(OT) Re: Recent Development on the Use-LIst

Judy Perry jperryl at ecs.fullerton.edu
Wed Dec 14 01:09:00 CST 2005

Hey -- for once, I may finally manage to it get it right!! (the (OT)
thingy, that is).


A most thought-provoking post.  Especially for me inasmuch as I've had
increasing levels of frustration since September after being assigned to
teach a course in 'The Computer Impact on  Society' which I haven't taught
in four years (much more fun to teach Rev! and, after the
midst of 9-11.. not a good time to be teaching THAT, the impact course on

But much of what you said in your post highlights frustrations I've felt
in teaching this course.

For example (and very much related to what you relayed in your post), I
posited the following statement to my class and observed their reactions:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right
to say it" -- Voltaire's biographer, describing his view of freedom of

And, it wasn't really OT there, either, inasmuch as Sara Baase had used
the quotation as a lead-in to discussion on "Offensive Speech and
Censorship in Cyberspace" in a recent edition of her book, _A Gift of
Fire: Social, legal, and ethical issues for computers and the Internet_.

But, I remember the days (back when we all hiked 2 miles in the snow with
no shoes to school) when people _actually believed this_.  Now, it's a
joke.  People can and do laugh at the proposition. My US flag-waving
students do.

Baase especially notes that, in the US, the first amendment was indeed
written _specifically_ to protect offensive speech.  That, through
disagreement, progress does indeed sometimes have its nascence.

Another fellow, I forget his name now, but he wrote for Reason magazine
and had an article on why, while legal, it's probably not a good idea to
tell off-colour jokes in grandma's presence.  Free speech: it's a big
arena, philosophically.  A good counter-argument.

And I get your drift re: public versus private ownership of communications
venues (something that, again, I sought, in vain, to explain to this
semester's set of students).  Rights entail responsibilities.  Private
property is private property.

I screw up more than my fair share, to be certain.  But I do strive to
engage in criticism NOT of human beings but rather of ideas... And I
doubtless come across as a pompous 'know-it-all' but I support the
vigorous dialogue and argumentation that I believe advances society and
humankind.  If I am wrong, show me; don't call me names: that is the
shield of those who cannot reason.  I can and do change opinions on the
virtue of rationality, not personality or the degredation

Or, at least, I try...  And while I do fail, I do try.


On Tue, 13 Dec 2005, John Vokey wrote:

> All,
>    What a fascinating discussion, and a perfect, if ironic, example
> of why the question being debated has been resolved (in favour of one
> list) in practise.
>    For the record, I agree with Dan (which happens less often than I
> routinely think it should given I own most of his books, but I
> digress).  One feature of the discussion that has fascinated me most
> (and should have led me to put [OT] in the Subject, but again, I
> digress, and, at any rate, this subject line is by definition OT) is
> the confusion between freedoms and rights.

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