Quick Roundup 380

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Internet "Fairness" without the "Doctrine"

Reader Dismuke sent in a couple of interesting items yesterday. Regarding the first, he comments:

I have been wondering how the Left will eventually try to find a way to impose a de facto form of censorship on the Internet. Turns out that South Korea is already blazing the path for that in the name of stopping cyber-bullying.
This he follows with an excerpt from a posting at The Far Eastern Economic Review:
The proposed legislation 1) requires real-name identification system for all who post comments online; 2) mandates portals to delete "malicious entries" within 24 hours of receiving complaints; 3) requires sites with more than 100,000 visitors, rather than the current 300,000, to verify user identities. Violators -- both providers and consumers -- can face jail time and/or substantive monetary fines. And the national police has been deployed to "hunt, arrest, and punish" individuals who upload falsities and pernicious rumors.
I agree that a proposal like this is very likely down the pike, but the prevention of "bullying" as an excuse here seems unlikely, and a more likely excuse, the prevention of "hate speech" would probably draw too much fire.

So how will the Democrats try to excuse and disguise this power-grab? "Transparency". Such a possibility caused a small stir about a year and a half ago, although one prominent conservative commentator dismissed the notion as "hysteria".

What is "transparency"? It is the claim that forcing people to identify themselves will shame them into civility, in the name of improving the public debate. This is a form of the "hate speech" excuse, except that we are supposed to be distracted by the desire for improved public political debate. Here's an excerpt from the article I blogged. It was written by Tom Grubisch of The Washington Post:
If Web sites required posters to use their real names, while giving the shield of pseudonymity when it's merited, spirited online debate would continue unimpeded. It might even be enhanced by attracting contributors who are turned off today by name calling and worse. Except for the hate-mongers, who wouldn't want that? [bold added]
There's a sample at the end of the kind of "argument" we can expect. (I'd take name-calling over that any day.) The operative method of this scheme is force. And there are so many ways it would be open to abuse that it is mind-boggling to contemplate.

Let's take him up, for the sake of argument, that exceptions would be granted for whistle-blowers. To be able to post anonymously, for example, you'd have to convince a potential political opponent to his satisfaction that using your real name would be dangerous to yourself. Oops! Too late. You have to do that to get a pseudonym first! And if you aren't granted a pseudonym, you get to decide whether to risk getting the rest of your story out or face recriminations when only the civil servant you had to approach has the full story.

Read the whole post. It's quite good, if I say so myself.

Oh. One thing on the FEER article: It protests at one point that "no government can really control cyberspace". That's not how to argue against such measures because it cedes the moral ground, which is ours. Government censorship is wrong because it violates individual rights.

Furthermore, the government needn't "control cyberspace" with an iron fist, anyway. All that needs to be done to stifle freedom of speech is to terrify most dissenters and make examples of the rest. Would-be censors know this, and such an argument risks causing complacency among everyone else.

Obama's Turn as "Dealer"

Dismuke also pointed me to this article, which I'd seen a few times, but never read. It describes in gory detail the problems Obama faces in any attempt to implement a "New New Deal".
Mr. Obama must be looking around and beginning to suspect he will be pouring his political capital, along with considerable taxpayer capital, down bottomless holes for the next four years. He won't be building a legacy as the new FDR, but cleaning up after the last one.
That's the best we can hope for, and probably unrealistic. Obama thinks that socialism is good, and too many people think that it will work "this time", thanks to pragmatism.

This does remind me of a novel I once heard of, about someone who rose to the top of a totalitarian dictatorship, but was somehow intellectually honest and realized how unworkable it all was, and began to reform it. If this rings a bell to anyone, please let me know!

If Obama made a similar journey, or even had something like Boris Yeltsin's supermarket epiphany, I would be very pleasantly surprised. And relieved. And, considering whom he surrounds himself with, concerned.

Pragmatism and Disillusionment

Mike N makes a very perceptive comment on one of the myriad ways pragmatism -- failing to think in terms of principles -- is getting in the way of the fight for individual rights.
One has to wonder how many other perceptive men like Mr. Hoekstra will continue to be disillusioned by the repeated failures of their party, simply because they aren't thinking in terms of principles.This is a shame.
I recall that shortly after the repeal of the "Fairness" Doctrine, a very common thing I'd hear about on talk radio was the fact that many people had felt isolated, as if they were the only ones who disagreed with the way the left ran everything.

Having talk radio and other alternative media has helped on that psychological level, and having facts easily accessible also helps in the battle for freedom, as Glenn Reynolds has indicated in his An Army of Davids. But without principles, this will all be for naught. Facts alone cannot lead to meaningful change without principles to guide their application, and positive emotions will be overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness since principles ultimately make one's mind effective, by guiding its thinking, and hence one's actions.

Jay Walking

Brian Phillips, in an excellent post favoring the privatization of education, alludes to a recurring feature on Jay Leno, "Jay Walking".

I followed the link and had to post this segment, which I dedicate to the "self-esteem" mongers of the modern educational establishment and their pragmatic enabler, John Dewey.

-- CAV


Kyle Haight said...

I believe the novel you are thinking of is Time Will Run Back by Henry Hazlitt. There is a free online PDF here.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes! That is it! Thank you, Kyle!

Kelly said...

Oooh, he beat me to it! I was going to say Time Will Run Back. I love that book!

Gus Van Horn said...

I'm certainly looking forward to it!

Richard said...

You would think that the young tech-savvy crowd would be the most vigorous defenders of free-speech on the internet. Unfortunately, that demographic is largely leftist, and so they have no principle to argue with.

For example, on a mostly leftist tech forum I frequent, it's continually astounding to me how they respond to topics where government involvement in their lives is concerned. A typical response is that if you have nothing to hide, there's no reason to oppose a law like internet censorship. Or that the proposed law is only a "minor" inconvenience. It's not like they are totally shutting you up, it's just a matter of doing your beaurocratic duty that helps to keep society from falling apart.

However, I have to wonder how the various American futaba boards would react to something like that. Loss of anonymity would mean the end of their community. I could see a vociferous opposition from their users, albeit probably an unprincipled one.

Gus Van Horn said...

"[I]f you have nothing to hide, there's no reason to oppose a law like internet censorship."

I've heard things like this before. Goes right along with the state being inherently objective (as in "disinterested") and yet automagically looking out for our welfare. Such people will be in for a rude awakening if, ironically we don't save them from themselves -- a task they also attribute to the state) -- in the process of defending our own freedom.


Richard said...

Futaba is a type of japanese internet forum imageboard where all users are anonymous by default. And so, requiring identification would render them pointless, since that's their whole draw.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. Didn't have time to Google that thoroughly....