I'm always amazed at the ease with which powerful people with narrow minded agendas manage to convince us to limit our freedom of expression. Usually this is done in the name of security; the latest trendy option is to do so in the name of political correctness. How delightful!
By now it's been all over the news (in Australia): The ABC will be taking its Chaser program off air for a couple of weeks. The reason cited is a skit on last Wednesday night's program where the Chaser team laughed at the Make a Wish Foundation. This Foundation is not as impressive as Asimov's but it does some nice things, like granting terminally ill kids' wishes.
The Chaser's crime was to laugh at them by doing a skit on the Make a Realistic Wish Foundation. In this Foundation, a sick kid asks for a Disney holiday and gets a stick in return; a funny joke in my book, but not in the books of those that complained to the ABC, and not in the book of our distinguished Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. No, according to our moral compass, the beacon of all that is just and fair (with the slight exclusion of the times he spent at strip clubs and the time he dedicates to having a go at air hostesses), this Foundation is exempt from all mockery. The ABC seems to agree, even if the punishment in bestowed on its renegade program is meaningless.
I, on the other hand, disagree. I disagree because it is obvious the minute we stop scrutinizing everything - no matter how holly - we will also stop scrutinizing other things. Like, say, politicians, those very same politicians who jump to defend their sacred foundations.
I also argue that the right to say the things on your mind, especially the right to question, is one of the few truly sacred things around, even if what you have to say is bullshit. Yes, even if you're a climate change skeptic, a fake moon landing conspirator, or a holocaust denier - even if you're much worse than this, you should be allowed to have your say. Otherwise, how will the rest of us know you're an idiot? More seriously, otherwise people like Galileo would not be able to tell us our world is not the center of the universe; otherwise, our world would be forever flat.
I also argue that the ABC, a channel owned by the public, is exactly the place where freedom of speech should be fought for the most; no commercial channel would ever dare go near controversy that could hurt its income, so it's up to the non commercials to carry the flag for all of us.
Still worked up about being exposed to bullshit on TV? Well, for a start, you can always switch your TV off. And second, the cure for dealing with bullshit is the education that teaches people how to tell bullshit from fact; let us not give up on education by introducing the morality police's censorship.
Another example of some senseless policing came from work. As I have told you in the past, my distinguished place of work has decided to block various websites from its employees. Since the initial blockage of nearly everything interesting (and useful) on the internet, a string of complaints have caused the curfew to be somewhat relaxed. On a good day one can even access Flickr (alas, the good days are a rarity). The main blockage point thus far has been the blocking of internet email facilities, the Hotmails and the Gmails and their likes, on the grounds that one can download a virus there (as if one cannot do so in a million other ways).
There were always some ways around this blockage. For example, I was always able to access web mail services from Israeli websites that speak Hebrew; obviously, those were beyond the scope of the redneck blocker's intelligence. Another way was to use iGoogle's Gmail widget, which allowed me to see if I had emails and who from even if it didn't allow me to read the emails themselves (surprisingly enough, that is all you need most of the time).
The latest development came last week when Google refined their iGoogle service. If you're yet to try it, give it a go; it's a mighty home page to have: mine features my emails, calendar, trackers for my favorite blogs, weather forecasts for all the places I care for, international clocks, Melbourne's rain radar, news headlines, and much much more.
The trick is that iGoogle's revamped Gmail widget allows you to read and even send your Gmail emails from iGoogle itself, without resorting to direct Gmail access. The implication is that despite the office blockage at the office I now have, effectively, full access to my Gmail account at the office. The weak minded beings that came up with the blockage concept have been defeated once again; no one, not even them, will dare block Google! And I doubt they'd find a way to block iGoogle alone any time soon; I doubt they'd even realize their Berlin Wall has been bypassed.
My point is simple: Don't block, and never shut people's mouths. Educate instead! It's harder, but it pays.