Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ignorance is Strength, Arbeit macht Frei, etc. etc.

I was reading Violent Acres this morning, and followed the link in that post to the New York Times Article, A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. On the whole, it's only a moderately interesting article about how a bunch of whiners are banding together to establish voluntary codes of conduct among bloggers. I did read all the way to the end of this two-page article, though, and could not believe what I read in the very last paragraph:
Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”
Emphasis added.

My response: WHAT?!?!?!??!!?!?!?!!??! Just to be clear, the dumbfuck who said this is none other than Tim O’Reilly, the guy who came up with the term "Web 2.0", who ought to know goddamn well why the First Amendment uses the exact words "Freedom of Speech" and not "Freedom of Nice Speech." But, just to be clear, the reason is this: Sometimes, a person really needs to be called an asshole, a dumbshit or a fucking moron. Something that's clearly bullshit needs to be called "bullshit." Codes of conduct, hate speech rules, and other similar bullshit would not allow that to happen. Codes of conduct for bloggers would regulate speech. So how is regulated speech "freer" than actual free speech?

If O'Reilly has an explanation for this, it doesn't appear in the article. However, my suspicion is that his argument rests on what is talked about in the earlier parts of the article, wherein various bloggers complain about how they were "assaulted" online by other bloggers. They were so "traumatized" by this that they were considering not blogging anymore. I guess that is what O'Reilly really has a problem with: people who allow themselves to be bullied into shutting up.

So, as usual, calls for restrictions on free speech are based in cowardice. To be perfectly clear: If someone gets called a bad name, or has his picture photoshopped into a bit of porn, or her head photoshopped into a picture of a noose, they have a choice. They can do what the other person is clearly trying to get them to do, namely stop talking, or they can continue talking. Why should the rest of us have to submit to a bunch of restrictive rules just because these people can't handle the attention they are getting? Is it written somewhere that freedom of speech is supposed to be easy?

One last thing: The article opens with the question, "Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?" The New York Times really ought to know better than to use a deceptive term like "civility" to describe what is essentially a fascist idea. Okay, I know, it's not the same as hauling people off to the ovens. But the ovens were only able to happen because of a lot of other, little things that made them feasible in the first place. For instance, what exactly is wrong with requiring people to clearly identify their religious/ethnic affiliation, especially since a lot of them do it voluntarily already? Surely it's a harmless requirement, right, to ask people to wear armbands? After all, Germans are a decent, civilized people, and it's hard to imagine how anything bad could come of it. And wouldn't it be a good idea to seperate certain groups from other groups? It would lead to a greater amount of civility in society at large, right?

You may claim that I'm engaging in the fallacy of equivocation here, not to mention a slippery slope argument, but I maintain that modern capitalistic societies have an innate tendency to slide towards fascism, or similar horrors, and that the best way to avoid that happening is to scrupulously avoid even minor trappings of it. Furthermore, just because millions of people aren't put to death doesn't mean it's not fascism, and doesn't mean it's an acceptable way of doing things.



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