We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression.

At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information.

- State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, announcing at UNESCO that the US intends to commemorate World Press Freedom Day next May. The theme will be “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.”

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PeterT

    Is the irony intentional or is he actually a secret supporter of Wikileaks? If so lets see how long he remains employed.

  • Peter: he’s a spokesman – they don’t usually speak for themselves, IIUC.

  • I’m sure that he’s not being intentionally ironic or a supporter or Wikileaks. It’s just standard U.S. Government hypocrisy.

  • Laird

    This from a government whose senior officials are keen to reinstate the “fairness doctrine” so they can censor conservative opinions in the broadcast media, and to extend the jurisdiction of the FCC to include the Internet. The irony is as palpable as it is unintentional.

    I’m sure that, as far as most governments are concerned, the real theme for next year’s World Press Freedom Day should be “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, Erecting New Barriers”.

  • Wow, and I thought the Brits were the undisputed masters of hypocrisy… but clearly the American establishment is now the world leader in sheer unadulterated cant.

  • Paul Marks

    It is not just the fairness doctrine Laird – the leftist establishment (and they are the establishment – and have been for a long time) are working on many different ways of getting dissent away from most people.

    They are fairly open about it – for example the head of the FCC openly attacked freedom of speech in his recent interview with the BBC.

    Of course he did not use the words “death to freedom – long live evil!” but his meaning was plain. Certain sections of the media were not doing their duty to get people to have the correct attitudes and opinions to fit in with modern democracy (and on and on…).

    And, Perry please note, to win they do NOT have to prevent the very determined getting alternative opinions. They just have to prevent it being easy for MOST people to do so.

    Democracy (at best) is the rule of the 51% – cut off that 51% from easy access to dissenting opinions, and the left win.

    Until (of course) their victory produces its long term result – the collapse of civilization and a new Dark Age.

    It would be nice to prevent this.

  • Rich Rostrom

    One can oppose Wikileaks without opposing free speech or the free exchange of information.

    Speaking one’s own mind or publishing one’s own information is very different from publishing someone else’s information.

    However, it is blackly humorous that the U.S. would announce support for freedom of expression and publication under the aegis of an agency of the UN, which is becoming the tool of repressive regimes and cultures.

    (“Becoming”: the UN has yet to enact the Moslem demand for blasphemy laws, nor a binding global “hate crimes” code, though both are in the offing.)

  • Laird

    I know that, Paul, I was trying to keep my comment “pithy”!

  • PeterT

    “Speaking one’s own mind or publishing one’s own information is very different from publishing someone else’s information.”

    Its not that straightforward. First of all, most of the information published by Wikileaks relates to government activity. In a sense this is ‘our’ information. The politicians and officials supposedly act on our behalf so we have a right to know what they are up to. As an additional benefit it also exposes their vanity and delusions of grandeur.

    A deeper philosophical issue is whether the publication of ‘your’ information, such as bank account details etc, infringes your liberty. Clearly it can cause a great deal of nuisance. But is it an action against you as opposed to an action you just dislike?

    As is often the case when thinking about these issues, it is worthwhile asking what kind of solutions exist, in this case to the problem of keeping your private information private. The obvious one is to keep your information safe through encryption, shredding utility bills etc. This is clearly the most attractive option.

    Another option would be to ban the publishing of other peoples information without their consent. Of course, this is only a solution to the extent that the ban is enforceable. Such a ban already exists in the form of the Data Protection Act (which in my view should be abolished). Apart from being unenforcable (helpfully highlighted by numerous incidents of government officials forgetting their laptops on trains and so on) as well as an administrative nuisance for companies, it potentially has free speech implications. Even if it does not prevent the publication of information that is of interest to the public, the fear of falling foul of the law itself chills free speech. This is of course also true (probably more so) of libel laws.

    As is usually the case with government, the solution is worse than the problem it attempts to solve.

    I think a better approach is for people to protect their information themselves, rather than ask the government to protect them and punish information thieves. Furthermore, if people were aware that most of what they get up to cannot be kept secret then they may think more deeply about the rightness or wrongness of what they say and do. Not a bad thing.

  • Dom

    “First of all, most of the information published by Wikileaks relates to government activity. In a sense this is ‘our’ information.”

    The question is, do governments have the right to tell foreign agencies that can speak frankly and in private? I think they do.

    WL has revealed that some Arab governments have expressed a fear of a nuclear Iran, that the Australian Foreign Minister has expressed a fear of China, that an American ambassador determined that NK was fattening some of its people to deny charges of mass starvation, and so on. So far (and I know there is more to come), there is no illegal behavior here. Most of it is important information, and none of it would have been passed on without the understanding of secrecy. As Dalrymple pointed out, frankness in government demands secrecy, not transparency.

  • Richard Thomas

    Paul, from what I’ve seen, it seems to be about 33%. You have to take into account those who don’t care or are too busy being productive.

  • The question is, do governments have the right to tell foreign agencies that can speak frankly and in private? I think they do.

    In an ideal world, yes. But we do not live in an ideal world.

    On balance I have concluded that governments cannot be trusted to do anything covertly under any but the most extreme circumstances, such as a full blown declared war, and even then only with significant qualifications… so no, I think they do not.