take early steps toward furthering the cause of peace in the world. The award has generated global fascination, but it has also caused controversy over selections of laureates who later chose the path away from peace.
For the first time in more than 80 years, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Dmitry Muratov from Russia and Maria Ressa from the Philippines for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and information, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace by helping to ensure an informed public.
Dmitry Muratov is the founder of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Maria Ressa is the founder of Philippine news website Rappler, and both have been the object of ridicule, harassment, threats and violence as a result of their work, but both feel it has been worth the struggle. Maria Ressa has been arrested 10x.
Muratova and Ressa believe in free, independent and fact-based journalism that serves to protect against the abuse of power, lies and war propaganda, and are critical of the use of violence and growing authoritarianism in their native countries. The Nobel Peace Prize award spotlights the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights which are vital prerequisites for democracy, and protect against war and conflict.
Muratov described journalists as an antidote against tyranny, “Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and a strong grip. But we are the prerequisite for progress. We are the antidote against tyranny.” He tells us that journalism in Russia is going through a dark valley. “Over a hundred journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been branded as ‘foreign agents’. In Russia, this means ‘enemies of the people’.”
Ressa shared a dire assessment of the media industry, saying “the era of competition for news is dead.” And she directed an intense and profound message to technology companies …
“Our greatest need today is to transform the hate and violence, the toxic sludge that is coursing through our information ecosystem, prioritised by US internet companies that make money by spreading that hate, and triggering the worst in us.”
“The accelerant is technology when creative destruction takes on new meaning. We are standing on the rubble of the world that was and we must have the foresight and courage to imagine what could happen. Technology, the new gatekeepers, have god-like power which allows the virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger and hate, and setting the stage for the rise of authoritarians and dictators across the world.”
“What happens in Social Media does not stay on Social Media. Online violence is real world violence. Social Media is a deadly game for power and money, what Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, extracting our private lives for outsized corporate gain. Our personal experiences are sucked into a database, organized by AI, then sold to the highest bidder. Highly profitable micro-targeting operations are engineered to structurally undermine human will. A behavior modification system in which we are all Pavlov’s dogs, experimented on in real time with disastrous consequences in many countries. These destructive corporations have siphoned money away from news organizations and now they pose a foundational threat to markets and elections.
“Facebook (renamed Metha by Zuckerburg, in what appears to be an attempt to rebrand the company to move attention away from the so-called Facebook papers – documents, leaked by a former Facebook employee, revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings about the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world) is the world’s largest distributor of news, and their studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts. These American companies controlling our global information ecosystem are biased against facts, biased against journalists. They are, by design, dividing us and radicalizing us.”
“Impunity must stop and to HOLD THE LINE, we have to know what values we are fighting for. Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with the existential problems of our times: climate, coronavirus, now, the battle for truth. To do that, you have to ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice for the truth.”
“The destruction has already happened — now it is time to build … to create the world we want. We have to make it happen…a world of peace, trust and empathy, bringing out the best that we can be. In order to be ‘the good’, we have to BELIEVE THERE IS GOOD IN THE WORLD.
So what can we do? Ressa tells us, “It begins by restoring facts and shifting social priorities to rebuild journalism for the 21st century while regulating and outlawing the surveillance economics that profit from hate and lies. We need to help independent journalism survive by giving greater protection to journalists and standing up against states which target journalists and addressing the advertising model of journalism. Second, journalists must engage in technology designed to build communities of action. The north star is not profit alone … its FACTS, TRUTH AND TRUST. Please let’s hold the line TOGETHER.”
Maria Ressa’s profound message especially resonated with NOW. From the start, we have prioritised FACTS, TRUTH and TRUST, and built a technology platform that boldly advances sustainability with accountability and transparency in tourism. NOW is also a media platform and we have chosen to have a vital role in society to educate and reveal what is true and untrue around sustainability, carbon zero pledges, carbon offsets, greenwash and bigotry in travel and tourism, to balance how people can debate and share different opinions without polarizing the debate.
It must be NOW!