athelind: (cronkite)
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Should websites like Wikileaks be defended for sharing confidential corporate and government information with the public, and why?

Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
—Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On— (Emphasis mine.)


Since the Internet first became available to the general public, I've heard people who defend the government prying into one's online activities on the basis that "if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide."

These same people are the ones who argue, in turn, that Wikileaks is revealing things that should best be kept secret, that the internal workings of business and government are best left under lock and key "for our own good".

This is exactly backwards.

Yes, we should know these things. We must know these things. We are not disinterested parties. What the banks and megacorps do, they do to us, their customers, their employees. What the government does, it does in our name.

There are things that I would not have done in my name.

If those I have elected to serve the machinery of government seek to tell me that I am forbidden to know of them, I would name them tyrant, and would remind them with whose consent they govern.

Wikileaks is performing a function vital and necessary to democracy and to the governance of free human beings. The wealthy and powerful must be called to account, they must know that their actions run the risk of being brought to light.

Once upon a time, this function was called journalism, and it was practiced by such diverse outlets as the Washington Post that backed Woodward and Bernstein, and CBS News under the auspices of Walter Cronkite, who earned and deserved the title of "The Most Trusted Man in America". Investigative journalism is a thing of the past, though, smothered in favor of gossip and Official Press Releases by budget-slashing corporate masters who see no profit in baring secrets to the rank and file.

Wikileaks has picked up the fallen torch of the Fourth Estate, and shoved it square in the face of the banksters and the Shadow Cabinet. Do they "deserve" protection? By the laws of the United States of America, they have it. They are entitled to the same legal precedents that have protected journalists and their sources for most of the 20th century ... and if those protections do not extend into the One-and-Twenty, then we have abdicated any claims we might have had to freedom.


athelind: (eco-rant)
Okay, one reason, and one alone:

The United States of America consumes a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and produces a disproportionate amount of its pollution. Even a massive socio-economic catastrophe isn't going to do more than moderate that, at least over the next half-century or so. this is an issue that I can't run away from, because the ripples affect the entire world, and not just economically.

I am an Earth Systems Scientist.

If I have any hope of having an effect on this globe-threatening situation, it's gotta be here.

I've got my lever, rusty as it may be, and I think I'm narrowing down my places to stand.


athelind: (politics)
This was originally tacked on as a footnote to my last post, but I think it needs to stand on its own.

For the record, the "Divided States of America" is only a "worst-case scenario" if the Balkanization is violent. That's not unlikely, because we're all pretty pissed at each other right now, and we do like our guns.

On the other claw, the Soviet Union managed to spin off its component without devolving into all-out war, though, even if there were border skirmishes; if the U.S. pulled off the same trick, California might wind up better off than we are now, with the Federal Government funneling money out of the eighth-largest economy in the world and into Red States who rant against taxation, welfare and government interference.


athelind: (prisoner)
Mostly for my own reference: some thoughtful and measured words about emigration.

I'll tell ya: ever since reading Toffler's predictions for the future of the two "Second Wave" superpowers in 1990's Powershift, and watching it come true in the Soviet Union less than a year later, there's a part of me that's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yes, I'm fully aware that this kind of apocalyptic paranoia has contributed to the paralyzing stasis of my life since graduation.

Still, there's an important truth in play: things aren't getting any better in the Untidy States, and the best-case scenario is to hope that the continual erosion of our rights and freedoms will be sufficiently gradual that we won't notice.

And the alternatives ... well, we seem to be using all the worst clichés of Cyberpunk as a road map as it is, why not that one, too?*

I would really like to convince myself that this is just pessimism due to the latest economic downturn, but even during the boom years of the '90s, I saw the "New Democrats" quietly and casually continuing the trends of restricting the rights of biological individuals and increasing the freedoms of "corporate persons". Some oppressed groups have made a few advances in acceptance, but really, it's just welcoming them to the same Village that the rest of us live in. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm in the process of reevaluating my life, realigning my goals, and trying to get a better grip on how the "real world" works.

And around here ... it doesn't. Not very well. Not in ways that will do me any good, now or in the future.

Realistically, if I'm trying to reconstruct my present to make plans for my future, "emigration" needs to be one of my options—even and especially if I land the elusive "Real Job" locally.

The big issue, of course, is that the other Anglophone nations don't really want more USian expatriates.


This is not a post about pessimism or defeatism. This is a post about options.
*See next post.

athelind: (cronkite)
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Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?

Unca Bob had this one down:

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

—Robert Anson Heinlein, "If This Goes On—" (1940)



That, by the way, is from a short novel about a Fundamentalist takeover of the United States after a "backwoods preacher" is elected President in 2012.1

Heinlein also said, "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak."

Now, Unca Bob, especially in the second quote, was talking about what Wikipedia calls moral censorship2, the suppression of speech that some individuals might find offensive or immoral; that is, in my estimation, subtly different from military censorship.

It is the opinion of Your Obedient Serpent that both "moral" and "military" censorship are always wrong; however, there are instances when the latter might be less bad than the alternatives. A Fully Transparent Government would not have survived World War II, and the most likely replacement had even less regard to such niceties.

It's a key part of my ethical system, however, that being forced to do bad things to avoid worse consequences does not make them good things; when you allow yourself to frame the kind of secrecy and suppression practiced in WWII as "good", you take the first step on the slippery slope that justifies political censorship, and all the cover-ups and black projects that burden us today.

I also don't automatically equate industry ratings systems as "censorship", although the MPAA has certainly demonstrated that they can be arbitrary and putative, and big studios, finding that "General Audience" films are often ignored, often tack extra nude scenes or coarse language to get an otherwise-acceptable movie out of the "kiddie ghetto"—an ironic kind of anti-censorship. Marvel Comics has implemented an entirely functional ratings system for their comics, however; while most adult comic readers are wholly unaware that Marvel even has one, the discreet little letter codes in the UPC symbol box provide a useful guide to parents looking for suitable reading material for their children, and comic store workers attempting to assist them.

I could go on, but I expect these opinions to get thoroughly Disassembled in the comments. I haven't even touched on the idea of "hate crimes" yet.


1The same timeline has a well-established Lunar colony at this point; grumbling about only getting the crappy parts of future histories may now commence.

2Wikipedia distinguishes between "moral" and "religious" censorship; please pardon me if I consider that to be hair-splitting.

November 2016

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