Control Freaks Targeting The Internet

Control Freaks Targeting The Internet

By JAY AMBROSE
Syndicated columnist

Published: Monday, May 10, 2010 at 4:01 a.m.

Oh, my word, what a phenomenon it is, this Internet, this miraculous world of easily accessed information and opinions, as full of energy as democracy itself, the result of literally millions of contributory hands, a two-edged sword like any powerful technology, but an amazing tribute to what a free people can do when given a chance.

So how much longer are we going to put up with all of this?

Ask Professor Cass Sunstein, something of a phenomenon himself, a here-there-and-everywhere intellectual who also happens to be President Obama’s regulation czar, and he’ll concede good points about this communications wonder before telling you why it is we need some reforms, voluntary if possible. Yes, he will say, we should first try to do this without coercion. But he is very afraid.

What he mostly fears is how people use the Internet to focus overly much on what most interests them, sometimes neglecting other areas of knowledge and often linking up with those who are like-minded, so that they then don’t get exposed to contrary views, are to some extent cut off from the community at large and don’t learn about other issues and events that matter to their lives.

Emerging from all of this is isolation, balkanization, conspiracy theories, ugly, untrue rumors and worse. And the answers, Sunstein says, with various hints of intervention if it’s finally needed, are more self-supervision, links on some of these blog sites to blog sites with different takes on public affairs and government subsidies for public Web sites.

Where to start in response? Maybe with the observation that even the most extreme blogs usually cite contrary opinions as a starting point for voicing their own? Maybe with noting that most of those involved in these blogs are probably more curious than the average person not involved in them? Maybe with the observation that while the Internet amplifies some ways in which we the people behave, the issue of some of us being ignorant and mean antedates the Internet? Maybe that college faculties tend to be collections of the politically like-minded, that most professors are specialists and that more than a few have bragged to me that they do not read newspapers?

OK, Sunstein is not now prescribing some ironclad set of Internet regulations. But – as some Internet searching reveals – some members of the House are indeed proposing a law that would imprison people for harassment or causing “emotional distress” through hostility-preaching Internet transmissions, thereby taking his ideas to a scary denouement.

The proposed language I’ve seen – and I have not read every word of any proposed bill – is loose enough to stick lots of ordinary people in the clinker for speaking out, and my conclusion is pretty simple: These representatives are a greater threat to America than any blogger not clearly encouraging outright hate and violence.

These representatives – and people like Sunstein – are control freaks who do not believe the world can possibly progress to anything decent without their impositions, forgetting that one of the greatest development in human history was allowing sufficient freedom to unleash the ingenuity of the masses and that the one of the worst developments has been interventions that cut off the possibilities for truth to find sunlight and that crush something crucial in the human spirit.

Sunstein is an interesting guy. While I think his ideas about the right of people to sue on behalf of animals, ending government recognition of marriage and a couple of others are wacky. And while I find disturbing his seeming conviction that something like absolute truth is to be found in the social sciences, I also think some of his ideas sound and that intellectual provocateurs of his stripe can be socially valuable.

The thing that bothers me is that he is chief of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a very powerful fellow.

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.

Where to start in response? Maybe with the observation that even the most extreme blogs usually cite contrary opinions as a starting point for voicing their own? Maybe with noting that most of those involved in these blogs are probably more curious than the average person not involved in them? Maybe with the observation that while the Internet amplifies some ways in which we the people behave, the issue of some of us being ignorant and mean antedates the Internet? Maybe that college faculties tend to be collections of the politically like-minded, that most professors are specialists and that more than a few have bragged to me that they do not read newspapers?

OK, Sunstein is not now prescribing some ironclad set of Internet regulations. But – as some Internet searching reveals – some members of the House are indeed proposing a law that would imprison people for harassment or causing “emotional distress” through hostility-preaching Internet transmissions, thereby taking his ideas to a scary denouement.

The proposed language I’ve seen – and I have not read every word of any proposed bill – is loose enough to stick lots of ordinary people in the clinker for speaking out, and my conclusion is pretty simple: These representatives are a greater threat to America than any blogger not clearly encouraging outright hate and violence.

These representatives – and people like Sunstein – are control freaks who do not believe the world can possibly progress to anything decent without their impositions, forgetting that one of the greatest development in human history was allowing sufficient freedom to unleash the ingenuity of the masses and that the one of the worst developments has been interventions that cut off the possibilities for truth to find sunlight and that crush something crucial in the human spirit.

Sunstein is an interesting guy. While I think his ideas about the right of people to sue on behalf of animals, ending government recognition of marriage and a couple of others are wacky. And while I find disturbing his seeming conviction that something like absolute truth is to be found in the social sciences, I also think some of his ideas sound and that intellectual provocateurs of his stripe can be socially valuable.

The thing that bothers me is that he is chief of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a very powerful fellow.

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.

Found at newschief.com



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