Jamal Khashoggi and the Streisand effect


Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Protesters present a sign featuring American journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s face. His death has created a Streisand effect, which ironically increased awareness of censorship instead of stopping it.

By Skylar Bouchard, Columnist

By now, most people have already heard about Jamal Khashoggi, the American journalist brutally murdered by the Saudi Arabian government.

Khashoggi’s death is nothing short of a tragedy; but, in the aftermath of everything, perhaps the best way to honor Khashoggi is to continue reading and sharing his work.

If there is any solace to take in this maddening story, it’s that the Saudi Arabian government failed. Its attempts to silence him just made his words more important. The killing of Khashoggi only made his work more popular. In killing him, it made him a martyr to the cause of freedom of expression.

The fallout of Khashoggi is a classic example of the phenomenon known as the Streisand effect — which suggests that any attempt to silence information ironically publicizes that information. The case of Khashoggi shows the beauty of this unfortunate circumstance. In this case, censorship not only fails, but also perpetuates the situation for those trying to censor information. That, to me, is wonderful.

While in no way does this make up for the loss of human life, we can take some comfort in the fact that his death did not silence him, but rather made his sentiments stronger.

We cannot let this story wane out of popularity, as other events in this past have. Remember him as a symbol that no act of violence can silence a voice, and even when justice is not served, no attempt to censor information will work in the aggressor’s favor. Keep reading his work along with anyone else whose words have been silenced. This is the good that can be taken from the terrible events which have occurred.

In his last column for The Washington Post, Khashoggi perfectly captures this sentiment, “Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

Freedom of expression is one of the most important freedoms granted to people in the western world, and hopefully one day that same right will be given to our friends overseas. As ordinary citizens, we can’t free the Middle East from censorship, but we can remember the words of those who died trying to fight for free speech. We can let their words hold influence in deciding who we choose to run our government.

Don’t let anyone tell you what not to read. The dangers of censorship far outweigh the dangers any one person’s voice can cause. An intelligent and well-informed public will always be able to uncover the truth. Never take the rights given to us by the First Amendment for granted. Some people aren’t granted that same luxury.

Skylar is a freshman in ACES.

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