Saturday, May 15, 2010

Information As a Distraction

I heard the President say something the other day that startled me. I guess that should come as no surprise, I’m rather easily startled these days. It came in a commencement address he gave at Hampton University in Virginia. What he said was this: “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”. The first thing that popped into my mind was that this IS the first Blackberry President, having to have made special arrangements with the Secret Service for encryption of his own personal communications device. Next was the time he claimed that Michael Jackson was on his iPod and his lovely gift to the Queen of England of an iPod with examples of his oratory prowess. The iPad is new of course and hasn’t neared saturation levels yet, but I suspect that it’ll mainly be a web access device. The X-Box and PlayStation are mainly gaming devices and really don’t fit the mix. The President has taken heat for being hypocritical on this gadget thing since he’s the first CrackBerry President and because his campaign used the internet so well, but that isn’t what bothers me, or what I think he really meant.

What struck me was that he actually said that “information” can be a distraction. Call me a centrist cook if you will, but I’ve always read and believed that information is POWER. That a man's life could depend on a mere scrap of information, that the big picture is made up of little bits of information, that if you had ALL the information from the past that you could predict the future. Okay. Why does this bother me? Well, it’s this guy that President Obama has appointed over at the Federal Communications Commission. Mark Lloyd is Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer. He’s a Marxist sympathizer and doesn’t believe in the marketplace of ideas. That being that if you have a good idea then people will want to hear more about it and the less popular ideas will lose favor. He believes in the “Fairness Doctrine” which is political “double speak” for a program that holds that if an idea has broad popular support then it must not be fair to those other poor ideas. Used cleverly by a government broadcast agency it COULD be used to control the flow of ideas and public discussion, much the same way as it has been in Venezuela. “These popular ideas are getting too much air time. We need to promote these other ideas”. An example on our own shore would be conservative talk radio versus say Air America. People voted with their pocket books and selected one and deselected another. The market place of ideas. Would the President like to change that by invoking the “Fairness Doctrine” so that progressive ideas would get more air time? I suspect so, but I don’t know. But that’s just broadcast.

But there’s this other thing. This Net Neutrality thing. Now who could be against something like Neutrality? Once again, I’m skeptical. I suspect government “double speak”. What it amounts to is the government taking over and controlling the internet. Now, they will claim that it’s ONLY to insure the smooth and free flow of information and that consumers of information have nothing to fear from the FCC, but then there’s that comment that the President made about information being a distraction (a bad thing). They (the FCC) are claiming that they already have the authority to do this and need not seek approval from Congress, but don’t worry. It’s only these tiny little things we’re doing. Let me ask the question: When was the last time you heard of any government intervention remaining tiny? It isn’t the nature of the beast. It’s like bacteria in a Petri dish. Unchecked, and given a supply of money it will grow to the size of its container. So say we acquiesce to the control of internet traffic without action by Congress. What’s then to stop the agency from starting to control content? Just to control access to child pornography. Just to control access to “hate speech”. Just to control access to distracting information that doesn’t serve to empower or emancipate. What if?

Now I’m not saying that the folks running the government these days are up to no good. I’m just pointing these things out. But I will say that that I lock my doors at night. Does it mean that I think that my neighbors are thieves? Mostly no, but I don’t know ALL of them. I lock my doors to protect the things I have from those that would take them.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.

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