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: (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.

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
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Oddly, this came up in conversation with [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby just this morning:

I buried Robert A. Heinlein.

The question specified "daily life", so I'm not going to count the numerous writers, artists and actors I've met at science fiction conventions.

There was also the time the family visited New Orleans, circa 1980, when the Captain and Tennille were filming a TV special, and we kept running into them every time we turned a corner.


athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Oddly, this came up in conversation with [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby just this morning:

I buried Robert A. Heinlein.

The question specified "daily life", so I'm not going to count the numerous writers, artists and actors I've met at science fiction conventions.

There was also the time the family visited New Orleans, circa 1980, when the Captain and Tennille were filming a TV special, and we kept running into them every time we turned a corner.


athelind: (far call)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Default)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (ME!)

The Three Things Meme


Snagged from A Whole Lot O' Folks

  1. Post 3 things you've done in your lifetime that you don't think anybody else on your friends list has done.
  2. See if anybody else responds with "I've done that." If they have, you need to add another!(2.b., 2.c., etc...)
  3. Have your friends cut & paste this into their journal to see what unique things they've done in their life.

Oof. This would be a lot easier if [livejournal.com profile] eclipsegryph and [livejournal.com profile] wy weren't on my f-list; a lot of my best stories are Coast Guard tales. Still...
  1. Visited a major landmark just because it appeared in a movie -- and then had natural phenomena provide better special effects than the movie did.*
  2. Attended the funeral (or other major occasion) of one of your all-time favorite writers (or other celebrities) in an official or invited capacity.**
  3. Gone from being a child-free bachelor to a grandfather less than two years.


* Devil's Tower, Wyoming: lightning storm. The year after Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out, no less!
** I buried Robert A. Heinlein.

athelind: (Default)

The Three Things Meme


Snagged from A Whole Lot O' Folks

  1. Post 3 things you've done in your lifetime that you don't think anybody else on your friends list has done.
  2. See if anybody else responds with "I've done that." If they have, you need to add another!(2.b., 2.c., etc...)
  3. Have your friends cut & paste this into their journal to see what unique things they've done in their life.

Oof. This would be a lot easier if [livejournal.com profile] eclipsegryph and [livejournal.com profile] wy weren't on my f-list; a lot of my best stories are Coast Guard tales. Still...
  1. Visited a major landmark just because it appeared in a movie -- and then had natural phenomena provide better special effects than the movie did.*
  2. Attended the funeral (or other major occasion) of one of your all-time favorite writers (or other celebrities) in an official or invited capacity.**
  3. Gone from being a child-free bachelor to a grandfather less than two years.


* Devil's Tower, Wyoming: lightning storm. The year after Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out, no less!
** I buried Robert A. Heinlein.

November 2016

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