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Tuesday, August 13, 2002

What? 1984 Again??

Are we very sure this isn't some sort of troll? Other bloggers seem to think it's real. It's an essay by British tosser Bill Thompson, arguing for "local" computer networks, which could be locally (by which he means nationally) controlled (by which he means censored).

This guy picks almost all the meat off of it, but he only pecked at this bit:

Unfortunately today's Internet, with its permissive architecture and lack of effective boundaries or user authentication, makes it almost impossible to resist this technological imperialism.

Let me see if I have this straight: European Net users are being oppressed by the freedom of the net. More control means more liberty. Freedom is Slavery. Love is Hate. War is Peace.

He goes on to say, if I understand him correctly, that individual countries should be allowed to essentially wall themselves off, and---if they so desire---allow only "...trusted computers and secure networks to locate servers, hosts, networks and people within geographically-defined areas - or nation states as they are usually known...We can establish the rule of law, national sovereignty and local values in those parts of the network that fall within the jurisdiction of a particular country..."

Damn me if I know what's stopping them from doing this right now. Saudi Arabia tries to do it. But his concern here for national sovereignty and local customs does not jibe with his previous indignation over "...US companies like Yahoo! [which] disregard the judgements[sic] of foreign courts at will." And " US court would allow prosecution of a company in another jurisdiction when immunity is granted by US law."

In those and a few other passages his main complaint seems to be that the US thinks too much of its national sovereignity and its "local customs". It doesn't play nicely when other countries ask it to break its own laws. But, isn't that what he wants---a Net which respects the customs at its place of origin? That's what the US has; it's just that the rest of the world has adopted it as well. You could've developed your own protocol, you know.

So it seems to me that his main beef is that the US still respects its own quaint traditions, rather than play along nicely with the more enlightened Europeans. Surely it must have crossed his mind that restricted networks mean that the government can censor---not only Nigerian scams, viruses, and hate speech---but the opinions of Oxbridge dullards. Does he think this is OK? That it's unlikely? That Oxbridge dullards are going to be doing the censoring? Is this is whole objective, to build a Net where his kind rule?

For the answer, absorb this chilling bit of Eurowisdom: "An important factor in Europe's favour is that we retain a belief that governments are a good thing, that political control is both necessary and desirable, and that laws serve the people."

And he calls the US a place "...where any sensible discussion is crippled by the constitution..." "Crippled by the constitution". Pardon me while I writhe.

Thompson does seem to be trying to argue that it's far, far better for Europeans to wall themselves off in a Net all their own, where they won't have to come across anything not certified wholesome by the state. But more, he seems to be arguing that American hegemony of the Net is much worse than the resulting restriction of individual freedom. Just as the Palestinians supposedly would rather go hungry than accept American food, he wants the Europeans to imprison themselves rather than be poisoned by American-style freedom.

I wonder how many ordinary Europeans buy this daddy-knows-what's-best-for-baby crap. Or if it really matters to anyone.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste takes on this guy in a long (but, as always, interesting) post touching on Thompson's essay, and contrasting its European mindset with the American one. He links this to the American talent for spontaneous organization. Wish we could see some of this organization in our government organizations.