By modern standards, I’ll be discussing some old news tonight, but it’s important and a topic I want to throw in my two cents on. A little over a week ago, a Boing Boing reader discovered that the popular group blog was banned on Boston’s WiFi network (for more background on the story, Google “WiFi Banned in Boston”). It’s absurd that Boing Boing is banned, but even more absurd that the City of Boston censors content in the first place.
I understand that the internet is a vast sea of bits and bytes, with some of them combining to create socially useful, or at least entertaining, content, while others form some very strange, plain bad, or sometimes, just outright dangerous material. I also understand that a lot proportion of the users of any public internet will most likely be children and young adults (mostly due to their affinity for technology) and that parents wouldn’t want their children accessing questionable content, especially not in public places. Yet, I don’t believe it’s the job of our government to control what is and is not available on a public resource. It’s a wicked dangerous and slippery road to go down.
On the one hand, nearly everyone will agree children shouldn’t be accessing bomb-building tutorials or “adult material”, yet I hope everyone would also agree our government is not the entity to control what our children do and don’t see. If history has taught us nothing else, we should have at least learned that governments are not effective at controlling and dictating what is and isn’t morally right (hence the separation of church and state).
Bostonians love to refer to our city as the Athens of the modern world, but does this image represent a place where ideas are free to grow, education is valued and people are allowed to express themselves?
Should the same government that can’t keep the Big Dig intact or even dry, the same government that completely freaked out and threw the entire city into a paranoid frenzy over a few lights and some wires (Google “Mooninites attack”), the same government whose wireless initiative web-site looks amazingly similar to a tripod.net site I made back in 1997, be responsible for what is morally right and wrong? The City of Boston puts my life in danger every time I need to get to Storrow Drive or north of the city quickly, spreads fear among a multi-million person populace, and now wants to tell me what I can and cannot view on a public wireless network that my tax dollars pay for! Heck, at least a good ol’ fashioned book burning is cool to watch; internet censorship is just annoying.
Children are smart. We really do not give our young population enough credit, especially considering how stupid some of us adults act. Kids will figure out ways around nearly any obstacle we put in front of them; we even encourage them, drilling it into their heads that they can do anything they put their young minds to. So, why even bother wasting tax dollars on filters that children will either hack through or completely avoid by accessing the internet from somewhere else?
Politics…sometimes showing you put forth an effort is better than actually helping people.
When I went off to college in Los Angeles, I would tell people with pride that I was from Boston. I despised Los Angeles (although I loved USC) and made it known to anyone who would listen that my city was better, my city was unique and my city was a fore-runner of the freedom we all love so dearly. When I went to Chapel Hill, I admitted to the locals that they had a cool state and a very cool college town, but, Boston was better. Every time I would come home to Boston with fresh tales from my college journeying, my friends would wait eagerly for me to wrap up the stories with “but…Boston is better”.
The problem is our governments, local, state and federal, have way too much power. I still love Boston and am still proud of being born and raised here, but day by day our elected officials ruin this city and flaunt their incompetence. Episodes such as the Boing Boing censorship continue to show the inability of our government to perform the most basic of tasks and especially complicated ones such as filtering internet content. Maybe once our government addresses some real needs, like fixing our roads and improving public education, then they can think about telling us what is right and wrong, until then, please focus on what we elected you to do.
But hey, at least we got rid of the posah Red Sox fan, pseudo Govnah Mitt Romney.