Monday, November 2, 2009

Or does that violate free speech?

Earlier I advocated 'virtual execution.' Basically if you commit virtual crimes, you should virtually die. In the original case I stand by what I said.

But I also extended it to another blogger named Gevlon. Since then I've realized that this was stupid of me. He commits no crimes. Should his hateful speech be a crime? I'm tempted to say yes because it would shut him up. But that's mostly an emotional reaction. I can see that it would be the first step in erosion of freedom of speech online.

Are there times to curtail freedom of speech? Maybe. But, I suspect all instances are paternalistic, the government telling us what to do or not do for our own good. Shouting fire in a crowded theater is illegal because it would cause undue panic. But isn't that just government protecting us from our own irrational reaction?

We can extend this to hate speech. I'd prefer that people not call Obama Hitler and that the KKK didn't have downtown rallies in nearby suburbs. But why should we not let them? If we don't like their ideas it should be on a rational ground. We should be immune to them. If we try to shield others from them it can only mean that we don't think they are immune, that they cannot make good decisions about what to think or not.

Idealism says that I should let the hateful keep screaming. Self-interest is more divided.

If they keep their screaming, they just might convince someone. Or many people. next thing I have a mob of their drones knocking on my door asking why I don't support them. By that I mean they burnt down my house and tried to kill me. Perhaps shutting down some speech is only a preventive measure, containing the madness before it gets dangerous.

But if someone else can be silenced, that means I can as well. Offensive speech is in the ear of the listener. I can say nothing wrong and still end up in the same category. Self-interest dictates that I not get someone else shut down to ensure that the same does not happen to me.

Getting back to the internet as free speech, it's more than that. It's freedom of all sorts. Assembly and religion and market. Yes, market. The internet is the closest thing to a free market that we will ever see, excluding Web 9.0 which will be telepathy-based. The internet the be the new land of the free and it is everywhere. This means that any attack on internet freedom is an attack on freedom everywhere. It is the new Bill of Rights, the new Constitution, the new Magna Carta and whatever other listing of rights that you can think of, all rolled into one. With this in mind, if Comcast (or anyone else) keeps trying to fuck with net neutrality, I suggest getting out your second amendment rights and explaining that our freedom is worth more than their profits.

Next time I plan to talk about security and freedom. Sneak preview: if someone tries to trade some of your freedom for some of your security, listen carefully and ignore everything, because in the long term people like him will completely fuck over you and everyone you know.


G-Rebel said...

Per my own moral compass, I wish a lot of people wouldn't say a lot of things; I've even got young kids that I'd love to protect from such speech.

However, I believe in my Bill of Rights, and the curtailing of speech is a dangerous thing. It's because of the courage of groups of people to speak up, sometimes without the freedom to do so, that yielded the freedoms I now enjoy.

Words, however, aren't harmless. They have stirred many an idiot into committing viscious crimes and heroic deeds. Let free speech reign, punish the deed! Just be careful, free speech isn't free, and the day we think it is, that's the day we deserve to have it taken away.

Klepsacovic said...

You reminded me that dissent used to be treason. There are those constantly pushing back in that direction; I'm looking at you "but he's a wartime president" people.

G-Rebel said...

Treason one day is revolutionary the next...if you win. America was founded on treason (sort of), wan't it? A group of settlers rebeled against the super-power who wished to rule in the new world. But we value their treason as a valiant fight for freedom.

I wish we could enjoy our rights without our government. They interfere too much.