Lenny Bailes (jroe) Sun 8 Aug 99 09:55
Your comments pretty well answer the questions I had. Thanks, Mike.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Mon 9 Aug 99 09:21
OK, then ... let's move on to some battles that have already been fought (even if the wars continue to rage). Let's talk about the perennial bogeymen of the Internet -- pornography and pedophiles, for parents, and terrorists, for everyone else. Mike - as you discuss in the book - you have a young daughter. In my experience parenthood makes people more conservative and sometimes almost paralyzingly inclined to seek out "safety" even when those choices conflict with their pre-parental values (e.g. city dwellers move to the suburbs). Did having Ariel change your outlook at all? If so, how? Surely you understand the desire of parents to protect their children. Yet you continue to defend the principles of free expression.
Katherine Branstetter (kathbran) Mon 9 Aug 99 18:34
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Mon 9 Aug 99 20:34
Having a child certainly transform's a person's attitudes, that's for sure. But it really hasn't affected my view of cyberliberties, except to make my opinions and advocacy more intense. Before Ariel was born, my approach to free speech and liberty issues was driven primarily by principle and the way I had reasoned through my own positions. After she was born, however, I started thinking "Christ, I've got to bust my butt now to save free speech for my daughter!" When most people ask me about my attitudes as a parent, however, they're asking about one of two things: 1) what I think about the prospect that my child will see sexually explicit content on the Net, or 2) what I think about all the child pornographers and pedophiles that supposedly are prowling around on the Net. With regard to (1), I have to say that, after some reflection, I'm not concerned with what my daughter will accidentally encounter on the Net. These days, she's just as likely to find equally explicit stuff in a friend's parents' video collection. And, to be frank, I don't think sexual content is going to do her any harm by itself, whether accidentally encountered or otherwise. (If she's actually making an effort to see it, I doubt I could do anything to prevent her from finding it.) I said something like this at a lecture at MIT a couple of years back, and one of the students asked me in the Q&A whether I would be bothered by the prospect that my daughter will "lose her innocence" before she's ready to. I thought about it, and what I told him in response was this: "Not only am I bothered by the prospect that my daughter will lose her innocence, but I'm also damned sure it's going to happen, and it will happen before *I'm* ready for it, regardless of whether Ariel's ready." But then I explained that I don't think "innocence" and "never having seen sexual imagery" amount to the same thing. With regard to (2), I have to say that I think the Net is safer than the street. The cleverest pedophile in the world can't reach through the computer monitor and grab Ariel. So if she grows up and follows the same advice with regard to a) talking to strangers b) meeting with strangers c) going somewhere without telling a parent d) encountering someone or something that's disturbing that I and my cohort followed when we were kids, she should be safer on the Net than I was all those years I walked home from school.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Mon 9 Aug 99 21:57
How old is she now? What have you and she talked about vis-a-vis these issues? And does her mother share your views?
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Tue 10 Aug 99 08:51
Ariel is six now. She's entering the first grade tomorrow. Her online experience so far is limited (by her choice) to http://www.jumpstart.com. I think Ariel's mom's opinions are more or less in line with mine, but I'll forward your question to her and post her feedback here.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Tue 10 Aug 99 14:45
Do you and Ariel talk about the Internet?
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Tue 10 Aug 99 18:20
We talk about computers, mainly.
Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Tue 10 Aug 99 18:29
<scribbled by mnemonic Tue 10 Aug 99 18:30>
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Tue 10 Aug 99 18:32
I think the thing to stress here is that Ariel's not really on the Internet -- she's mainly a big book enthusiast. She's reading Roald Dahl right now (very dangerous stuff). As for her computer, the only things she uses it for painting and games. Her experience on the Internet is very small, and comes from using a PC in the same office that her mom is working in. (Her computer at home is not yet connected to the Net.)
this bag is not a toy (vard) Tue 10 Aug 99 23:34
Ahh. It's nice to be reminded that a child can have lots of fun on a computer without connectivity! You said above, regarding sexually explicit content... >(If she's actually making an effort to see it, >I doubt I could do anything to prevent her from finding it.) Don't you think that a lot of the anti-Net-pornography crusaders are really motivated by a desire to control their children's access to information? How else to explain the blockage of sites like NOW, NARAL, and the Human Rights Campaign Fund by various popular browser-blocking applications? Isn't this really a parenting problem?
gazorninblat (dwaite) Wed 11 Aug 99 09:27
vard... you make me ponder the 'dumbing down of America' with how prudice many of thewse people are that want to limit these freedoms... must be a corelation in there somewehre...don't you think? (forgive my typo's and spelling please)
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Wed 11 Aug 99 12:17
vard, I think the real, lurking fear is one of loss of control, and it's not just the religious right that suffers from that fear. I think that the Internet has awakened in all sorts of people the sense that they can't really control their own or their children's immersion in the public culture of the nation. IMHO, they never could, but the Internet, being relatively new to their attention, reawakens a kind of social backlash that we haven't seen since the onset of television. (Imagine a whole country thinking that 1950s television, which we now find amusingly innocuous on Nickelodeon, posed some immense social threat to the moral wellbeing of the nation. Well, that's what it was like in the 1950s!) I think you're right that the issue with children is really one of parenting properly, and instilling the kind of values one wants one's children to have when they're on their own out in the undisciplined, uncontrolled world. What the religious right imagines is that you can somehow make the world disciplined and controlled, and that you can do this through regulating media, either through law (top-down) or through censorware (bottom-up). But what law is a very good way of discouraging bad acts, it's a terrible tool for discouraging bad thoughts (indeed, trying to force people not to have bad thoughts is one of the surest ways of encouraging such thoughts). By contrast, encouraging people to have socially positive values, while not 100-percent effective, obviously, is a much better approach to improving the culture at large. The fear of loss of control is also behind the government's concerted efforts to regulate the Internet (policymakers imagine that the Internet is somehow behind any number of socially destructive activities) and behind its efforts to limit or discourage the use of encryption, which will render most wiretapping ineffective. I'm just free-associating here, obviously, but I don't want to give the impression that it's just the religious right that's all panicky about the Internet and related computer technologies. I think it's all the old power hierarchies -- church, government, and industry. The panic manifests differently for each sector, but it all springs from the same sources -- fear of change, and fear of loss of control.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Wed 11 Aug 99 17:48
Why are mainstream Americans so willing to believe the worst about this medium? How much responsibility for that circumstance is borne by the older media, which have regularly sensationalized and anecdotalized their own coverage of the Internet? Is there some larger cultural reason people *want* to believe the worst?
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Thu 12 Aug 99 06:41
Well, mainstream Americans have always been suspicious of social change, even though we've almost always embraced technological change. (That the latter typicall results in the former is something that not everyone seems able to acknowledge.) When the Internet was seen primarily as a product of technological evolution, it was celebrated as "the Information Superhighway." When folks began to realize that it turned everyone into a publisher and was very difficult to censor or to subject to national laws, then it became much easier to demonize as a breeding ground for crime and antisocial activity. (I just got interviewed by an LA Times reporter who was assigned to explore the link between the recent anti-Semitic shootings in Los Angeles and hate sites on the Internet. Of course, at press time there was no actual evidence of such a link. I told the reporter that I liked knowing that hate sites were out there -- I like knowing *where these guys are and what they're saying to each other*.) The media are both a reflection of national attitudes and a shaper of them. I tend to cut them some slack when they're just echoing common attitudes about the Net that are clearly the result of fear of change, fear of the new freedom the Net is creating. What pisses me off is when they seem to set out to deliberately exploit that fear, and to compromise their journalistic standards to pursue that exploitation, as TIME did in the Marty Rimm incident.
gazorninblat (dwaite) Thu 12 Aug 99 07:53
well said... " I like knowing *where these guys are and what they're saying to each other* Politically Correct Internet would only shield us from the true diversity of our culture. It would hid what could be best and worst, and showing what is worst about our society is not always a bad thing, since it gives others a chance to 'think outside the box'
this bag is not a toy (vard) Thu 12 Aug 99 12:13
(I knew I could segue into the Marty Rimm thing from there! YESSSS!!) Let's talk about Marty Rimm. I have read and reread the section in CR that deals with this and I still have trouble understanding just how TIME got snookered so badly, or if not snookered, how and why they let themselves be so thoroughly used. (It reminded me a little of that famous NEWSWEEK cover about a 40-year-old single woman's relative chances of (a) marriage or (b) being killed by a terrorist.)
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Aug 99 12:17
Is that Time issue online anyplace, by the way, for folks remembering or discovering that interesting episode... ? Anybody know?
this bag is not a toy (vard) Thu 12 Aug 99 17:11
Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Thu 12 Aug 99 17:38
<scribbled by mnemonic Thu 12 Aug 99 21:31>
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Thu 12 Aug 99 21:32
dwaite, I agree with you about the value of the Net's demonstrating the immense political and social diversity out there. When I was growing up, my picture of what the country was like came largely through my experiences in my neighborhood and what the three networks had to say. But the nation is less homogenous than that, by a longshot. vard, as you know I've written about the Rimm scandal ad infinitum (and no doubt ad nauseam as far as many people are concerned), but I think I can give pretty good summary answers here. I think the most charitable way to understand how TIME got suckered was this very unusual combination: a supremely gifted con artist (Rimm) plus a magazine editor who was so eager to scoop the competition that his critical facilities were shut off. I spent half a year reconstructing Rimm's wonderfully complex, artful manipulations of those around him, and have come to regard him as a sort of prodigy in that field (the cyberporn scandal was his second major media coup, it turns out). He was especially good at flattering people into being his allies -- Philip Elmer-DeWitt of TIME was hardly the only one fooled. With Philip and TIME, there was this sense that NEWSWEEK was breathing down their necks on cyberspace coverage. So when Rimm offered Philip an exclusive look at what purported to be a study of porn on the "information superhighway," he took the fateful leap, agreeing to conditions that more or less guaranteed that there would be no critical review of the (entirely phony) Rimm article on cyberporn. Had Rimm been less gifted at deceit, or if TIME's editors had acted like real journalists, the TIME cover story would never have happened, or would have taken different form.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Thu 12 Aug 99 22:27
What motivated Rimm, do you think? Was it the crass pleasure of seeing your name in the newspaper (writ large)? He certainly wasn't an anti-porn true believer who felt the end justified the means. Was it the joy of conning people who think they're smart?
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Fri 13 Aug 99 08:57
One of the problems in figuring out what Rimm's likely motives were is that you literally can't trust anything he says (although sometimes you can get clues from what he says). But I think, based on certain patterns in his behavior, that a) he was motivated primarily by the desire to be famous, b) he did find some kind of satisfaction in conning people (I have often noted that he put more effort into creating the con than he might have in doing a legitimate project), and 3) he had a notion that his porn study might get him into the porn industry.
this bag is not a toy (vard) Sat 14 Aug 99 21:56
>he had a notion that his porn study might get him into the porn industry Is that where he is now? Do we know what he's up to?
Daphne Merkin's spanking piece (chuck) Sat 14 Aug 99 23:38
I really don't want to know. Really.
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