Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Nazi

I usually hate when a conversation descends into calling someone a "nazi" or a "communist". This line of attacking someone never helps the conversation along a certainly never gets your point across. I even wrote a blog post making fun of it. I think these have crept into our conversations because of how politicians overused them as scare tactics to drum up votes based on fear of someone who isn't like "us".

I'm noticing that the word "terrorist" is now making its way into the same place as the word nazi. With rhetoric like "digital terrorists" and "political terrorists" we have cheapened yet another word to scare people into voting for someone. The term hasn't lost all meaning but it's worth is radically decreasing with every blog post accusing every act of violence or even civil disobedience as being terrorism.

So much has the word been banded about that the first thing anyone thinks about when some nut does something crazy is "Was it a terrorist!?" and then wait for the news to carelessly throw the word about to confirm everyone's fears.

I noticed this a lot during the last presidential race when people from the Tea Party where calling then Mr. Obama a terrorist because at one point in his life he identified as a Muslim and in any crackpots uninformed opinion that alone equates to being a terrorist.

We live in an ever-increasing cycle of people pushing small differences of opinion into arguments over absolute good and evil. If these kinds of arguments are the best you can come up with to defend your position then it might be telling about how wrong you are. The world is never black and white and we have never lived in a world of just good and evil. There are always grey areas and it's our responsibility as citizens, and as voters, to weigh every decision we make separately with out applying fear and social bias to color the outcome.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We are legion.

The last post we talked about Wikileaks and how the website is being used by the US Government as an excuse to attack freedom of the press. This time I want to talk a little about a very interesting, and I think foreshadowing, side-effect that the attacks on Wikileaks have spawned.

I'm talking about the pseudo group calling themselves Anonymous and I think they have started down a path of political activism that has the potential to be very exiting and hopeful and very scary.

First off I will attempt to give the best description of Anonymous that I can. Basically, they are a very loose knit group of computer hackers and non technical activists that carry out campaigns, through media and distributed Denial Of Service(DDOS) attacks to bring down the web servers of organizations who they feel are acting against their best wishes. They have no leader and no official members, anyone who wants to take part in the movement can. They started out attacking The Church Of Scientology after their lawyers began sending out DMCA take down notices to prevent videos that showed its members in a poor light from being place on video hosting sites such as YouTube. A piece of software was developed that allows anyone who chooses to give their computers to the cause of taking down websites in the name of furthering the motives of the group. To put it plainly, it is a random group of people who meet up in a chat room and form a rough consensus about what they want to attack and why and then people give their computers to send tons of server requests to a website, crippling it. That's it.

Recently they have come out in defense of Wikileaks by targeting organization that are denying the website of services such as hosting and credit card processing of donations. PayPal, MasterCard and Amazon have all been attacked.

An argument could be made that they are terrorists but also one could be made that they are social activists. I don't know yet which it is, I'll leave that up to you. I do, however, think it raises a few interesting possibilities for having both positive and negative change.

First, we've seen the internet having an influence in some elections, namely the presidential, but it hasn't reached the point that it is necessary for every politician to carry a huge web presence to win. We haven't seen any pointed attacks on politicians in the way they have gone after the people trying to shut down Wikileaks. I could easily see this sort of technology having an impact on elections. It's even conceivable that it could be carried out by people who can't even take part in the election.

Also, these attacks rely greatly on people donating their computer to the cause to run the software. As the barrier to entry lowers then the participation goes up. The issue is that at some point it's easier to take part in this sort of disruption than it is to take part in the real political process. So you can envision this being a huge driver even in elections with low turnouts. This could affect both sides of the aisle. If the response to this is making it easier to vote then more people turn out to vote which generally is bad for Republicans. On the flip side of the coin if it doesn't get easier to vote you could see people choosing this sort of activism over voting and thus fewer people vote with usually hurt Democrats.

I think it will be interesting to see how this will affect upcoming elections, if at all, and whether the outcome is generally good or bad.

We shall see.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Free as in Press

It seems inevitable that people forget how important the freedoms we have are and their willingness to cast them aside. The latest hysteria sweeping the world is attacking free speech by trying to criminalize journalism.

Free press is an irreplaceable institution in a free society to give voice to the people who the government represents and prevent a oppresive government from propagating false information. It is a liberty that was important enough to write into the United States Constitution first above everything else.

The current frenzy over Wikileaks and the US Government's relentless pursuit to shut them down hasn't spawned the public outrage that it should among people who love and respect the freedoms we often cling to. It never ceases to amaze me the apathy that my fellow american's show when faced with a never-ending onslaught of people willing to give up their freedom to screw over someone else. It's a vengeful stance to take on your fellow-man that satisfies your need for immediate satisfaction but slowly weakens society and who's backlash can turn on its creator.

The landscape is changing fast for news media and they seem slow to respond to it. Newspapers still seemed surprised at their demise besides it being obvious to anyone with even the most basic faculties. The fear of progress seems to have dazed the press like a boxer who has taken a surprise haymaker and no matter how long the referee counts can't recover his senses. The latest round of fear mongering over technology has only highlighted the impact fear of change has had on journalism and now seems incapable of standing up for themselves and fighting fire with fire.

I would hate to think that the american press is hoping the government will intervene and save them from this horrible digital future they find themselves still blurry eyed and stammering around in. However, I can't rule out the possibility that the atmosphere of a government propping up every failing institution hasn't had an effect on even the most sacrosanct institutions in a free and open society. Yes, it is sad when an industry dies, but it isn't the end of the world and other industries step in or are created to pick up the slack.

Vice President Biden has been was quoted as calling Julian Assange "... a new kind of Digital Terrorist". This, among other similar comments by US politicians, only serves to underline a willingness to cast away the country's most basic principles to spite it's enemys. This mentality represents a continuation of the short mindedness that brought us the Patriot Act and anyone who has even the slightest belief in the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill Of Right should not only be appalled but also publicly outraged.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Inaugural Post.

People who know me well know I'm an opinionated person. I very rarely shy away from a good argument, often to my detriment, and if I believe I'm right I won't back down. I like having conversations about politics but I am rarely given the opportunity to speak my mind. I generally don't post my personal opinions on politics on my main blog because it is aggregated through a few places for Linux, FLOSS and technology and I don't think it's right to hit people looking for one subject with another that in all likelihood they won't agree with. So, here we are with a new blog that people, who want to be involved in the discussion, can subscribe and those who don't can bugger off!

I can't promise regular posts but I can promise my own honest opinion without talking about things for the sake of them. I want these posts to represent the things that are important to me and not a firehose for me to spout every opinion I've ever held on anything.

Strap in, hold on and let's talk about freedom!