I went to bed last night counting my blessings; one of which is to be living in “the Land of the Free”. I woke up this morning thinking of Kristallnacht and Joseph McCarthy. The Twitter and Blogger spheres are awash with rage. Within one week we have seen Comcast tip off what’s coming for pricing on data usage – not good; we have seen Amazon want to charge for free books – not good; we have seen the Department of Homeland Security threatening access and content providers to ‘play ball’ or face severe fines – not good; and finally, Senator Joseph Lieberman gets Amazon to pull the plug on Wikileaks – probably going to turn out to be good, but not for the reasons he thinks.
If ever there was the perfect foil to light the bonfires of rage and indignation building up over the past few days, even among the most casual Internet browsers, Senator Lieberman is it. Is he a Democrat, Republican or Independent this week? I can’t keep track. Whatever. Today, however well intentioned he may be, he strikes me as the embodiment of Senator Joseph McCarthy and Wikipedia has become his communist front. The issues seem to be pretty much the same. Freedom of expression vs. national security; but now playing on a larger stage – the Internet and World Wide Web.
Well he’s certainly woken up the dragons! Given all the digital tools of the day, the next few weeks are bound to be ugly. Kristallnacht came to mind because of the lessons learned from the last great generation of freedom fighters and the final epithet: “when will they come for you?” On the one side, this is about freedom – to think, to speak, to be heard and have dialog. On the other, this is about security – national security and the security of data. There is a great deal to be worked out on both sides as we move towards a New Digital Order in the Global Village. And let’s not forget the whole world’s involved this time around.
There may not be a whole lot of dialog in the next few weeks – mostly brickbats being thrown and “hoorays for our side”, but we have a tradition of finally getting there. Let’s hope it doesn’t tear us apart in the short term. Try and listen to both sides, educate yourselves – this really matters to us, our children and our grandchildren. It is one of the great issues of our age and the outcomes will determine our futures.
Play nice, don’t be evil and, as Wil would say, “don’t be a dick”! Selah.