Re: NEWS: Virtual Immortality

Rick Knight (
Mon, 23 Jun 97 11:15:58 CST

Rick Knight commented:

I wonder if the founding fathers in declaring the right of free
speech imagined multi-national companies with huge advertising

John Clark replied:
Who cares, I don't usually listen to moral advice from slave owners.

Rick responds:

I would be intrigued to hear how you maneuver through American society
without accepting their tenets, whether they originated with slave
owners, railroad tycoons, talk show hosts using sweat labor for their
K-mart clothing lines or poorly-dressed/coiffed facist CEOs impeding
the rapid expansion of information accessibility by buying up
electronic publishing rights and advocating a GUI operating system
that's not more than an elaborate virus <G>. But I digress...

John also outlined this impossible hoop for some altruistic and savvy
person to jump through (presumably in a rhetorical vein):

"I would be all in favor of government thought control to protect the
world from dangerous or erroneous ideas, provided you can prove to me
that this new ministry of truth would have the following 4 properties:

1) A ministry of truth that can always tell truth from falsehood.

2) A ministry of truth that can always tell when little people like me
and you can not handle the truth and so must be lied to.

3) A ministry of truth staffed exclusively by saints so it always has
the moral courage to do the right thing and would never abuse its
awesome power.

4) A ministry of truth that can magically enforce its edicts on
incorrect speech even in a world that contains strong encryption,
anonymous re-mailers, DC nets and a Internet that spans the globe.

Rick responds:

Awful lot of pre-screening to assemble that group. So, 100% accuracy
and assurance are necessary to invoke common sense legislation. Well,
extroplate further, why stop evolution from impediment by ethical
considerations at all? Of course, you'd have to put any humane
considerations aside when you began mass extermination of those who
aren't smart enough, willing enough or quick enough. We could work
out the kinks as we go along though and save the questionably stupid
persons for last. <G>

I would concur with your consideration that it is a character flaw on
your part to speak erroneously and without compassion in such an
absolutist fashion about free speech. It's one of my big gripes about
the practice of libertarianism. Taken to its extreme, there is just
efficiency and no feeling. Don't go there.

But I do like the fact that you know your history about the cliche of
yelling "fire" in a crowded theater (particularly providing the
lifespan of Mr. Holmes, relevant in that it gave me the context of a
seemingly intelligent man, myopically held back by the times in which
he lived). In that context (see intriguing background in next
paragraph), it has a poignancy that would make one want to ongoingly
kick themselves in the ass. Standing on it's own, it's still a dumb
thing to do it and a hazard to fellow citizens who would be likely to
reflexively respond for the sake of survival. And I maintain that
free speech is not giving a multi-billion dollar liquor industry carte
blanche to advertise as they please. Sorry, but I choose to devote
some measure of my effort to protecting the innocent AND the stupid,
whether it is regarded as wasted energy or not.

Intriguing background trivia:

That cliche (yelling "fire" in a crowded theater) originally came from
the American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), he used it in
one of his decisions that upheld the conviction of a man imprisoned
for saying America should not be in the First World War. Years later
Holmes said it was the worst decision he made in his entire legal
career and he cringed whenever he heard somebody quoting his famous

I'm a little bit fiesty because of a nasty commute this morning so
pardon the peppered and sardonic nature of this response. I believe
John that you are likely a very intelligent person from the few posts
of yours I've read. I'll continue to note signs of compassion however
practically applied.