Saturday, March 26, 2005

Blogging and reprisals

"Dictators of the right and the left fear the political cartoonist more than they do the atomic bomb. No totalitarian government can afford to be ridiculed" -Art Buchwald-

I received an e-mail from a friend in the States that I had not heard from in a long time. We exchanged another couple of e-mails after that, bringing each other up to date on what was going on in our lives. He passed on the details of his upcoming potential engagement ( BIG MISTAKE!) and he also passed on that he had heard my ex-wife had passed away. ( As if I would be so lucky!). I responded, no....sadly she is still alive and kicking and trying to bleed money out of me at every opportunity through America's unenlightend family court system. I also passed along to him that I had taken up the hobby of blogging, to focus my thoughts and get ideas out of my system.

His reply astounded me, but did not surprise. In a subsequent e-mail he warned me about blogging, saying it was dangerous and that employers had fired folks for blogging. He also pointed out several examples where military folks were punished for their blogging activities. Knowing this fellow, his concern was genuine and I was familiar with several of the examples that he had cited. And I do understand the potential for vicious reprisals by those who cannot brook dissent from the popular view. However, what jarred me was the tone of his e-mail, as if he accepted this as being an acceptable behavior on the part of corporations and / or the military. I think its important to those of us who write, and those of us who read, that any impingment on one's freedom of expression through blogging be viewed as a heinous violation of the freedoms that we are supposed to be striving for, especially in America which has a sacred Bill of Rights guaranteeing free speech.

Now obviously it is clear that as a public medium, blogs should be subject to some of the same rules of fair play as any other media. Its wrong to write things that cannot be backed up by sources as fact, slander persons in violation of the concept of "absent malice", or violate operational security rules and or violate standards of public decency. In other words, write carefully, especially on public issues and politics. Document where possible and in other areas ensure ideas are marked as ones opinion. ( Which is the defintition of a blog is it not?)

Even writing well one's opinion is open to attack these days. On a e-mail list I subscribe to from my college, I made the mistake of stating I did not understand statements made by one of our Alumni who is now an influential Republican Congressman. ( He had criticized US veterans as being shallow for wanting the benefits that had been promised them. I thought that was insulting to the aforementioned veterans. For my own safety , I'll not post his name, but he's the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs can look up who.) . Anyway one of the list reciepients who is a friend of the Congressman took umbrage at my remarks. Rather than honestly debate the merits of the arguement, he chose to attack me personally. Now knowing both the Congressman and the individual involved I was not suprised. In the case of the individual, he has long had a superiority complex based on his lengthy service in DC to several political hacks and his disdain for my long term goal to remain in Asia and not the US. Nonetheless, it reminded me again how low the course of political discourse has fallen. Read both liberal and conservative blogs and you see this type of thinking repeated 10000-fold.

Im not sure why this has reduction of the ability to think critically has occurred. Some has to do with the decline of a proper education, which includes reading the "classics" of literature, some has to do with the fact that many people, despite their blogging, cannot write well. Whatever the reason, it highlights the problem of protecting the blogosphere from reprisals on bloggers. The day we accept vitriol as acceptable form of debate, or accept crackdowns on the hard earned right to publish ideas under your own name or a pseudonym is the begining of the "captives forging their own chains". Liberal or conservative, us residents of this not so little on line world have to stand up against that.

There, that makes me feel better. I return you now to the ordinary mayhem. Less politics, more sex please!



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