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Thoughtcrime

February 15th, 2002 · No Comments · Uncategorized

In the past two years, booksellers have been increasingly subject to subpoenas to reveal customers purchases. This has been done by the D.E.A, the F.B.I and even by Kenneth Starr as he investigated Monica Lewinsky.

Now while most of these subpoenas are an attempt to get evidence to bolster a drug investigation, I find the logic scary. If I buy a book on making ecstasy, this doesn’t mean I actually make ecstasy. If I buy a book on hacking, does this mean I’m a criminal, or I’m interested in computer security? If I own a copy of the Koran, am I a terrorist now? What does the content of my bookshelf have to do with anything?

Are we, as a nation, wanting to go down this road?

Books are not criminal. Not yet. But it sure seems like that’s the way we are going. Especially when we have laws that making talking about certain things, like making a software DVD player, a crime.

Freedom entails risks, I’ll admit, but I’ll take those risks over censorship. I do not like how government and large corporations are slowly increasing and aggregating control over things like books, media and technology. It’s not being done for any other reason than a grab for profits. This conveniently gets lost in the smoke screen of fear against terrorism. “For your protection”, of course, the government has a need to make sure people aren’t buying naughty books. While everyone thinks books on making bombs are bad, what isn’t said is that soon it’s books on encryption, or alternative medicine, or research papers on music protection, or anything anyone with a large and well funded lobbying group simply doesn’t like. Censorship of any kind is a slippery slope, and I’d rather have a few nutcases running around with books on bombs (and generally blowing themselves up, since most terrorists and psychos aren’t very bright) than to have the government acting as baby sitter and cop for what are predominantly corporate interests.

Let the lessons of Enron not be lost: put people in a position of power where they can grab as much cash as they can and get away with it, no matter what the long term consequences, they will do it. The executives at Enron who butt-fucked their employees and used accountants to hide their dirty work are no different from the executives at Sony and the likes who bludgeon people of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to enforce their distribution monopolies so they can make more money. Just like Enron, the media companies lobby hard to get laws in the place which allow them to profiteer, and in the end, everyone but a few CEOs are screwed.

Is it unreasonable to expect lawmakers to actually consider the public good, versus the corporate good, when making laws?

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