Friday, April 13, 2012

Nomadic Roundup: Three Attempts to Silence Dissent

by Nomad
Three stories caught the endlessly roving blue eye of Nomad. The theme to this round-up is the attempts by the power-holders to silence dissent. From the silly and clumsy, to the heavy-handed and counter-productive and finally to the technical and sophisticated. 

Let's start in Arizona:
Caperton, writing for the blog Feministe, throws a spotlight on the recently drafted Arizona bill essentially outlawing the Internet. This has to be the most embarrassingly ignorant thing that politicians have come up with, this week regarding the Internet.

In Arizona (oh, always Arizona), the state legislature has passed HB 2549, which states (in part):
It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.
First of all, who decides what qualifies as “annoying” or “offensive”? Based on some of the comment sections alone, that provision could shut down half of the sites I visit regularly. Do they plan to shut down Huffington Post or Youtube?
I ask this because I have personally been offended by many of the tea-party comments there. In fact, I really should start making my list of all the annoying sites that I come across every day. Why shouldn't Rush be banned in Arizona? He is streamed on the Internet, isn't he? (It says "electronic" so you can add his satellite feeds as well, I suppose.)

That oughta put some of those donut-eating attention-hungry sheriffs in Arizona to work.
But imagine how this would work in practice:
Three men sit in a prison cell. One turns to the guy on his right and asks,"What landed you here?"
The guy says, "I murdered my mother-in-law."
Then the guy turns to his left and asks "What about you?"
"I only robbed a bank. You?"
The inmate in the center says, "I beat you both. I wrote the word "Poop" in an email to my boss."

My views on a lot of subjects might (possibly) annoy a few very sensitive souls, (or Iranian lobbyist?) though I doubt it. How were they thinking of enforcing such a law in the first place without violating anybody right to free speech? It appears the idea of free speech- and all the dreadful things that come with it like having to listen to opinions you might find offensive- is above the heads of some of the politicians there.

Chalk it up as just another attempt to shut down the Net and trust me, when it comes down to building state by state firewalls, democracy in the US is sunk. And bad American policies really do have a tendency to be taken up by other countries around the world, unfortunately.
Looks like we are going to have to demand that politicians keep their grubby fingers off the Internet before they break the dang thing!

Next we turn to an article that might easily be overlooked.
The open expression of such liberal notions, as artificial birth control, acceptance of homosexuality (adult homosexuality, I mean), or criticism of the handling of child sex abuse cases, will not be tolerated.
CUT that OUT! I mean it!
That’s what the Catholic church seems to think if the article in the Irish Central is anything to go by.

Staff writer of the Irish Central, Antoinette Kelly reports:
Father Tony Flannery, a Catholic priest who has been outspoken in his criticism of the abuse crisis in Ireland, has found himself under investigation by the Vatican for his liberal views.
Flannery’s views have apparently irked some of the Vatican officials and now they mean to silence him.
Last year, Father Flannery welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny's hard hitting criticism of the Church's decades long mishandling of the child sex abuse scandals in Ireland.
The investigation is seen by critics as a crackdown on the association, which has been described as a 'dissident group' by more conservative members of the Church....
The crackdown comes on the heels of the Vatican ordered Apostolic Visitation, which found evidence of what it called a 'certain tendency' for Irish priests to hold opinions that conflict with those of the orthodox Magisterium, the Catholic Church’s teaching authority. 

In a sign of hardening attitudes, the Visitation participants underlined that any dissent from the formal teachings of the Church were 'not the authentic path towards renewal.'

Under the current circumstances, Father Flannery has been effectively silenced, with no indication of how long it will last.

On Holy Thursday Pope Benedict issued a very direct statement which slammed those priests who refuse to conform to church teachings.
This move appears to be part of a larger attempt by the Church to take the offensive against what many have seen as a church damaged beyond repair. Restoring the public image, according to some conservative members, means silencing all criticism. 
Despite all this aggressive damage-control, a recent ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll in the US has found that:
Public confidence in the Roman Catholic Church has fallen to its worst since the child sex-abuse scandal erupted early this year, with favorable opinions of the church, approval of its response and trust in its future efforts to deal with the crisis all reaching new lows.

Seventy-six percent of all Americans and about seven in 10 Catholics, disapprove of the Church's handling of the issue of sexual abuse by priests. Among the 76 percent who disapprove, 58 percent do so "strongly," as do 51 percent of Catholics.
Its mishandling of the sex abuse of children by clergy and the subsequent cover-up that, in most cases, stretched back decades is no longer a matter of discussion in the church.  And sadly, the parisoners of the Church have very little confidence that the Pope and all his men can ever put the Humpty dumpty back together again. 
 The poll finds 54 percent of Americans, including about four in 10 Catholics, express distrust in the church's ability to handle the issue properly in the future, up 11 points since June. 
And every attempt just seems to make matters worse. Take this example:
 (A)fter the U.S. bishops' meeting in Dallas last June, just 38 percent of all Americans, and 44 percent of Catholics, thought the meeting produced meaningful improvements in church policy. 
But what did come out of that meeting? 
According to Reuters, the Catholic bishops unwisely attempted to pressure Susan G. Komen for the Cure to "disengage" from Planned Parenthood. This action created such a backlash that Komen has just barely survived as a charitable institution. (And Planned Parenthood was swamped with new donations.) 

If that doesn't illustrate to the Vatican how out-of-touch it is with its flock, then nothing will. (cue sad trombone)

Eventually the Church is going to be made up of a frail old man in a gem-encrusted frock and a phallic hat shouting orders at a few simpering Vatican officials. 
Of course, when it comes to silencing dissent, the Catholic Church has a lot more experience than the state of Arizona. 

Finally, to take this concept bit more literally, we have this entry from the world of the geek/police. 
Last month, The Raw Story had an article which detailed Japanese scientists' latest invention.
Japanese scientists with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology claimed this week that they have developed a novel new weapon by combining two specialized technologies in such a way that they are now capable of rendering someone unable to speak.
While it’s not technically a weapon, their “portable speech-jamming gun” could certainly be used as one, especially against political leaders or others who speak to large audiences for a living.
The device works by combining a microphone and speaker which sends the words back at the speaker so fast that he or she is rendered too confused to continue. 
Because the directional amplifier can only be heard by the person it is pointing at, the gun’s effect is like hearing a recording of one’s own voice echoing inside one’s skull. Researchers said their device can be used from approximately 34 meters away, but there are other directional amplification technologies that go further.
A cynic might say that since 2008, this device was obviously tested on Sarah Palin  since whenever she opened her mouth all that came out as nonsense and random words. Listening to Palin is like reading the left-overs from a speechwriter's paper shredder. 
I doubt this Japanese garble maker had anything to do with it.  Most likely Sarah's problem was self-induced. Or, As Lady Gaga would say, she was born that way.
According to one unnamed source, The Arizona bill HB 2549 was introduced by:
Ted Vogt (R) email:
Phone: 307-926-3235

Other sponsors
Chad Campbell
Karen Fann email: 926-5874
Steve Farley
David M. Gowan Sr. email: 926-3312
Terri Proud email: 926-3398
David Burnell Smith email: 926-4916
Anna Tovar email: 926-3392
Vic Williams email: 926-5839