Economic Statecraft
The Communications Revolution: Development or Decline?

The world is in perpetual movement, and societies are continuously changing and developing without regard for the rules of history and geography. Indeed, history is no longer inspiring, geography is no longer binding, social and collective behavior no longer follows specific values and concepts. On the contrary, it is more liberal and chaotic, while relations between States are no longer governed by red tape and moral etiquette, but are driven by selfish interests and objectives, writes Amal Abou Zeid, Adviser to the President of Lebanon, for the 19th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.

This world, running a race against time and the challenges it faces, and chasing its desires and wants in the game of money and power, relies heavily on communications, which run and control it greatly. The communications revolution took the world by storm and changed its course, political landscape, economic and social behavior, and had a significant impact on shaping and turning public opinion.

It is safe to say that media and social media platforms are leading the world and dictating the prospects of war and peace, sowing love and justice or resentment and hate.

Like any revolution, the communications revolution with its amazingly advancing technologies, is still at its early stages, somewhere between childhood and adolescence, speaking in human terms. Therefore, we need to observe it and wait for it to become mature. We can’t consider it a flawed creature or ignore it in any way.

The maturity of this revolution is possible with a refocusing of the scale of values, not only for the communications world as technology and means, but also for the global concept of public affairs and human communities, in which the communications world has become a defining factor.

Information technology and social media can have a destructive role by misleading public opinion, spinning truths, blurring facts, feeding nationalist and religious extremism, triggering anger, inciting the masses and spreading negative publicity.

In that sense and within that role, the media and social media play a crucial and advanced part in rallying the masses, causing strife and division, inciting to fight and undermining peace and justice. 

Communications and the media can also play a constructive role by encouraging openness and closeness, by reinforcing the culture of dialogue, serving righteousness and justice, and allowing positive interaction between cultures, civilizations and religions, as well as establishing the rules and concepts of communal, societal and national behaviors, based on virtue, justice and peace.

There is no doubt that the functions of communications are intricate and intertwined. However, that does not eliminate the possibility of neutralizing the destructive capacities of communications on one hand, and reinforcing their creative role on the other hand. That can be achieved through multiple complementary steps, mainly:

  • Admitting and acknowledging the importance of communications in our world, and not ignoring or undermining its role and impact, but using and invest it for the better.

  • Setting an international charter for communications that establishes the foundations and principles governing this field. Its main role would be, on one hand, to guarantee freedoms, and on the other, to define responsibilities, as well as draw the line between the rights and duties of States and entities.

  • A dopting the rewards and punishment strategy, which practically means giving credit and honors to creatives, while imposing punishments on those who play a destructive role and exposing them to the public.

  • Embracing transparency in the dialogue with the public through the policies of transparency and openness, and making information and facts at the public’s disposal to gain its trust and increase the credibility of the information source.

The other facet of this policy is uncovering false and misleading campaigns and reports, and exposing the people behind them, so the public doesn’t fall prey to these deceitful campaigns that serve evil schemes of corruption, strife and war.

The scale of values forces us all to think on how we, as communities, organizations, countries, and transnational institutions, can:

  • Reaccept and reaffirm that the aim of public affairs, as with every activity of communities, is the good of human beings, from which stems the concept of common good. That is indicated in the Latin etymology of the word “politics”, “Polis”, which means “city”, (and the etymology of the word “res-publica” or common good). Even the etymology of the verb “to communicate” is the verb “communicare”, which means the common, the meeting and convergence.

  • Reaffirm the importance of the concept of “truth”, which is at the core of the pursuit of common good, and the base for any communication between people. In a world some went as far as to call it “post-truth”, we have to give truth its recognition back as an objective, a standard and a ceiling for freedoms. Truth, at its core, is a mix between the science of postulates (jus cogens) and morality. It is not only public opinion and algorithms, as social media dictates nowadays. In the end, 1+1 doesn’t require public or electoral polls…
  • Converge again around the concept of freedom in general, and the freedom of expression specifically, and therefore the freedom of the media and of communication. The first convergence needed is to ask: is freedom an objective in and of itself? Or is it a means to reach the good of human beings?

These concepts are necessary for the maturity of the communications revolution in today’s world, and should be present in every thought, word and step of every person in this field.

Inaccessible Freedom or New Ignorance?
Andrey Bystritskiy
The freedom of expression, as well as the right to reliable information, which are often (and mistakenly) combined into one concept - “freedom of speech” - are going through conflicting times. It seems to have never been so easy to communicate as it is now, but, all the same, people roam blindly in the all-consuming fog of information and risk wandering into a place from which they can’t find a way out. Perhaps today, new communications are the main threat to peace.
Message from the Chairman
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.