Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Censorship in the Name of Security?

Why yes, this is very true. And a woman went to prison
 over letting her assistant know about a self-written search
warrant which was handed to her (see link to speech).
After the terrorist attacks of 9-11, America reassessed what it meant to be free, and that included the freedom to exchange ideas. One of the biggest things the terrorist attacks brought about was the Patriot Act. If you are interested in knowing more specifically how many of your rights (off of the Bill of Rights) you have lost because Congress passed this law, then go here. It is part one of three of a speech that Judge Napolitano gives describing the Patriot Act and the rights it infringes on. The law itself, he says, if brought to a court, would be deemed unconstitutional (specifically regarding government officials being able to write self-written search warrants). What our government is trying to do here is exactly what Milton, in his Areopagitica, deems impossible to do: manage to keep everyone safe from every idea that might point to possible terrorist acts.

The point here is that, in Areopagitica, Milton is arguing that government cannot effectively manage to keep everyone safe from unsafe ideas. The argument today is that we need to manage, censor, and collect ideas in the name of safety from terrorists (which our government legally does under the Patriot Act. Yay for the NSA???) Here's Milton's argument against it: "and that evil manners are as perfectly learned without books a thousand other ways which cannot be stopped; and evil doctrine not with books can propagate except a teacher guide, which he might also do without writing, and so beyond prohibiting, I am not able to unfold, how this cautelous enterprise of licensing can be exempted from the number of vain and impossible attempts."

Well, the Patriot Act goes further than censorship and allows the government to not only collect information about you (see where the NSA gets the legal right to collect all that information?) electronically, but to write self-written search warrants to see if you might even possibly be physically doing something the government doesn't like.

Laws like this make it really difficult to freely exchange ideas, and this, Milton is arguing, halts progress because people aren't able to learn as quickly. Milton's argument that it's impossible to monitor all this traffic is a solid one, considering he was addressing Parliament, not a police state. You think that his arguments would have been better received than they were, but looking at today, it shouldn't surprise us. There are very few people who initially spoke out about the Patriot Act, and even later when there were more voices against it, Congress still extended the Patriot Act.

So, maybe what we should take away from all this is that we should be wary of approving of things just because it makes us feel safe in the short term or because we have an emotional tie to it. Emotionally driven decisions are much more likely to have bad repercussions than logical ones.

Interested in who has a loud voice speaking against it? Ron Paul . . . darn that radical.

Here's his speech to Congress ... but if you only have time for one video ...

WATCH THIS ONE. It gives you both sides of the argument.

Milton, John (2009-10-28). The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Modern Library) (Kindle Locations 32277-32280). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  But this doesn't work!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe this is just my paranoia and cynicism flaring up, but I feel like most politicians don't really have the interests of the American people in mind. It's kind of interesting how innocuous (or dare I say, patriotic) some of the pieces of legislation seem when in fact they limit the freedoms of American citizens and go in opposition to some of those same ideas that we fought for in the early years of the nation. The proliferation of dystopian fiction and video games of late is also kind of interesting to think about. I wonder if it can be seen as a reflection of the more broad inner sentiments of the American people.