Re: valuables

Michael Betancourt (
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 15:22:40 -0400

I can understand your fears about the internet.
I can also understand your son's fears about his own failings. It is much
easier to let someone/thing else decide for us than to take the
responsibility for deciding on our own.


It is important not to lose sight of what is at issue here.

It's a matter of access, not to the internet, but between people. The
internet is a *horizontal* mass communication device, the only one that has
ever been successfully constructed.

That means that, ideally, anyone can communicate with anyone else who is
connected to the network. Such a situation is very threatening to many
people, not just those who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo
in place -- because it proposes the potential for a judgement based on
qualities of character and temprament, rather than physical realities. It
is not possible to "tell" what kind of person is speaking except by their
words, images, web pages... we do not encounter the I qua physicality, only
the I qua geist or "spirit".

So when we begin to speak of any kind of limiting device, what we are
proposing is closing the potential for generating the necessary empathy
through understanding each other. Once we start to close this door even a
crack, it has the bad tendency to slam shut in our faces.

I can envision an unpleasant situation where such software comes
pre-installed, or even built-in to the OS, much the way Microsoft is
planning to do with their web browser. Once this happens, for most people
it will be easier to leave the software in place than to remove it from
their systems, and the internet will become a closed environment. This risk
becomes even more explicit with the "rating" system that many in power
would like to impose.

More is always at issue than just a single household's situation, and it is
never simply a matter of artistic integrity versus censorship. And that is
why we all need to be involved and strenously oppose such developments.
Once we turn our rights to controll ourselves and our own actions over to a
distant authority (which is what CyberPatrol is, afterall) we become
slaves, even if we don't recognize our chains or realize who the masters are.

Michael Betancourt