Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Columnist Hits Repression in the Digital Culture

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Columnist Hits Repression in the Digital Culture

Article excerpt

Like many Americans, I criticize the United States for its failings when at home. Also like many Americans, I turn into a semi-rabid nationalist when abroad. While our flaws are real enough, I find myself defending the good-old-USA when I hear someone from another country beating up on this one.

But when it comes to civil liberties in the emerging digital culture, I'm finding it more and more difficult to defend my nation - and plenty of others. From Singapore to Paris to Washington, governments are trying to put the brakes of censorship on a new medium that is becoming a pervasive part of our lives.

Digital repression, attempted and real, is a growth industry for politicians and bureaucrats who fear the implications of a world that's going digital. If you were a budding dictator, after all, you'd find it intolerable if you couldn't listen in on other people's conversations and track their moves, financial and otherwise.

You deplore such behavior wherever it occurs, but you expect it in places like Singapore, China and North Korea, where governments tell their citizens what's best for them and harshly enforce the mandates. It's especially disheartening to watch it take hold in Western Europe, where officials in France, Germany and England have made troubling moves to restrict people's rights to communicate freely.

We had a very close call in America several weeks ago. Just before Congress adjourned for the political conventions, it passed a so-called "anti-terrorism" bill that almost contained some genuine freedom-killers in the digital age.

Count your blessings, but don't get smug. Political jockeying between Democrats and Republicans, not any thoughtful examination of the issues, kept the anti-freedom provisions out of the final bill. Those same provisions and others - all attacking your privacy in the name of security - will be on the agenda when Congress goes back to work next month. …

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