Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was concerned tonight that ISIS has unrestricted access to the Internet for its propaganda and further, that children using the net are unprotected from exposure to much that children, in his view, should not see. We did not hear what he though should be done about this, if anything, but we have been considering it.
Mr. O”Reilly mentioned in his spiel that in the past, the public discourse was self-censored by said public; if someone used public profanity in the presence of women and children, he would be cautioned and then excluded. That was once true. But, Mr. O’Reilly said, no such mechanism exists on the Internet. Also true. We don’t know that he wants censorship, or not, we heard no more.
We do note though, that while public discourse was protected by social rules, books and private conversations were not; they were just unavailable to kids. Nothing prevents technology from erecting similar guards on the Internet, limiting children’s access to only sanitized materials. We suspect that Mr. O’Reilly is missing the point here: The Internet is not what has created the issue he addresses, rather it is a social change. Women and children in public no longer self-censor their language or topics of conversation; anything goes. That’s not a result of technology; that’s the result of people changing the rules.
This sort of thing usually raises a demand for government to step in and censor whatever communication is offending enough people. We once had the stocks and the ducking stool that way. They were ultimately abandoned because they didn’t work, they just hurt people. And they enhanced corruption when the friends and relatives of the mighty were able to avoid them; that produced scandal. Generally accepted standards, not government, are the solution for these issues. And as we can’t any longer agree on those, we have no solution until we do. That’s how human society functions.
Meantime, folk will deplore the declining standards and their corrosive effects on kids and folk will recommend government solutions that will end worse than the disease they are presented to cure. It has always been so. After all, once the government is in control, will it self-limit that to protecting kids?
In the West, Judeo-Christianity is being abandoned; elsewhere, Islam is writhing in its own contradictions with technological modernity. Civilization is melting down but the process is not new either. It usually clears the decks for whatever comes next. Some generally accepted rules of conduct are necessary for civilization; what will the next ones be? From whence will they come? A resurgence of some past, or something entirely new?
Whatever the case, the choices will be made by the children Mr. O’Reilly wishes to protect. Perhaps we’d best not overprotect them, if they are to make informed decisions …