Thursday, July 07, 2005

Knee jerk

In a recent Wired article, the blogging of a murdered/sex-offender was examined along with many of the replies to his later posts to his blog. Going into what he did, what he said in his posts etc is really not going to be all that fun to go into here, however several of the replies at the end are worth a comment or two…

Perhaps the most common sentiment wonders how Duncan's increasingly disturbed postings failed to draw law enforcement attention before his arrest.

"They can prosecute people for downloading music by tracing, yet no one is watching for this kind of shit on the web?" one anonymous poster wrote. "How can a registered sex offender even have a website like this. Shame on law enforcement for not monitoring him better."

"Why on earth can we not monitor things of this nature?" another visitor asked. "We have the technology to do it, but it takes the death of a child in order for someone to react. I can not believe how sick society is now a day to let something like this be published world wide."

"Why didn't anyone on this blog report this activity to authorities," another post asked. "This kind of thing is what the Patriot Act is supposed to help!?! Isn't it?"

First of all, you just have to think…do we really want the government watching and regulating everything that goes up on the net? Do they realize that www stands for World Wide Web, i.e. this stuff can actually be hosted anywhere in the world and be outside the jurisdiction of any US agency? And report him…. “Hello, is this the Department of Bad Blogs?….Yes, I’d like to report a Bad Blog. I think the author is psycho and should be arrested and the site shut down…What do you mean First Amendment Rights?…Defamation of Character, what are you talking about?….Yes I’m from WV and the blogger is in WY….What do you mean you can’t do anything because of jurisdictional issues?”

I mean let’s face it, there is a ton of B.S. out there on the web in general, and a healthy dose of B.S. in the forms of blogs. And yes, this does appear to be a case of a real bad guy actually talking about all the bad things he has actually done. If the authorities actually had to look into every piece of questionable material on the web, well then every single person of authority would spend their entire days reviewing all the crap that is out there.

There is no way to tell the real from the fake. Is a blog a real personal account of something or just a piece of creative writing? After all, for every one person like him who’s posting a blog on the net, there are about 100,000 who are just posting crap. If someone had reported him, and due to his history, someone had actually gotten a warrant and he was arrested, I’m sure any two-bit lawyer would have been able to have him freed within a few hours on the grounds that his client was just observing his First Amendment protected rights, his freedom of expression. And even if they had brought him in, last I checked in this country at least, until you actually commit or attempt to commit a crime you can’t be convicted of it.

They best they could have hoped for were to put someone on him and watch him. But for how long? A sad fact is that it costs money to have someone under surveillance 24/7 including wiretaps and computer logging. The watch may have lasted a few days or weeks, but eventually the money would run out for watching a potential criminal. And when it comes down to it, he committed the crime in a different state, so unless they set up a joint interstate operation (even more expensive) I’m afraid the chances of preventing this particular crime are remote.

Yes, this was a horrible and tragic event. If you read the blog it’s no more or less tweaked than many that are out there, but when combined with what happened, well now it becomes so ‘clear’. This guy posted a few times a month for over a year, and that would be a very long time to keep someone under surveillance.

The real question to those who made those types of comments is…how many more of your freedoms and liberties are you willing to give-up in exchange for protection from the likes of this person? Fortunately, people like this are few and far between. And what would more laws and more government intrusion into our lives get us? Don’t forget, we are talking about criminals here—they are already breaking the law so adding more restrictions does nothing but keep all the rest of us repressed so the criminals (assuming they get caught) have a few more charges brought against them.

New laws, rules, restrictions etc only affect the law-abiding citizens. Shutting down the blog would not have prevented the crime. Arresting on the basis of the blog content would not have prevented the crime. Either of those would have justified his feeling of oppression and just added fuel to the fire. Give the government permission to start shutting down blogs and website because of ‘questionable content’ and you know they will start pulling the plugs en masse. And don’t think for an instant that the government will watch ‘just the bad guys’, after all, they know how to spoof a server address just as well as the next guy, nope, and we will all be watched. You have nothing to hide you say? That might be true, but how will you feel when they are searching your house because you visited a website of someone they consider subversive?

Yes, I realize that this is a rather extreme view, but in light of what they did with the Patriot Act, a knee-jerk reaction to fear is something they are learning to take advantage of. So be careful of what you ask for, you just might get it, and it’s a very slippery slope!

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