Stowe Boyd reacts appropriately to Maureed Dowd's tut-tutting of the Internet in the wake of the firing of Nir Rosen. If you're a bit late to the controversy, here's the nut. Lara Logan, an American reporter, was sexually assaulted by several men shouting 'Jew! Jew! Jew!' in Cairo during the anti-government demonstrations over two weeks ago. Much has been made on the Right on how this story never garnered so much coverage as that about the Latin bimbo in the NFL locker room several months ago. I agree. It is just another Left romance with Revolution that the MSM covers shallowly without much consideration for the deep, ugly and opportunistic forces at work. Dowd wrote that Rosen said:
On Tuesday, he [Nir Rosen] merrily tweeted about the sexual assault of Logan: “Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger.”
He suggested she was trying to “outdo Anderson” Cooper (roughed up in Cairo earlier), adding that “it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.”
There is buried network of spurious arguments underneath all the comfortable hatred of incivility, here. There is an assumption that the web is supposed to be a force for good, and only good. Who says? And secondly, that those that use the web are in some way a collective entity, a global society with shared beliefs, including various democratic ideals. These unstated assertions are deeply and profoundly wrong, but taken as a given in anti-web circles.
Dead right. This is the same kind of silly optimism that began in the very early days of computer moderated communications. At the time, I was interested in anti-racist activism, and it was considered a gross violation of netiquette (remember that?) to mention race at all.
Perhaps one should consider something of the economic argument. Although it's difficult to imagine today that the Web might be expensive, at one time it was a much more scarce resource. If you weren't doing good with it, or doing something terribly scientific or brilliant, you didn't belong on the web. So there were certain notions of privilege associated with participating in 'cyberspace'.
Matters of privilege are in conflict with matters of meritocracy and the hacker ethic represents meritocracy better than the liberal ethic of creating institutions for the betterment of society. Institutions come with rules and barriers and, of course,ethics. In this case of Nir Rosen's speech, 'netiquette' has been defied as well as the very notion of what the Internet 'ought' to be used for. And it is that same liberal ethic that prompted Al Gore to suggest he was part of that force that created the 'institution' that is the Internet. But the internet by its very nature is more of a creation of merit and it defies the narrow defintions appropriate to a 'liberal institution'.
Misunderstanding of the Internet as a liberal or public institution is the mistake that both Dowd and Mubarak make. The Chinese government makes the same mistake. To consider it an instituion for a purpose assumes that it has a proper use, and is according to that proper use, subject to external reform, control or of removal. People don't use the Internet as a right or as a privlege. They use it because they *can*. Not because they are allowed to or granted some permission to. But because they can afford to and they want to. Not because they need to as a member of the public and thus require government license and sanction. Internet usage is an expression of individual will, not of collective membership or of citizenship. It has become too cheap to be constrained as if it were a scarce commodity. It has become too complex to be regulated as a commons. Dowd and Mubarak would like to express some rule of order that supercedes the meritocracy of access, and this is where they run afoul of reality. To support the firing of Nir Rosen, is tantamount to shutting down the Internet. Both are gratuitous assaults on free speech and both eminate from the totalitarian impulse that is always the temptation in controlling the ethics or the purse strings of liberal or public institutions.
The Internet itself, now draped in the jewelry of 'social media' has become a fetish. People all over the MSM, obsessed as they are with what they don't understand about computer mediated communications, keep saying that Twitter and Facebook, Twitter and Facebook are making the difference. Twitter and Facebook. But these are manifestations of what people want - they are expressions of will, quantified in dollars, eyeballs, Oscar nominations and other neat statistics that are easy to digest. At the bottom is the awesome force of people's desire to communicate freely with each other, 24/7. It is only the defense of those people's rights to free speech that matters. Everything else comes with it.