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Showdown With The Pinkertons

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the Brave-New-World-21st-century-edition dept.

United States 586

Thursday, I flew to Charlotte to ask executives of the Pinkerton Special Services Group to scrap or modify WAVE America, a "school safety" Web site that encourages schoolkids to anonymously turn in classmates they consider dangerous. We brawled politely for hours over chicken salad, iced tea and fries about school safety, oddball profiling, privacy and reality. Although righteously armed with some amazing and eloquent e-mailed screeds, reports, quotes, studies and pleas from Slashdotters, my expectations were low. I returned with a penetrating glimpse into the corporatist soul. (Read more).

Dawn, Jim, Shannon and I sat down around a conference table in a tightly-secured office building south of downtown Charlotte, N.C. on a brilliant spring day. From the window, we could see the hills of South Carolina in one direction, the towers of downtown in the other. A collection of Pinkerton baseball caps filled a wooden shelf.

If anybody had told me that I would be munching chicken salad sandwiches and fries with executives from the Pinkerton Corporation, the largest security concern on the planet, arguing about kids, violence, oddball profiling and the Net, I would have refused to believe it. But that's the Net for you. Jim was a Pinkerton senior veep, Dawn and Shannon, the Web developer and site architect, respectively.

Jim was courteous, but clearly exasperated.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a highly critical column here about a WAVE (Working Against Violence Everywhere) America Web site developed by the Pinkerton Services Group under contract to the state of North Carolina and soon to go national. It offered an anonymous toll-free number, so schoolkids could turn in classmates they believed were acting strangely or dangerously. After the column appeared, Jim revealed, WAVE America received more than 70,000 e-mails and a few mail bombs, and repelled a number of assaults on their system firewalls. Jim had clearly never heard of Slashdot before all this, and he was still struggling to figure out exactly what it was or why he had to pay attention to it. This Net furor had clearly put a bit of a cloud over Pinkerton's ambitious plan to peddle WAVE America all over the United States in response to the post-Columbine school-violence hysteria. My guess was that this meeting was Dawn and Shannon's idea.

I'd flown to Charlotte, against what I knew were hopeless odds, to persuade Pinkerton to trash WAVE America . We argued for more than three hours behind closed doors. Clearly, the flap over the Web site was something Pinkerton wanted resolved if possible. Jim said the company hoped to set up anonymous toll-free "safety" and anti-violence hotlines across the country to relieve unnerved and overburdened school districts of the responsibility of monitoring students who might be disturbed or dangerous.

Although I write often about corporatism and its unhappy impact on free speech and culture, I had rarely penetrated so deep into the belly of the beast, nor felt so affirmed and unnerved by what I saw there. These were perfectly nice people I was meeting with, and they were unwaveringly embarked on what I believe is an awful course. Corporatism doesn't allow for moral notions like right or wrong, however. Corporatism (which is not the same thing as capitalism or corporations) has one ideology: successful, profitable marketing. Corporatism doesn't like controversy, because it, potentially at least, can scare off or offend potential customers. That's why I was there. I would be reminded of this 20 times over the next few hours. Ethical arguments, like peas off an M-1 tank, failed to penetrate.

It's hard to imagine going into any confrontation better prepared. I felt righteously equipped with the usual brilliant assortment of eclectic e-mail, screeds, quotes, citations, studies, suggestions and encouragements from Slashdotters. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice had sent me some stats -- school homicides declined 40% in a single year, from l998 to l999. Students have a one-in-two-million chance of being killed in school, even though the public thinks it's likely to happen.

Computer engineer Chris Burke of the University of Michigan sent me a wonderful set of applied criterion measuring the probability that children considered dangerous actually will be. Chris's criteria are too complex to detail here, but he concluded that the probability that someone who meets the criterian actually is potentially dangerous turns out to be surprisingly low. "If we assume that the number of dangerous students is 1/25000 -- which is ridiculously high, but for the sake of argument I'll use it ... then only 6.7 per cent will be dangerous. Which means that 92.3% of the time you will be harassing innocent people." Reading this aloud to the Pinkerton people was one of the highlights of my life.

Meredith Dixon and many others e-mailed me about Todd Strasser's eerily prescient novel, The Wave, (which became a movie), about a junior high school teacher who uses anonymous reporting techniques reminiscent of the Hitler Youth to demonstrate how easily independent thought and moral conscience can be subordinated to an evil system. The book, published in 1981 and still available (Laurel Leaf Library: ISBN: 0440993717), was based on an actual incident in Palo Alto in l969. The Pinkerton folks were not happy to hear of this antecedent name for their cheeful, up-with-America, let's-promote-some-respect Web site. Nor were they impresed by my repeated arguments that every repressive political system in the 20th century -- Nazism, Communism, Fascism, Apartheid -- featured anonymous reporting -- especially by children -- as a cornerstone tool in their efforts to subjugate dissidents. The idea that this might not be the way to teach citizenship in a democratic society didn't seem to make much of an impression.

Joey Maier e-mailed me this quote from former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." If anything captured the spirit of WAVE America, that was it.

A Slashdot editor and writer urged me to ask Pinkerton what remedies students and parents would have against false accusations. (The answer: None. Pinkerton doesn't make accusations, they just pass along information. That wasn't the company's problem, the execs said. Nor were any misuses of anonymously reported information by the schools that received it).

I also brought this message: "When I was a teenager, I didn't want people to listen to me because they might be afraid of what I might do," chromatic wrote on Threads. "I wanted people to listen to me because they cared about me and could identify with the way I was feeling and the thoughts I was thinking. Don't alienate young people even further in the guise of helping them. Please."

Even as I was searching for one of my favorite Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quotes, Jamie McCarthy e-mailed it to me: It's from The Gulag Archipelago, his epic story of Stalin's concentration camps: "... In every village there were people who in one way or another had personally gotten in the way of the local activists. This was the perfect time to settle accounts with them of jealousy, envy, insult. A new word was needed for all these new victims as a class -- and it was born. By this time it had no 'social' or 'economic' content whatsoever, but it had a marvelous sound: podkulachnik -- 'a person aiding the kulaks.' In other words, I consider you an accomplice of the enemy. And that finishes you!'"

I confess to being buoyed by these smart, eloquent messages and citations, which I read and re-read on the flight to North Carolina. I was especially happy to be writing for a site where so many people -- hundreds -- could send such messages, and had such passionate perspective on what freedom really means, in a culture where it's constantly trampled and manipulated for profit, ratings, political gain or cultural power. Somewhere deep in my consciousness was the naive (or just plain dumb, maybe) belief that the Pinkerton execs would hear these messages, experience an epiphany and abandon WAVE America on the spot.

What emerged instead was as strange a cultural stand-off as one might imagine, a mix of the fascinating -- it was amazing to have a face-to-face confrontation with executives of the storied Pinkerton company (the writer Dashiell Hammett was a Pinkerton man, and the company had a bloody history of strike-breaking around the turn of the century) yet it was innately futile, and we all soon knew it. Over the sandwiches and iced tea, which hardly any of us touched, we each epitomized our distinctly opposite sides of a cultural chasm. Shannon and Dawn (given the volume of hostile e-mail Pinkerton was getting, I've decided not to use their full names) let Jim do the policy talking.

If there was any comfort to be drawn from the encounter, I suspect it would have to be from the fact that it was taking place. Voices on the Net had reached deep into a company that wasn't exactly famous for being interactive. That was something new.

These were pleasant, articulate, reasonable sounding -- and profoundly intractable -- people. We weren't speaking from the same sensibility or history or even using the same language. We butted heads all afternoon, but it was an odd argument in that scrapping WAVE America was never really on the table, and it was clear the company wasn't particularly interested in refuting any of my arguments, or those of the people who had e-mailed me theirs. I wouldn't swear that they disagreed. It simply didn't matter. The point was, there was a market for school-safety programs like this, and if Pinkerton didn't pursue them, somebody else would. The corporatist ethic doesn't allow for relinquihing potentially lucrative markets to competitors, any more than it does for conventional notions of right or wrong. In that sense, the meeting was exhausting and, probably, largely pointless. If there was leverage, it was in the fact that Pinkerton clearly wanted to go forward with its program in the least controversial way -- another corporatist hallmark.

I argued that WAVE America was simply wrong. That it was neither necessary, since the amount of school violence had been insanely exaggerated, nor effective -- kids could hardly be expected to accurately gauge the emotional or mental states of their classmates. I also argued that it was dangerous, that anonymous reporting was one of the primary tools of every evil political system in modern times. I reminded them that some of the smartest, most interesting and ultimately successful kids often experienced extreme and systematic harassment and brutality for being different, alienated or otherwise non-normal. That if educators, politicians or private corporations like Pinkerton really cared about school safety, they would do something to protect these outcasts.

The experience, in many respects, resembled talking to an affable stone wall. I did encounter more flexibility than I expected. Yes, my hosts acknowledged, they knew that school violence was dropping sharply (more about this later), but so what? It was still a problem, politicians like those in North Carolina were demanding some action, and so were parents, journalists and educators. Schools didn't have the resources or security skills to police themselves. Somebody had to respond, and Pinkerton was in the "secure environment" business, so why not step up to the plate?

Jim told me something I hadn't quite grasped: the anonymous reporting culture is a growing business, now deeply entrenched in the United States, a result of the victimization movement and lawsuit epidemic rampant for nearly a generation. Encouraged by federal and local governments, and many corporate and educational institutions, hotlines operate all over the country to report date rape, sexual harassment, abuse, and other forms of brutality and insensitivity. Since so many institutions in the United States are now presumed to be unresponsive to the needs of one group or another, privately-administered anonymous reporting hotlines are spreading. Pinkerton itself runs more than 800 such lines. It was inevitable, said Jim, that they would move into schools, and that Pinkerton would extend its security expertise and set them up. I found this amazing, which made Jim shake his head and shrug. I was transfixed by the idea of a democratic country whose response to social problems was to create an entire new tradition of informing. It had been happening for some time, he told me.

Yes, my hosts further acknowledged, they were aware that anonymous reporting was a staple ingredient of some of the world's most repressive regimes. Until the Wave America flap, however, Pinkerton had received no complaints about its hotlines. Privacy and security are the company's cornerstone marketing values, Jim insisted, and it's very careful about screening and disseminating the information it receives. Pinkerton's credibility depends on it.

Basically, the Pinkerton people spouted the now-familiar rationale for behavior like this: "Hey, don't blame us. A North Carolina Task Force came up with this, got the governor's blessing, and somebody is going to run it.Why not us? We know how, and if we don't do it, somebody else will."

Fine, I countered, but what about the schools that receive these forwarded anonymous tips. What about their privacy rules? Their security? Do these reports stay in files forever, or go into computerized law enforcement agency files? Are they destroyed after a given time, especially if they prove false or unfounded? Couldn't a kid be wrongly -- and anonymously -- on file, never know it, yet find this information in government or corporate files years later? Here, the Pinkerton people just shrugged. That was the school's problem. But, I persisted, didn't they just say that schools didn't have the resources to run such programs, which is why Pinkerton was involved in the first place? More shrugs.

Reports will be carefully screened and analyzed by professionals, I was assured.Only the most serious calls, involving serious violence -- rape, assault, possible crimes with guns -- were forwarded to school officials; the rest were not passed along at all. What happened to the not-passed-along reports? Nothing; they stay within Pinkerton's secure walls. For how long? Nobody knew.

Pinkerton was unhappy with some of the media portrayal of some of WAVE America's more controversial features.

Initially, the press reported (and I passed along) that kids were being offered cash and other gifts as incentives to turn in their angry, depressed or trouble classmates. But although the site clearly did offer gifts -- a computer, CD's -- the Pinkerton execs denied that they had or would offer cash or other goodies as a direct incentive for reporting their peers.

Things get a bit murky here, as the site has been hurriedly altered and re-designed in the past week or so. Under "Fun Stuff," the web site now has a message that simply says: "Coming Soon." Clearly, gifts will be used as incentives to draw kids onto the site, and reward them for participating, even if kids can get them without reporting anyone. But Pinkerton explained, there may be marketing tie-ins with companies promoting school safety in the future. Let's see: no direct reward for turning in a classmate, but gifts and prizes encouraging kids to use a site that offers anonymous reporting. A fine line.

The execs seized somewhat obsessively on this point as an example of how the program's goals -- to promote respect and school safety, and to provide a last-resort outlet for reporting of serious crimes in a country where schools are overwhelmed, underfunded and rattled by recurring media and political hysterias -- had been distorted by people like me.

"We understand that you disagree with the program," Jim said, "but we expect you to be responsible and accurate." Fair enough. But I pointed out repeatedly that the goodie give-aways were incidental, never the main issue.

The central question, I argued, was that the Net culture included, even embraced, kids who are brainy, individualistic, sometimes-alienated and rebellious, and often outside the norm in their values, attitudes and behavior. These kids suffer enormously at the hands of hostile peers, unknowing teachers, clueless parents, journalists and politicians. It's hard to imagine how WAVE America would benefit them in any way, but simple to foresee how it might still provide another forum in which they'd be branded -- anonymously, no less -- dangerous.

Pinkerton conceded that the "symptoms" of dangerous behavior its site had listed earlier were too vague. These initial "early signs of violence" included: Suddenly has bad grades or little interest in school; Expresses uncontrolled anger; Has excessive feelings of isolation and/or rejection; Is easily angered by minor things. Dawn and Shannon showed me their new, improved criteria, still under consideration and design and not yet up on the Web site. These new "warning signs," says Pinkerton, were provided by the American Psychological Association.

"If you see these immediate warning signs," WAVE America will announce, "violence is a serious possibility":

  • loss of temper on a daily basis
  • frequent physical fighting
  • significant vandalism or property damage
  • increase in use of drugs or alchohol
  • increasing risk-taking behavior
  • detailed plans to commit acts of violence.
  • announcing threats or plans for hurting others
  • enjoying hurting animals
  • carrying a weapon

My response was that these symptoms were still awfully vague, and in any case that school kids weren't psychologists and shouldn't be asked to evaulate their peers emotional lives, or to try and differentiate between transitional depression or alienation and being potentially violent. What kind of risk-taking behavior? Agressive skateboarding? I still didn't understand why these weren't school or parental problems, rather than Pinkerton ones, or why the monitoring of emotional disturbance was being handed off to children. I still believed it was offensive and disturbing to put schoolkids in the position of anonymously turning in their classmates, enemies, and friends to an anonymous hotline run by a profit-making corporation with a vested interest -- and a classic conflict-of-interest -- in promoting the notion that schools were dangerous. This didn't promote safety, it subverted responsibility and democracy.

Besides, I added, many knowledgeable Constitutional scholars believe that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn police or other administrative actions based solely on anonymous reporting of crimes or potential crimes without supporting evidence. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court overturned the arrest of a Florida man who was searched because of an anonymous tip and found to have a gun. This, the court said, violated Fourth Amendment strictures against unreasonable search and seizure; the police needed evidence beyond an anonymous report. Though kids are stripped of Constitutional rights in most American schools, it's hard to believe courts will ultimately uphold educational or police actions taken on the basis of anonymous calls. If they do, though, Pinkerton and its Web site will have succeeded in undermining a fundamental freedom.

The Pinkerton people did say they'd consider refining their "symptoms" still further. And they made the inevitable co-opting gesture: Would I be interested in working with Pinkertons on WAVE America, or in writing for the site? Would Rob Malda perhaps like to contribute something? I said "No" on my behalf, and giggled a bit at the idea of Cmdr Taco or his partner in crime, Hemos, as columnists for WAVE America. But if the site were going forward, I suggested, Pinkerton could at least set-up an e-mail account to receive and consider feedback from people involved in the issue. It might even consider assembling some sort of advisory panel to help safeguard the interests of the kids it affects.

I found WAVE America too exploitive, offensive and disturbing to participate in, but others can make their own decisions.

Still, I left the meeting discouraged by the spectre of a country where the emotional welfare of schoolkids, and the potential violence that emotionally disturbed kids might wreak, seem to have been turned over to profit-making security corporations rather than to teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, and parents. The Task Force in North Carolina that came up with this dunderheaded response to a complex social problem is the first candidate that should be reported on that hotline.

Last Sunday, nearly a year after the Columbine massacre, the New York Times finally got around to publishing an exhaustive look at "Rampage Killers." The paper profiled 102 killers in 100 rampage attacks in a computer-assisted study looking back more than 50 years and including the shootings at Littleton in l999. Four hundred and twenty-five people were killed and 510 people were injured in the attacks. The newspaper found -- and convincingly detailed -- what should have been obvious from the first. The most common thread in these horrific sprees isn't media, technology or culture, but mental illness: at least half of the killers shown signs of seriousl mental health problems. Also this week, the National Association of Attorneys General reported that the most important factor in preventing youth violence was a "stable, loving home." The group also reported numerous instances of bullying and harassment of schoolkids all across America because students wore unusual clothing or were taller, shorter or heavier than other kids. This rare outburst of sanity was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. But since unstable and unloving parents have now been identified as a child safety issue, perhaps we need a new anonymous hotline so that kids can turn in their unstable or unloving moms and dads -- or their neighbor's mom and dad -- along with the angry classmate in the next row. It would seem to follow. And it would seem inevitable.

The Times' series is detailed and impressive. But it comes after years of hysterical media reporting linking violence among the young to pop culture and new media technologies -- TV, movies, computer gaming, the Net. More than 80% of all Americans, reported the Washington Post last year, believed the Internet was at least partly responsible for the killings at Columbine. The very idea that programs like WAVE America will alter this horrific reality is itself a mental health problem.

Was the trip worth it? I don't honestly know. I appreciated the Pinkerton people meeting with me, though it didn't cost them anything, other than a few hours and some sandwiches. (Slashdot paid my traveling expenses.) I made some points directly to the people who needed to hear it. They are well aware that thousands of people are watching them; that's a strong stimulus to behave. They're tightening up vague criteria and dropping the idea of of rewarding tipsters with cash, gifts or caps. They seemed to understand that abuse of the different is a safety issue, along with guns and assaults.

But the meeting also reinforced my growing belief that corporations like Pinkerton are inherently amoral. I'm sure their workers are kind to their spouses, pets and kids. But the Pinkerton people don't see morality as their concern, which, in a sane society, might be one reason not to turn issues like school safety and violence among the young over to private corporations. Theirs is a simple equation, a statement right from the contemporary corporatist heart: they perceive a profitable opportunity in the security market, one created not by them but by irresponsible journalists, lazy educators and exploitive politicians. Someone will fill it. Might as well be them.


Sunday, I received this e-mail from the head of Pinkerton's WAVE America Web Development team:

"Jon,

It was very nice to meet you in person the other day. From that meeting we have made several changes to the WAVE website. The changes include clarifying that there are no prizes, cash, or other rewards for submitting a report via the website or phone. We also made clear that only reports which contain safety concerns should be submitted to WAVE. Our privacy policy, while not yet in it's final form, is much more complete now than the last time you saw it.

While here, you also suggested we get some input from the readers of slashdot to help us with the WAVE project. If you would be so kind, please include the email address [suggestions@waveamerica.com] in your article. We hope the WAVE website will be used not only as a tool to aid in preventing school violence, but also as an educational hub where students, teachers and parents can go to collaborate. Any suggestions or constructive criticism about how to make the website better would be greatly appreciated.

The WAVE website is now, and probably always will be, a work in progress. We hope that with the help and suggestions of you and your readers, we will be able to build a website that will empower the students and give them a voice.

I know that you didn't agree with everything about the WAVE project, but hopefully when you left here, you were able to see that this isn't a "big brother" program, but rather an educational program that hopes to prevent school violence by teaching Resolve, Respect, and Responsibility."

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Make it unprofitable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135254)

The key element I got from Jon's /LONG/ article is that Pinkerton's sees a market void that they should fill. This is reasonable in a corporate environment. The reasonable strategy to deflect their actions is to prove that the opportunity does not show potential for profitability.

It seems to me that a system like this may have a weakness in scalability. I'm assuming that they will have people (not scripts) filter incoming messages to determine appropriate actions. Submitting large volumes of random messages to the snitch line could hamper their ability to be profitable.

Any other ideas?

Unfortunately, I think Pinkerton's is likely to play the PR game well. All it will take is for them to find one example where they may have saved a life, and they can tout that as validation for their service. Any ideas for deflecting this?

Still need anonymous reporting of crimes, BUT..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135255)

From the article:

Jim told me something I hadn't quite grasped: the anonymous reporting culture is a growing business, now deeply entrenched in the United States, a result of the victimization movement and lawsuit epidemic rampant for nearly a generation.

What I don't get is this: Why nas anonymous reporting become a business? There have always been sources to anonymously report things: the Police for one thing. The police are supposed to investigate anonymous reports to see if they warrent action. Or, to assure anonymity to the person that reports it.

Now I don't mean that the case of the Florida arrest was justified. I said to INVESTIGATE. The case was overturned because the search and seizure was unreasonable, not because it was based on an anonymous tip. It was "based solely on anonymous reporting of crimes or potential crimes without supporting evidence." The police in this case should have investigated if the case was even necessary to follow up on, to get other supporting evidence, before searching and arresting the man.

The Columbine incident was the complete opposite. Remember that there was already a police complaint on these guys. This wasn't even an anonymous tip. Another student and his parent already reported to the police that Klebold and Harris may be unstable. The police in this case did not even bother to investigate, and lost a chance to stop a massacre. If the police had done their jobs and did their jobs, they would have found Harris and Klebold illegally exploding homemade explosives, illegally buying firearms, etc. All of which would fall under supporting evidence and be sufficient to lock them up.

What is needed is not more phone numbers for anonymous reporting. What is needed is for the current system to work. People need to be encouraged to use the existing emergency hotlines and resources to report possible crimes. People shouldn't be profiled by amateurs, but neither should possible crimes go unchecked.

Re:This still stinks. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135259)

Yeah, I just turned JonKatz in for being a dangerous and slightly creepy bag of hot, noxious gasses.

Props to the Slashdotters... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135260)

It's hard to imagine going into any confrontation better prepared. I felt righteously equipped with the usual brilliant assortment of eclectic e-mail, screeds, quotes, citations, studies, suggestions and encouragements from Slashdotters.

Sorry, I just had to post this again. John just earned a whole new respect from me...

WAVE is an easy hack (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135265)

Simply report to WAVE that all of the popular kids and bullys are disturbed. Cite every behaviour imaginable and eventually WAVE will have a low signal to noise ratio.

NYTimes report is inaccessible... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135266)

The report in the NYTimes that was mentioned at:

http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/040900ramp age-killers.html"

is inaccessible without a fee. It now costs $2.50 to access, apparently it just expired from the free 1-week archives. Perhaps Slashdot could contact NYT and arrange to have this story made available again for free?

Good Job! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135267)

After the column appeared, Jim revealed, WAVE America received more than 70,000 e-mails and a few mail bombs, and repelled a number of assaults on their system firewalls.
Keep up the good work, slashdotters! :)

This is really disturbing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135268)

Their indifference to the negative (possibly permanent) results of their information gathering bothers me greatly. There's no idea or expression of responsibility by Pinkerton's staff. If there's a buck to be made, they should make it. If there's a mistake - hey, it's not their problem. That's _very_ disturbing.

Your stuff for sale (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135270)

As "Database Nation" becomes reality, and everything (true and false) about a person becomes a commodity, it occurs to me that someone should begin actively creating a way to systematically erase that same data. Anyone possessing that skill would be wealthy indeed as he would be able to grant freedom at his whim (that is, for the right amount of cash). Is it just me, or is captilism somehow becoming the highest form of oppression? Doh!

Re:What we need is an organized campaign... right (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135272)

Blue Ribbon was a joke. All those people proudly displaying their blue ribbons. The CDA was doomed to fail. What people missed in that same bill was the deregulation of the telcos. While you waved your stupid blue ribbon protesting the possible loss of nekkid pics, WorldCom began buying up every competitor in site and the RBOC's began reviving AT&T. Where is competitive local dialtone for individuals (as opposed only for businesses)? Where are the lower monthly bills? What happened to the transit/peering agreements UUNet used to have with smaller providers now available only to "Tier 1" providers? The CDA died in the Supreme Court which had nothing to do with that dumbass blue ribbon campaign. Why don't you go do a protest mime in front of Pinkertons or something equally stupid?

Depressing, yet encouraging... (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135282)

BTW- This has to be the absolute best Jon Katz piece I've seen here on /. I'm mildly depressed after reading the way Pinkerton execs basically washed their hands of any responsibility for the effects of their program, however I am encouraged by a couple of points: 1) They took the time to arrange and host a meeting with someone who is not increasing their bottom line. 2) They listened at the meeting and went so far as to detail their privacy policy and (supposedly) eliminate rewards for informants.

Gifts for the annonymous? (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135286)

How can ou get gifts if you are annonymous?

...richie

Re:One answer is to sep. the State from education (1)

undo (3635) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135288)

This is kind of like the voucher plan, which is a great idea. What a lot of net libertians need to realize is tat in a lot of way the way right folks have some good ideas.....
Vouchers are a good idea because it means people can START THEIR OWN SCHOOLS, and use gov't $$ via vouchers to pay for them....

UserFriendly (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135307)

Today's strip [userfriendly.org] makes everyone here guilty. Please turn yourself in now. :(

I agree... (1)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135308)


I also feel it still stinks. And I agree that it's a venue tailor made for abuse. I couldn't personally co-operate with a program like this, but didn't feel I could/should make that decision for anybody else. It's hard not to think about a program like this..and the fact that taxpayers are paying for it..and not be discouraged.

Anonymous Cowards vs. Anonymous Reporting (1)

ansible (9585) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135313)

So anonymous reporting, when it's being used to snitch on "dangerous kids" is bad? But having Anonymous Cowards is considered an important part of Slashdot.

AC's here are anonymous because they're spewing crap, or because that have important information to disclose, but don't want to reveal themselves. Oftentimes, these ACs give us insight into corporations that are undertaking questionable practices.

So when is it OK to be anonymous? Is it OK to snitch on corporations when they're being bad, but not on people?

Or is it that Pinkerton's making money off the anonymous reporting scheme that bothers people?

I'm not trying to defend Pinkerton (I think their WAVE program will be next to useless), but I do want to know where the line is.

Permanent dossiers (1)

Thagg (9904) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135316)

To me, the biggest concern here is about the permanent record that these anonymous reports will create. Perhaps it is the conspiracy theorist in me, but I believe that Pinkerton (and their partners-in-slime, Wackenhut) would like nothing better than to compile dossiers on everybody; and these hotlines are just one of many funnels leading into this database.

I know that no laws will prevent this; and that Pinkerton will find other avenues to get similar information -- but I feel that reminding people that this is going on can never hurt.

thad

Yes, we knew what YOU would say.... (1)

mjackso1 (14092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135328)

That much could be inferred from your past writings. I'm a bit more curious about their
positions, though. In this article, there's about a 2-1 ratio of "I told them this" to "they responded with that". If you're gonna report, bring back the story, not the ideas you left with. Otherwise, all you have is a strawman that paid for sammiches.

I think anonymous reporting is potentially dangerous, but there's definitely a need for it. In many cases, potential victims have a real and justified fear of retribution. Besides, there's no functional difference between this and ratting out that goth kid in gym to the principal, except that someone is making a buck off of it. The principal isn't going to say, "well, so and so told us you were going to blow up the school". He'll say "We've heard some things that concern us."

Caller ID (1)

Citrix (14447) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135329)

ummmm, is my anonymous call still anonymous if WAVE has caller ID?
Citrix

Big Brother (1)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135336)


I'm certain that disclaiming themselves as Big Brother helps employees sleep at night, but it doesn't change reality.

No one wakes up in the morning deciding to become Big Brother, they don't set out to do evil. Evil is achieved only through consistent application of indifference and misguided idealism. ("The world would be better without _____")

Justifying immoral activity by saying that "someone" would do it anyway is the ultimate cop-out. You aren't even willing to defend it, only stating that others are even less moral than yourself. ("Well, someone will turn in these Jews, it might as well be me.")

Reminds me of Battlefield Earth (soon to be a bad new movie) -- Earth was owned by aliens who had conquered it, and the bank was going to sell Humanity into slavery when they reposessed it. Over and over they would say, "It's just business, humans. Sorry. Nothing personal, just business."

Don't worry, it's just business here at Pinkerton. Gotta satisy the market. If we don't someone else will, so it may as well be us. Nothing personal, hope we don't ruin your kid's life, but if we do, sorry, nothing personal. Just business...

Thanks Jon, at least you tried. (1)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135344)

I didn't expect Pinkerton's to change their opinion much, even though I hoped they would. But I still commend Slashdot for sending you, and Pinkertons for at least listening. As an alternative to what Pinkertons, however, I have opened an email hotline of my own (even prior to the website's deployment) which I want to offer to the Slashdot community and the world at large:
A few notes /caveats, etc. however:
  • I set this up from work (where I don't have access to outside Pop3 accounts yet, so I haven't had time to test it out yet. My guess is that by the time I get home tonight, there will be a few messages in the box, so I can report tomorrow whether or not it worked, and make changes.
  • The hotline isn't for reporting, it's for "listening" to folks that are hurting inside [my primary email listed on /. isn't "listener" for nothing].
  • I may not answer every email, but I will at least try, and where there are alot of similar questions, I will respond on the CityOfDreams Website over time.
  • All responses will be kept anonymous
  • Spams, flames, and trolls will be summarily blocked, ignored, etc. So don't even bother.

Hopefully my little bit helps to make the world a better place.

The scariest part of all: (1)

KFury (19522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135352)

Pinkerton: "We hope the WAVE website will be used not only as a tool to aid in preventing school violence, but also as an educational hub where students, teachers and parents can go to collaborate."

Here's a site all about turning in potential malcontents. What kind of 'collaboration' can they possibly be hoping for, outside of McCarthyism? Make it a class project to see which member is the most likely threat, and report them?

Kevin Fox

Re:You were talking to the wrong people, Jon (1)

Zoinks (20480) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135358)

I agree Jon was talking with the wrong people if he expects WAVE to stop. But every time Pinkerton said "someone else will (fill the gap)", I thought, then Jon or some other spokesperson should bang on their door.

Talking to the customers is the right thing too, but there the argument needs to be taken to every potential customer, in a negative marketing effort.

I don't know - perhaps a billboard campaign that doesn't mention Pinkerton, but is lots more specific than "love your child" messages.

My four-year-old son has this to look forward to? He's already bigger and taller than everyone else his age, and he's smart, too. He also likes to "play rough." Jeeze, he fits the profile already.

Re:An excellent, if frightening, article by Mr. Ka (1)

JoeWalsh (32530) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135384)

The liberal media won't print it, you won't see it on TV,

You're right that newspapers and TV stations are unlikely to pick this side of the story up, but it's not because they're "liberal." It's because they're huge corporations. In Katz-speak, they're corporatists. Their interests lie in making sure we all view our public educational system as horrifying, dangerous, incompetent, and, above all, hopeless. It sells papers, it keeps viewers glued to their sets, and it gives corporations more openings into our kids' lives.

Or haven't you noticed the increasing role corporations are playing on campus these days? The high school I attended in the late eighties was free of corporate slogans and logos. Now, though, the cafeteria serves Taco Bell burritos, Pizza Hut pizza, and McDonald's hamburgers instead of the home-made ones they used to serve. And the grammar school I used to attend now gets the commercial-laden "educational" cable feed. And kids get their pack of Target school supplies at the beginning of each year.

What's so wrong with that? It ties us down to corporations. One of the big reasons I use free software is that I don't want to be beholden to yet another corporation. Our public schools also shouldn't be tied to corporations. We should be doing these things for ourselves, with our own tax dollars, instead of by selling our kid's eyeballs to corporations.

Oh, and if you're wondering why media outlets would care about all of the above - it's because the people who run those corporations tend to be very wealthy, and tend to have holdings in many, many other corporations - including places like Pinkerton and the company who makes 'Hooked on Phonics' (another corporate product that benefits from the 'public schools are hopeless' mentality being fostered among the citizenry).

Anyone have any ideas how we can get more exposure?

I have no idea how to approach TV stations, etc. about carrying this stuff. But I do know that it is effective to keep talking about it with friends and family. That's how things really change - one person at a time.

Great Article.. Now what next...? (1)

starvo (33598) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135388)

Great article Jon.. I'm hasppy that you did take the time to travel to the "belly Of the beast" to talk to them.. Although I am sorry that the Pinketon folks proved tru to corporate sterotypes... And Thanks to Slashdot for funding your trip, an honorable task indeed.

So for those of us like myself who thin kall of this WAVE stuff is just pointless/stupid.. what next? So we write to the goverment of North Carolina, and tell them we dont want our tax dollars wasted on this?

Boycott Pinkerton? Create an alternative website, disseminate more accurate information? Create a controversy over this? (We all know that goverments and Comapnies try to back the hell away from a controversy)

What should we do next?

---
Starvo

PR nightmare. (1)

NME (36282) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135399)

"Nor were they impresed by my repeated arguments that every repressive political system in the 20th century -- Nazism, Communism, Fascism, Apartheid -- featured anonymous reporting -- especially by children -- as a cornerstone tool in their efforts to subjugate dissidents. "

I personally think that this is extremely important. Kids don't know any better, for the most part, and make for very effective snitches. They just don't have the ability to make this kind of judgment about their peers. While we're not exactly talking about 'political dissidents', we are talking about a country where free speech is ostensibly a right recognized and protected by the government, and the adoption, by State Governments to put this kind of tool into Public Schools. The point I'm trying so very hard to make is that the parallels aren't that hard to draw, and the more people who do, the worse it looks. I hope that this turns into the P.R. nightmare that it should be.

The WAVE program is using plain-old down-home fear mongering to sell a product. It's not trying to 'protect our children' (A stated motive that should set EVERYONE'S bullshit detectors off).

this is too long of a post.

-nme!

Re:What did you expect, truly? (1)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135405)

Einstein- failed at school, and was regarded as a "misfit"
Nobel - ditto

bzzt. That garbage about Einstein failing in school is just an urban legend - he did quite well, thank you. As for Nobel, huh? What does a manufacturer of munitions (who happened to have a guilt complex) have to do with this discussion?


--

Greetings New User! Be sure to replace this text with a

Re:Their view... (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135412)

Too bad no one listens to Jefferson anymore.


I do, I have Surrealistic Pillow in my car.

And along comes a man with a sledgehammer
All it takes is one hit
adnthem little animals are dead

George

How to collect the "gifts and rewards" (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135413)

loss of temper on a daily basis
frequent physical fighting
significant vandalism or property damage
increasing risk-taking behavior
detailed plans to commit acts of violence.
announcing threats or plans for hurting others
carrying a weapon

Every FPS game player shows these traits.

I'm going on gamespy and collecting names!

Re:A Bigger Reason to Pay Attention to School Boar (1)

M-G (44998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135419)

And the various "radical" factions know that school boards are the best way to get your foot in the door of politics. The "religious right" has been using school board positions as a stepping stone for some time now.

However, in places like Oklahoma, you have a textbook committee, which is appointed by the governer, approving what books schools can spend state money on. The Attorney General ended up telling them they didn't have the authority to require an evolution disclaimer. But now an elected official is pushing a bill requiring creationism to be taught. Even if you can stop some insanity at the school board level, there are still plenty of people higher up the food chain who will promote their cause.

You don't get it? (1)

paRcat (50146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135421)

ok, I do agree with most everything that Jon said above. I especially like the reference to The Wave. But something struck me as odd. Jon, you said you don't understand the reasoning in having students report their fellow students.

This is one thing that does make sense. When you were a kid, how often did you talk to you parents about your life? I was reasonably close to my parents, but they still didn't know anything about me. The same goes for teachers, etc. My friends were the only ones who knew I was a pyro at heart. My friends were the only ones who knew about my depression. And don't underestimate a young person's abilities to see psychological warning signs. My friends, the ones who knew, were the reason that I didn't do anything really wrong. They noticed that I had a need, and helped.

Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that WAVE is a horrible idea. To accept anonymous reporting and not take resposibility for the disemination of that information is just stupid.

Actually, I think the dramatic drop in child violence has to do more with kids helping kids than anything. Whether we like it or not, kids will not seriously go to adults for most of their problems. They will talk about it with close friends, and get over it. Maybe we shouldn't concentrate so much on identifying these kids as we should on helping all kids understand basic psychology.

Not only will they be able to help fellow students, but they will lead more fullfilling lives.

Why Wave Won't Work (1)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135426)

So, you can send in anonymous reports on students. Over the internet.

I can't help but think that they'll be swamped with 1000 fake reports for every real one. They'll be a prime target for the misfits themselves.

It just seems inherently flawed. I doubt that they can even get this to work at all. So don't worry too much about it.

Re:Also... (1)

pvente (89848) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135472)

True, but the FBI and police have been using this technique for years. Successfully. The only difference here is that you are reporting someone who fits a description rather than one who has committed a crime. Nonetheless, a falsely accused person's life can get turned upside down. Where, as a society, do we draw the line between absolute freedom and absolute "safety" ? Live in Singapore under constant supervision (read lesser freedoms), and the reported crime rate is low. Live in an area with little or no policing authority and the crime rate is high. Some people draw the line near, some draw it farther away.

Even /. allows for anonymous postings. How many people here use anonymity to attack others (personally and impersonally) on the net ? Think this doesn't affect them personally ?

The next step (1)

benenglish (107150) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135500)

So where do we go from here? Pinkerton isn't going to do the right thing, they're going to do the profitable thing. We, as a community, need to start doing whatever we can to take the profit out of WAVE. How? A few random thoughts (some of which have already been seen in previous posts):

1. Start sending in reports. Use a pay phone and start reporting the people who have the resources to best hurt the program:
lawyer's kids (all the better to drag this crap into court quicker),
popular jocks (so that the program appears to the customers to be targeting the wrong people),
congresscritter's kids (to lay a foundation for possible political solutions),
children of the members of the task force that thought this up (because the taskforce members deserve pain),
Pinkerton employee's kids (demoralizing the enemy never hurts),
and more.

Give some thoughts to these reports. Script them out if you have to. Make sure that your reports meet the criteria for pass-along and throw in some juicy details to get the security drones salivating.

2. Start hitting the potential customers. Make sure that schools know that if they participate, they are going to have to answer some tough questions. For example, if you have children attending a school that partakes in the program, demand to see the procedures for security on the tips they get from Pinkerton. Demand to know how they are safeguarded, what the retention schedule is, what actions will be taken when a tip is received, etc. For any private school, demand that their contract with you be modified to require that they report to you any tip received on your kids. Heck, demand open disclosure of the number and severity of *all* the tips received by the schools. Any lawyers in the house? In Texas, we could possibly use the Open Records Act to demand these things be made public. I don't know how it would work in the original state, but there's gotta be a way. If enough of these reports are disclosed to the public (remember, we're inflating the number of reports under action #1, above) and the public gets to see that there are never any shootings afterward, the program can start to just look like a waste of time and money.

3. Make this an issue in school board elections. "If you support anonymous snitching without adequate safeguards, ala WAVE, you won't get my vote! And I'll tell everyone I know to vote against you, too!"

4. Make sure that school boards hear about this during budget meetings. "This is a waste of money. We're spending good money here but getting nothing in return. We're just harassing a bunch of people who don't deserve it and setting ourselves up for lawsuits!"

5. Ancillary point: Demand of the school board of any school district that adopts the program that they increase funding for liability insurance. "After all, you guys bought this program that's sure to get us sued. You've got to protect the school district by doubling the amount of liability coverage."

6. Who's gonna start the anti-WAVE website? We've got to have a central clearinghouse for information. We need to know when WAVE is being considered for adoption by a school or when it is adopted. In that way, we can target the right individuals at that school for action. We can find and feed info to the people in a position to fight. Furthermore, such a site will provide a place for horror stories to accumulate and, by extension, a way to source expert witnesses (kids who've been hurt by all this) to testify about the practical evil of this sytem during the inevitable lawsuits. Perhaps just a continuing "WAVEWatch" feature on Slashdot would to the trick, or maybe even just a mailing list.

7. And I'll probably think of 20 more things by this afternoon. So can you! Reply to this and add to the list. Good plans of action start with wild brainstorming sessions. No matter how crazy an idea is, post it. It may inspire someone who needs it.

Re:Depressing, yet encouraging... (1)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135505)

I have to agree. This was a good piece. I actually agreed with many of the points that Jon made, especially about corporatism being amoral. How true, how true! But that also means that whatever Pinkerton says can only be taken in the context of marketing (bottom-line). They have absolutely no sense of "real" moral responsibility. The false sense of moral responsibility comes from the fact that there is a market for dealing with moral issues.

Anonymous hotlines are for victims (1)

jtroutman (121577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135521)

The Pinkerton reps supported their anonymous hotline with the following: "the anonymous reporting culture is a growing business, now deeply entrenched in the United States, a result of the victimization movement and lawsuit epidemic rampant for nearly a generation. Encouraged by federal and local governments, and many corporate and educational institutions, hotlines operate all over the country to report date rape, sexual harassment, abuse, and other forms of brutality and insensitivity." The difference between this and WAVE, which is key, is that those hotlines are set up for victims of actual attacks, whether they be rape, sexual harrassment, etc... WAVE is not designed to protect victims, it is designed to "root out" POTENTIAL problems, not report them after they happen.

I realize that this is a point that was made in the article, but I feel that it is possibly the most important. You don't have a date rape hotline for people you think might be date rapists. You shouldn't have a "school violence" hotline for people who you think might be violent.

liability (1)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135523)

At least now when kids start suing Pinkerton because of the harassment they receive because of this system, Pinkerton can't claim they weren't aware of the problem.

If this existed back when I was in HS..... (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135532)

I'd likely be in jail now. Hell, I'd be in jail even if it was implemented here at work. I went into grade 9, oh, 10 years ago I suppose. Boy was I picked on; 13 in grade 9, intelligent as hell (and therefore socially inept). It was bad enough in public school when I was yanked out of classes once a week and sent to Gifted classes in the next town over. What the teachers never seemed to realize was that by saying "You're intelligent and deserve extra attention" they were also saying to every other student "You're stupid, and not as worthy as he is of extra attention" and we all know what happens next. Anyway, back to HS. One day I went to the book store, the only one in town that carried D&D stuff, and picked up the brand shiney new Thief's Handbook. Brought it to school, as I'd picked it up on lunch, sat down in German class, and started reading it. Teach walked in, saw the "Theif's Handbook" in big gold letters, and freaked, big time. Never occured to me to think that it might look wierd to others. Anywho, lets look at this for me here at work. Often does my colleuge and I discuss the finer points of various martial arts, while standing in an office or hallway. We routinely go on Nerf hunts. I have a Soldier of Fortune box under my desk, THE ULTIMATE SNIPER [amazon.com] training manual (which I got when I got Tribes) and Killer [sjgames.com] on my shelf beside all my comp security books, Oracle books, etc etc. We're trying to create an OSS tactical space combat sim, so we're constantly discussing tactics, weapon effects, that sort of thing. Yeah, I'd be in jail by now under anonymous reporting, most likely. Hell, under these laws, a couple of kids practicing Shakespere would probably look like dangerous, mentally disturbed people. "Pay me my due, or I shall take a pound of flesh from thee" indeed. It disturbs me that, as others have pointed out, the system tries to breed into some students (football and other sports players) exactly the same traits it tries to breed out of others (people who can't be bribed with a letter jacket) while claiming it's for the good of society. I think this needs to be on a school board by school board basis, if not school by school, and should only be implemented on a two-thirds majority vote by each parent, student, and employee at said school.

Katz (1)

jbarnett (127033) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135541)

Go get em Jon. Katz rules!

I think this proves the theory of hackers in other things then computers. Nice artcile, my hat is off to you Dr. Katz.

Katz kicks asz.

This still stinks. (1)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135555)

Sure, they're just offering a service to take complaints. They may argue that a person could call 911 and do the same amount of damage.

But having this on the web has other connotations. It's going to be abused. It's a perfect tool for exacting revenge on someone you dislike.

tcd004

It's clear (1)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135556)

The pinkerton people aren't the ones we need to petition, it's our state governments.

tcd004

My thoughts... (1)

Ron Harwood (136613) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135563)

I'm glad that they got rid of the prize incentives... that was just a wrong thing to have.

I still think that half of my friends - myself included - would have had calls into this service, had they had it when we were in high-school.

We played video games (to excess by some standards). We were computer enthusiasts. We played D&D (gasp, the horror!). Some wore "concert shirts" and listened to "Heavy Metal" music... other wore black, some even wore camouflage... We got into fights (I was 6'2" and 150 lbs. in High-school... of course I was a target...)

Obviously (sarcasm here btw) we were a danger to ourselves and the public.

Sigh.

"Resolve, Respect, and Responsibility" (1)

WarmProp (139679) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135568)

...things that apparently Pinkerton doesn't want to have to deal with at all from what I gathered. Slashdot is simply a big PR problem to these folks and that's that.

the culture of snitching (1)

blackdefiance (142579) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135582)

First, this was a great article: the politically naive geeks take on the evil corporate drones and score a few hits.

The important thing to remember, as katz points out briefly, is that the problem of snitching is endemic throughout the justice system. If you're prosecuted by the feds (I'm speaking from experience here) you're offered substantial time off for ratting out your co-conspirators. Whoever's first in line gets the break. And we're talking about cutting your time in half, in some cases. The math works out great because there are so many sentence ehancements at the federal level when you're deemd to have 'conspired' with someone.

When they prosecute these big mafia cases, the wiseguys trip over each other to be first in line to rat. When you're facing 20 to life, you'd be a fool not to. It's that philosophy 101 case -- the prisoner's dilemma, but with the deck stacked completely against you. In my case, the time (12-18 months, no co-conspirators etc.) was small enough that it wouldn't have really mattered, but I'd hate to be in the position to have to decide.

So this shit with pinkerton is one symptom of a disease that's coming straight from the top. cc your senators and reps on your hatemail to those motherfuckers.

Good effort (1)

quelar (162788) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135626)

Unfortunately they started executing the Danish en mass.
We'd hope we're not that far, but when was the last time the US government was responsible for wrongly penalising someone?

Where is this leading? (1)

quelar (162788) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135628)

So we've got some people who are taking this as a menial joke, but then the others that are seeing this as the serious issue it could be, should we let this thing run wild.

This has some great comparisons towards a police state that is not run by a democratic government (due to it being run by a coporation) and it's not the actual site that scares me, just the idea that it could carry on into something more serious.

Re:This still stinks. (1)

QuickSilver_999 (166186) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135634)

911 is a far different story. Not only do they know where you are calling from, it is a crime to make a false 911 call. Unfortunately, there is no crime involved with anonymously reporting someone to this program. *sigh* This is one of the few cases where I wish Big Brother really were watching.

How to change Pinkerton (1)

zesnark (167803) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135636)

The problem is that school kids tend to be vicious little bastards and have absolutely no problem with using any available and safe (to them) means, including such a service, as a means to exact revenge on classmates for percieved wrongs. Believe me, I've been on both sides of the fence. Such a service will most likely be abused to such a great degree that it won't even function well enough to serve the stated purpse, good or not.

Of course the fact that it doesn't work won't matter just so long as Pinkerton keeps getting their money. This is a profit-making corporation, and their sole interest is to make money. The actual benefits of their programs are irrelevant in all cases but one: to promote their company reputation and thus attract new customers. The point of the customers is to make more money.

One would think that there would be a natural image incentive for Pinkerton to create a truly helpful program, but that is not the case. Unless there are big complaints, and I do mean big, people will not listen when the kids say that the program is causing problems. If the administrators thing that the program is helping, if the parents thing that it's helping, then they will not listen to the kids with respect to the effectiveness of the program. Remember, that the parents consider themselves to know best (they generally do), but if Pinkerton can sell them on an idea then it is irrelevant what the kids say. And even in this case, Pinkerton doesn't have to put much work into it; the media has already done their work, priming the parents to demand that Pinkerton's system be implemented in their child's school at once.

So here's what it comes down to:

As long as Pinkerton has no incentive to act in the childrens' interest, they will not do so. As long as Pinkerton can convince parents that they need this program (the media has already done a good job), there will be virtually no incentive for them to perform well with respect to the kids.

If you want to change Pinkerton, change their profitability. Publicize them, Taco's article, anything about them. Only through public disapproval can WAVE be stopped.

[ze Snark]

Pinkerton ... like a toddler burning their hand.. (1)

SchrodingersCat (169670) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135638)

Unfortunately toddlers usually burn their hand on a hot stove man times before they learn what hot is. As such, I doubt that the country will learn not to create or use programs like this because of one lawsuit etc...

how bad a childhood could spawn the pinkertons? (1)

finity9 (170292) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135643)

Among their reasons for reporting students, Pinkerton suggests: * detailed plans to commit acts of violence. * announcing threats or plans for hurting others Um, doesn't a lot of this sound like an adolescent having a bad day? Remember high school? Scenario: You have a test. You fail. You complain about the teacher, saying "I think I'll just slug the jerk." Now you are reported and you don't know who not to trust. Now, didn't high school suck enough without this crap? We can't stop Pinkerton, but we can ensure that they're profits are low... keep up the protests.

Bloody ridiculous (1)

decaf_dude (171976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135646)

It seems to me that everything we do today is inspired by the potential PR effects it may have. Sometimes, though, we get things wrong and it backfires. But to offer computers and CDs in return for turning in a "troubled" friend is a terrible idea. How do you judge who is "troubled"? Is it because he/she wears only black clothing, never eats in McD's, has a pet iguana? What warrants a reporting?
As the article suggests, parents play the most important role in the building of a child's character. If they screw up, the child will be affected. Hence this focus shifting on children is BAD! For it's not children who decide to become bad, it's their environment and primarily parents. If you look at all the serial killers, they all have one common feature: troubled childhood. Physical and sexual abuse, broken families, alcoholism, drug abuse... How can you expect a normal person to come out of that? But instead of reporting that child, one ought to have a social structure in place where the parents would be taken into account and they should be corrected, not child.

My £0.02 (approx. $0.03).

Re:This still stinks. (1)

Slash T.M.F.D.W. (174389) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135650)

How about we set up a hot line to report evil corprate CEOs that may have "violent tendecies" I think "Jim" sounded kind of angry. Maybe he's depressed? He could be a ticking time bomb ready to explode and kill all of his co-workers.

800 numbers are NOT anonymous (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1135673)

Every time you place a call to an 800 number, the 800 number holder is billed for the call. In that bill is, yes you guessed it, the CALLING number.

(800)!= Anonymous

Thank you John (2)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135676)

For going and speaking and trying. History has told us that speaking out does help. Look at Denmark during the war.

Lets keep watching them and let them know what we think.

The Cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

The evil of avoiding responsibility (2)

Ray Dassen (3291) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135681)

Once again, I'm strengthened in my suspicion that one of the primary problems of western society is that while we're busy ridding ourselves of belief systems we consider outdated, we're replacing them with systems that still have the same fundamental fallacy: encouraging followers not to take individual responsibility for their actions, but to hide behind the beliefs and leaders of the collective.

In this case, Pinkerton's execs are hiding behind the great god Mammon. While we may feel moral outrage against them, they are by no means the only ones. Yes, we can promise them that they'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes, but that doesn't result in fundamental change. The question in this case is the same as in the Columbine case: how do we turn our society into one in which people will take their responsibility by making their own moral choices?

I don't claim to have an answer to this question. But I think I can at least recognise some wrong answers. Teaching kids to turn others in is definately one of them. Encouraging people to act on unverifiable anonymously reported accusations is another.

Collectivism and corporatism != evil (2)

Nemesys (6004) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135685)

They are not the enemy per se

What about the truth? (2)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135688)

And what about the truth?

I'm tired of telling people there's a problem. I'm sick and tired of nobody listening to me and the shock and disbelief people are having. "Oh, it can't happen HERE". That's how the holocaust started! Take note from your own history - The Wave started because nobody believed it was possible. History will repeat itself.

Force them into the open. Force them to be extreme. Encourage the use of profiling, let the police into our schools, let them punish, compartmentalize, tear apart, destory, label, emotionally scar and hurt the people who don't fit their Utopian world. Drive the suicide rate up. Make the school environment tense. Make the kids paranoid, make the teachers afraid of the students and the students afraid of the teachers. TURN UP THE HEAT. And then.. when the death toll rises, the media clamors for justice and asks why this happened....

"Just Wave."

Write your congress(wo)man (2)

Kris Warkentin (15136) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135702)

Why on earth would anyone even bother talking to the Pinkerton people? This is a free market economy and, as has been said before, if there is a demand, there will be a supply. This was no more productive than going after gun manufacturers or Columbian coca farmers.

It is school boards and governments who are asking for things like Wave and that is where we must agitate. I remember once that someone put a list of addresses of government representatives up on /. so perhaps it could be posted again. Write a REAL letter....email won't even get past the filters. When someone takes the time to put pen to paper, it commands more respect than a dozen emails so write. Pen is mightier than sword, yes?

my point of view (2)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135705)

But the Pinkerton people don't see morality as their concern, If it isn't there concern then who are they to decide what behaviour is indicative of a violent path? While I hold some unique views (in the eyes of most slashdotters) on morality, everyone should be able to agree that if a company isn't concerned with morality then they have no place in this profiling issue. Let's throw out the inherent wrong in the whole issue. They aren't concerned with morality yet they are making moral guidelines for moral behaviour. I can't be the only one who see's this.

They have a point (2)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135706)

The Pinkerton guys have a point: there is market demand for this. It's not like they are pushing this program down onto unwilling schools -- the schools ask for it. And while it's true that an ethical (translation: whose ethics are somewhat similar to mine) company would not get involved in this dirty business, it's also true that there is a whole bunch of less conscientious people who would do it without a second thought.

Katz is somewhat misled by his anti-corporation (what he calls anti-corporatist) stance. He suggests that schools should work with troubled (from their point of view) teens instead of big corporations getting into the act. Well, and how would that be better? If the school principal is an asshole who believes that wearing black is a sign of being possessed by Satan, then Pinkerton or not, he is going to inflict major suffering on non-conformist kids in his school.

I don't see the WAVE program as a problem -- I see it as a symptom of a much bigger problem, vis. that schools are scared of their own kids and don't understand them. I don't know if it can be fixed, but while schools fear teens and while hysterical parents demand strip searches for a 150% guarantee that nothing bad will happen to their little Johnny in school, such things as WAVE will continue to pop up with gruesome regularity.

Kaa

Re:Their view... (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135718)

Well, that was Franklin, but you've got the right idea.
-russ

Re:Good effort (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135719)

And you read this in which history book??
-russ

Stepford Parents (2)

timothy (36799) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135720)

wrenling wrote: "And the above will only happen IF the PARENTS of that kid decide to back him/her and go to bat for them. Many parents are just as scared of the school system as the kid is -- or honestly believe what the school is telling them, because they dont understand their child's motivation either."

Hear, hear!

I was an RA at a summer program for "gifted children" for 5 years, and met a lot of kids' parents. I also went to an suburban American high school, which like most high schools has a multi-variable social scene.

A lot of parents don't care about their kids, or t least not in ways the kids can appreciate. The militarist father next door in American Beauty is unfortunately not as unrealistic a character as I wish he were, though he's not the only variant on the theme of parents-who-never-grew-up. Those parents' kids tend to be surly and resentful. The biggest danger they pose is probably to themselves (because they're constantly mad and it distracts from their forward vision, metaphorically speaking) and to their own kids, who I fear they will treat the same way.

On the other hand, some parents clearly not only love their kids in the abstract, but establish loving bonds with them that mean the kids talk to their parents, grow up decently adjusted and primed to experience the world happily.

These things transcend "socio-economic level" (which usually means "economic" but that's another story)... rich parents are sometimes dulled by wordly concerns and general malaise, poor parents are often much wealthier in their relationship with their kids. And sometimes vice versa.

That's not to say that parents are the only factor, or that if you want happy kids you should forswear worldly possessions. Only that nothing an anonymous tipline (prizes or no) can ever do will affect the root causes of unhappy kids. But it might make a lot of otherwise OK kids miserable.

And you know what? All teenagers are unhappy at certain points, some more than others. You show me a teenager who is never unhappy, and I'll search his room for drugs while you lock him in the basement.

timothy

The confusion between government and corporations (2)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135723)

One thing this points out is how private companies are increasingly behaving in ways that are out-and-out unconstitutional - or, they would be unconstitutional if a government body tried to do them.

For example - it was just a few weeks ago that the Supreme Court decided that an anonymous tip is insufficient grounds to stop and search someone. If a simple frisk can't be done on a tip, I'm fairly sure that police monitoring or tracking of a person's behaviour because of an anonymous tip is even less constitutional.

Meanwhile, corporations constantly engage in kinds of monitoring, supression of speech, and restraint of behaviour that, frankly, approaches fascism.

I think we're going to reach a point where the Consitution is going to need a major rework - we need an ammendment that says that a person's rights cannot be abridged by anyone, not just by the government.


--

Greetings New User! Be sure to replace this text with a

Re:Their view... (2)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135725)

They're so concerned about maintaining "security" that the fact that it may harrass innocent people doesn't really matter to them.

No, no - if that was there interest you could reason with them that there are better ways to improve security. What Pinkerton is really interested in is using the appearance of "security" as a tool for making money.


--

Greetings New User! Be sure to replace this text with a

You can't really blame them . . . (2)

XLawyer (68496) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135744)

As I recall, there was a line in Dune that went something like: "We cannot blame them for it, we can only despise them." Pinkerton exists to turn a profit. They see this as profiting their employees and shareholders. Therefore they will do it.

But the real root of this problem is not that corporations are amoral. Corporations, as such, are a legal fiction. They do not exist apart from the individuals who make them up. They do not act apart from their employees.

And that leads us to the real problem: most people are unwilling or unable to think in terms of principles, and corporate employees are no different from most people.

Right and wrong are abstractions. They can (and should) be derived from reality, but instead are usually given to us as a list of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" that someone just drew up and posted on a wall. There is no connection to life, reason, or reality.

So people don't take things like freedom and privacy and morally important. They just become something we like a whole lot, but can be sacrificed for "important" things, like keeping our children from being different from their peers. And when you talk about these being important priciples worth fighting for, people don't disagree with you, they simply have no way to understand what you're talking about.

Pinkerton's employees are thus complicit in slitting their own throats. The problem is not that they don't believe that. The problem is that their minds, like most people's, make them incapable of understanding it.

Re:YASI (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135748)

Um, many conservatives do NOT have a problem with secular schools simply due to their secular nature.

When they impose polices like ZERO tolerance of "violence" (Having your picture taken on top of a field gun is not OK. Fighting back is never OK. Saying "bang bang" is never OK. Violent skits are never OK....), or encourage students to explain how words "feel" via "whole language" -- encouraging them to invent their own spellings, and essentially pushing EMPATHY, not EDUCATION, *then* there are severe problems.

Education is meant to be effective. It's not meant to boost all students to equal levels of happiness, or to claim equal levels of achievement. Something's wrong when whether students feel happy with themselves matters more than whether they can rationally assess historical events or comprehend mathematical proofs, or even make themselves understood in something at least properly reminiscent of acceptable, coherent language.

Katz is right? (2)

Tim Toady (84933) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135756)

I will be among the first to finally admit that Katz's geek-anthropology-fantasy-world expertise is actually good for something. He may be a delusional self-important twink, but he appears to be more of a sincere activist than most other /.'ers.

root level causes (2)

MillMan (85400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135757)

I think it's great that Jon Katz did this. The outcome was obvious.

They are a corporation. Their only concern is money. They can make all the token changes they want, but the idea is still the same.

Capitalism does one thing: it puts materials and money above humans. Any system like this is doomed to what our country is now reaping. I think everyone understands this but Americans. You can argue all the Libertarian free market capitalism ideas you want, but nothing can change as long as that first sentance is true. NOTHING.

This ain't no date-rape hotline... (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135759)

Hotlines for rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and other problems of that sort are used to report ACTUAL incidents that need to be resolved. This plan, however, asks kids to report POSSIBLE trouble that might or might not occur based on criteria that would normally be used by a mental health professional. This horribly flawed program is not just offensive, but it just won't work in practice.

That said, I don't blame Pinkerton too much - the real villains are the task force that came up with this recommendation, and a public that doesn't care to get involved with the education system enough. School boards need to be rigourously monitored by the community, and (gasp!) taxpayers must be willing to pay the cost of providing the proper amount and quality of staffing in schools.

Re:What did you expect, truly? (2)

ozbon (99708) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135762)

There's one thing that really covers everything on this. "I reminded them that some of the smartest, most interesting and ultimately successful kids often experienced extreme and systematic harassment and brutality for being different, alienated or otherwise non-normal. That if educators, politicians or private corporations like Pinkerton really cared about school safety, they would do something to protect these outcasts. " - unfortunately (in my experience at least) the educators, politicians etc. were normally the ones who would have been doing the informing had this policy been in place when they were at school.

It's always the intelligent, the depressed, the "different" who are castigated, excoriated and harassed - the WAVE program is just another way to do it. Only this time it's anonymous, and there's the potential for this black mark to be held against the person *way* into the future. Look at some of the precursors -

Einstein- failed at school, and was regarded as a "misfit"
Nobel - ditto

These are just the first two that readily spring to mind - but there are many many others, and they all received enough crap from "the system" without it being added to by corporatism junkies like Pinkertons.

Sometimes I just despair of sanity ever returning to this planet...

The Wave and movie of the same name (2)

MadMonk (121914) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135777)

Do you all remember an old movie called The Wave? It was shown to us in school, it was about a teacher showing his class how easy it is to persuade masses to a movement (such as the Nazis) and he formed a militia like group called the Wave and they had secret hand codes (much like a nazi salute) and if you weren't part of their group then you were considered a nobody. I laughed when I first heard about the Wave, and thought to myself...."My God, that movie is becoming a reality"

WAVE and Slashdot (2)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135779)

You know, it interests me that Slashdot, a site which advocates and promotes anonymous discussion, objects to a corporate attempt to use a similar technique in the "real world".

Stop and think about it: who am I? All you know about me is a nick, and you don't know much about that. Posters here regularly talk, chests puffed out, about the importance of anonymity on the Web, and they have good reasons for those arguments. They talk about revolution and overthrowing governments as reasons to preserve anonymity. (I doubt that any of them really know much about revolution, but that's irrelevant; the principle is right.)

Now tell me why that isn't also important when you think that someone might pose a threat to you? If Mr. X has a gun, and he showed it to me at school, do I want him to ever be able to find out who turned him in? He's already shown that he's dangerous and unstable, for God's sake, by showing me the gun at school in the first place!

Jon, you're right about the other things: prizes, and vague rules, and the fact of safety in the schools. But you obviously didn't read the _Times_ piece very well: one of the other facts the authors pointed out was the number of times that everyone involved had ignored the threats offered by the rampage killers. Given the fact taht a potential rampage killer is, ipso facto, dangerous, what are you going to do to allow people to raise awareness of such a threat without providing anonymity?

Also... (2)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135780)

The level of anynomity is scary. When you call 911, they know your location. With this, you can turn in anyone's name and walk away without ever being contacted again.

tcd004

What about our friends the D&D Geeks? (2)

Hephaestus_Lee (135156) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135781)

To me this seems to be especially dangerouse to fantasy roleplayers. Many of the things one does for roleplaying games, especially those set in modern or near future times, may be seen as planning violence. Needless to say since these are not threats to anybody, and are entirely fictitous they are protected by the first amendment, etc.

--
Hephaestus_Lee

Re:Anonymous Cowards vs. Anonymous Reporting (2)

Anomalous Canard (137695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135784)

ACs have no down side because no one reads what they write anyway. ;^)

There is some place for anononymity in society. People need anononymity to be able to report illegal behavior without fear of reprisal. The authorities that receive these reports still need to gather concrete evidence and witnesses willin to speak before anything is done.

But, the type of behavior that is requested to be reported is not illegal behavior. It is behavior which just brings suspicion on a largely innocent group of people.

Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected

Great Article (2)

dmccarty (152630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135787)

Wow, Jon, at last you're not hyping some non-issue no one knew (or cared) about five minutes previously, or bashing some lamo with that National Enquirer-styled writing. Thanks for one of the most sincere articles I've read on Slashdot in a long time. You did a wonderful job of presenting both sides of the issue fairly and responsibly.

--

Pinkerton snitch system... (2)

Jettro (157584) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135789)

Personally, I've always felt that the most effective way to combat these types of assholes is to render the system ineffective by filling it with trash.

The fact is, the only reason Pinkerton sees a market here is because there is a portion of our poputlation, the power mongers, who are willing to spend our own tax dollars in order to maintain their power base. Just as the US Census is being used to manipulate and maintain power, so is the Pinkerton kiddie snitch web site.

I'd suggest that we all logon to the web site and "report" our own slashdot.com handles as "suspects" that need investigating in order to burn the available $ resources so that they aren't available to harass the truely inoccent, somewhat strange, but possibly brilliant children who would otherwise be investigated. After a few years of throwing tax dollars at this type of effort, perhaps even Pinkertons customers would eventually give up because of the futility of the effort.

An excellent, if frightening, article by Mr. Katz. (2)

DavittJPotter (160113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135790)

Wow, even with the limited number of posts, some of you already slam Mr. Katz. To you I say, "Nee!" Leave him alone. This is an excellent article, and perhaps you should have read it before hitting "Page Down" repeatedly and replying "KatzSux!" or other such drivel.
The frightening part of this article (to me) is that only a small percentage of us will see it. The liberal media won't print it, you won't see it on TV, and you know other websites won't pick up on it and let the other sheep see what's really going on. *Sigh*
Mr. Katz, I applaud you for a well-written article. I now suggest you send this article straight to several large newspapers and websites. No, they probably won't be printed/posted - but what if they were?
/.ers are a bit of a small segment - we may think we comprise a large group, but in reality, most of the sheeple out there have no idea what Slashdot is or why we matter.
Anyone have any ideas how we can get more exposure?


Witch Hunt (2)

Atz (173885) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135792)

Somewhat unsurprisingly we're returning to the attitude of the Salem witch trials and the Inqusition. Not only can you now point the finger at people but there is a chance that these comments could sit on their school or police records for a long time. That there are a number of ways to anonymously report people now doesn't change the fact that there are always people prepared to abuse these things for personal gain.

The fact that there is no guarantee of how this information will be used or even if it will remain on file is extremely worrying. The reaction after Columbine in particular has not been to help schools crack down on the bullying and isolation of some students. Rather the State governments seem to prefer the idea that they would rather ruin the scholastic careers of a few children rather than deal with the issues that are causing the problems.

Expecting a large corporation to take a moral stand was certainly hopeful but it's important that they now know how a large number of people feel on this issue. At least for now they are taking a close look at the way they do this even if they won't stop for commercial reasons.

If ever there was a need for a DOS attack... (3)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135795)

Step one: Get a list of students in your local high schools.

Step two: Set up a lot of web proxies on machines across the U.S.

Step three: Use each web proxy to report at least two or three students at random from your list.

Step four: Watch Big Brother^w^wPinkerton get sued by several thousand parents of cheerleaders and football players whose children have been labelled "dangerous".

Step five: Repeat as needed.

Folks, I'm not kidding. They appear dead-set against listening to rational discussion, and this calls for drastic measures. We can't stand by and let this happen to our children and friends. Remember how badly you were treated in high school? Can you really sit back and watch it get worse? This system must be shut down.

Re:Is it just me or... (3)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135798)

No, I'm sure they didn't laugh at him. How could you laugh at such misdirected sincerity? I'm sure they just shook their heads sadly at him. But really, they would have done much better *for* Jon to say "Yer talkin' ta da wrong people, fella. Don't blame us -- we're only sellin' what people wanna buy."
-russ

Re:One answer is to sep. the State from education (3)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135799)

Difference: at some point, the government is accountable. Pinkerton is not, despite coming up with this venture, because no one gets to choose who runs it outside of an anointed few within the company. The government (yours or mine) isn't much better, but at least you can pick your poison.

What this ad for this group has to do with a company setting up a snitch line for kids to tell on each other, I have no clue. Sounds more to me like this is an example of why most companies should stay out of education, if anything - most have no business being so involved with the lives of kids as Pinkerton intends to with WAVE America.

Thoughts on the whole mess (3)

B. Samedi (48894) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135803)

Well I think Katz missed a great chance to really make a difference when they offered him a chance to work on the project. He could have been a thorn in their side till they either kicked him off or sidelined him. As for meeting with Katz at all this will probably be used as a P.R. ploy. "Well we met with several people from the online community and talked with them about this program. They seemed satisfied with the direction the program is taking because they turned down a chance to work on the project with us." Maybe make a few piddly changes in the program and point out how enlightened they are to the whole matter. It seems they never really intended to change the program to a large degree or outright cancel it just because they talked to Katz.

This whole thing is insane to say the least. Pinkerton is going to take the line that credit bureaus take. "We just give the information, what the company (school) does with it is their business." It's a cop out and a way to avoid responsibility in the matter while making money. As for keeping the information themselves I have this supsicion they won't purge this stuff. It's too valuable. They can use it when conducting background checks for employers to make them look as if they are being thorough. "Well his criminal record is clear, credit looks good but he did have several people call in about him in high school about dangerous behaviour." Pinkerton is not stupid. You don't stay a profit making corporation for long if you're stupid. This has been thought through and responses have been scripted from the beginning I imagine. For all we know this was filed under "Internet Pundits Attack Program: Counters to same."

Taking the incentive program out only made sense. Maybe they never had full intention of implementing it. It would cost them time and money. After all if this was really anonymously reported how would they know where to send the rewards, etc? It might have been included in the original proposal as something to ax when it went to the bargaining table.

This whole thing will either be scrapped because it's swamped with bogus calls or scorched to the ground from lawsuits. Of course it could also work out that the thing is implemented, teenagers ignore it and never use it and it slips away into the shadows as another failed program. Then again it could work just like they think it will with tremendous success, lower school violence, and make everyones lives a little better because it existed... and maybe some Arab oil sheik's checking account will be transfered to my on accident.

Change from within (4)

Sanity (1431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135816)

It is clear that nothing we say or do will change their opinion, however they have expressed a willingness to modify the site in subtle ways in response to our suggestions. I think it is better to exploit this by taking advantage of their gesture, rather than simply continuing to flame them (which won't help our case), or ignoring it completely (which definitely won't help our case). It is all very well saying "this is so evil I don't want to have anything to-do with it", but that won't change anything, zealotry rarely does. We need to think within their mentality - what changes would they be willing to make, which still fits within their world-view? It is much easier to change something by being part of it, rather than standing on the outside and shouting abuse at them.

--

So the only way to fight this is.. (4)

BilldaCat (19181) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135818)

to convince them that there isn't a market, and make it unprofitable for them. Protest, create controversy, do whatever it takes to stir up criticism, make people question their system, get articles in newspapers about it, etc. The only thing that will make them leave this area of business and make others wary of entering it is if there is little/no profit and high risk/controversy.

Great Job, Katz! (4)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135820)

I know everyone is just looking for an excuse to rip into John, but give the man credit. He is actually doing something about the causes that you people claim to believe in. Take a cue from John. This is how you engage your so-called enemies. Yelling, screaming, cursing, etc. won't get the job done. John employed some sound techniques in getting his point across:

1) He LISTENED
2) He came with facts, not just hyperbole and urban legends
3) He didn't denigrate the opposite side

Regardless of whether we believe Pinkerton, or anyone else we disagree wtih, is wrong, they are people and they have an equal right to have differing opinions. Reasonable people can get together and discuss things. This is what separates us from animals. Let's remember that.

Their view... (4)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135821)

Of course nothing you say will make them change their minds. They're so concerned about maintaining "security" that the fact that it may harrass innocent people doesn't really matter to them. They think that what they're doing is morally correct and is in the best interests of all. Those sort of people are so set in their ways that very little can be done to change their mindset. It's unfortunate, but true.

As Jefferson said, "those who would trade Freedom in order to find Security shall not have, nor do they deserve either one." Too bad no one listens to Jefferson anymore.

YASI (4)

Anomalous Canard (137695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135825)

Yet Another Stupid Idea.

How could it be better to turn over a critical function of society to business or, worse yet, require parents to home school? How could it be better to put a higher financial burden on the people who can afford it the least -- single parents.

The Radical Religious Right has got issues with schools because they don't want their children exposed to dangerous ideas like Evolution which might cause them to think for themselves. Don't ruin all of society just because a few extremists can't tell the difference between myth and scientific discovery.

In a lifetime of witnessing stupid ideas, this has got to be the stupidest. Education is an important societal function. We can not abdicate it.


Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected

What we need is an organized campaign... (5)

sleeping wolf (1671) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135826)

Everyone remember how well the Blue Ribbon campaign went against the CDA? It was hard to ignore with the graphics everywhere and everyone turning their pages black for a day.

What if there was some graphic that could be associated with this? Someone could set up a central website against anonymous reporting in general, that people would link the graphic to. Katz could tug on some of his contacts and get it in the media. Don't get me wrong -- I don't think that this will fix everything, or that everyone will share the same level of outrage -- but if we can keep up the campaign against any corporation that gets this "bright idea", it will be more injurious to them than it's worth.

The most important thing in my mind is the graphic -- lots of people work against many other issues, but a central image is what seemed to bring unity to the Blue Ribbon campaign.

How about it? I'm not artist, so I shouldn't be the one to come up with the idea for the pic, but I'd be happy to help get the ball rolling, so drop me an email.

You were talking to the wrong people, Jon (5)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135828)

You should have been talking to the customers of WAVE, to persuade them not to buy. As Pinkerton rightly pointed out, if you persuaded them not to do it, someone else would. It's the same reason why the war on drugs can't work: because jailing a drug dealer just creates a job opening.
-russ
p.s. too bad about wasting your time. You should study economics.

Re:I agree... (5)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135829)

So abuse it, silly. The more people who abuse WAVE, the less it can be used against anyone. Report everyone. Remember the lesson of the Danish Jews? Everyone wore the Star of David, even the King of Denmark.
-russ

One answer is to sep. the State from education (5)

timothy (36799) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135830)

Mixing state involvement with education will have some perverse effects. In some cases, you may think those effects are worth it, in others you may not.

The issue is complicated, but for those interested in the argument that government-controlled, compulsory, tax-funded schooling is inherently wrong rather than only a matter of bad execution, you might be interested in the Alliance for the Separation of School and State [sepschool.org] , who take their cue from the phrase "separation of church and state" and in a sense for the same reasons.

Efforts like WAVE America expose the danger of trusting a bureaucracy to "care" for children in other than a cursory, bean-counting way. "Care" as euphemism, that is.

[Note: I am not endorsing -- nor do I agree with, so far as I know -- any or all religious beliefs of the founders of this organization. =) ]

timothy

warning signs (5)

wiredog (43288) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135832)


"frequent physical fighting", member of the football team.
"increasing risk-taking behavior", wide receiver.
"detailed plans to commit acts of violence" given to them by the coach.
"announcing threats or plans for hurting others" 'we're gonna kill West High at the game!'
"enjoying hurting animals" 'I'm going after a buck this year!
"carrying a weapon" With my 30-.06!

So, most of my neighbors in Utah are dangerous people who should be tracked for life.

Predictable. (5)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135834)

Jon, that Pinkerton does not want to scrap a profitable and potentially expanding project is not surprising. To think that they would pay attention to geeks and nerds is naive (at best). As a group, we have been consistently ignored.

However, the recourse seems obvious: spam! Imagine what is going to happen if a system receives thousands of provably false denunciations...

I even encourage geeks and nerds, goths and punks to launch a (nation-wide?) pre-emptive strike: if you are in high school, grab a list of all the jocks and football players and denounce them as punks, goths, malcontent, depressed, drug-addicted and violent characters. Throw in a few white-power/aryan nations jerks as well. Rat on your teachers. Report on your class president, on the Prom Queen, on the cheerleaders!!

Then, step back and watch in amazement as all these guys are dragged into detention by the principals.

How much money is Pinkerton going to lose over this? Ah, the sweet giant sucking sound of cash registers being emptied as more and more schools bail out of Wave... =)

Just my US$ 0.02, of course.

Suspicious justification (5)

WhyteRabbyt (85754) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135835)

It seems to me that a fundamental argument of Pinkerton's was flawed. Yes, there is an existing 'anonymous reporting culture' But the area this falls into is in the category of existing crimes or malfeasance of some kind, ie rape, abuse, et.c.

The extension of this into attempting to pre-empt criminal behaviour is what is so dangerous, and Jon Katz would have done well to draw that distinction. There is a world of difference between an anonymous phonecall to some relevant body about suspected child abuse, and an anonymous phonecall because a young adult is behaving 'differently'.

In fact, in this case, it would be possible to extend this particular example and say that with the likely psychological repercussions of abuse, it would be more likely victim would be reported to an organisation like Wave America than the perpetrator... So who's being protected then?

Sad, but not suprising (5)

spiralx (97066) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135836)

While I can appreciate Jon's frustration about Pinkerton's apathy toward the points he raised, I have to say I'm not even slightly suprised that this was what happened. A sad fact of modern corporate culture is that they need to be ruthless in order to prosper - if the majority of companies are ruthless then their competitors also have to be ruthless to compete. And this is what breeds the amoral attitude that corporations have. They are required to make money for their shareholders, and this requires them to go for anything which can make money legally.

No, the real issue here is education. In recent years we have seen the culture of hysteria grow from the Weekly World News [weeklyworldnews.com] to encompass practically all mainstream media. People often aren't educated enough, or educated wrongly, and as such don't possess the necessary scepticism to see that the media is always biased towards getting a good story, whether it bears any relation to the real issues or not.

The trouble is, once the hysteria has set in it is almost impossible to stop. Rational arguments and facts have little impact, especially in a society where most of the populace lack the education to understand or apply them. The government, or whichever body is appropriate to the hysteria, is then forced to give in to this hysteria, since if they are up for election they require public support. This is probably one of the major failings of democracy, but the only real way around it is to have a well-educated populace who can consider issues rather than being force-fed opinions from the media.

Will this ever happen? Not for a long time in my opinion. Education is a slow process, and changes in society seem to be running ahead of people's ability to encompass and adapt to them. That's what we really need - the ability to adapt to new circumstances without holding back or fearing the future.

What did you expect, truly? (5)

wrenling (99679) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135837)

Pinkerton is a major company. They have not only devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars into developing this program, but they are also putting their company name behind it.

They are using this to break into a new area - an area where they can police (because they are a security company) without having to employ security guards. Where they can pass on information that they receive, regardless of the source, with no liability at all to them. Whatever service agreement they make with the school system will project them from any legal backlashes.

What it is going to end up taking is a court case - a court case where some poor kid (given the statistics) has had his or her life turned upside down and backwards by some anonymous report because he/she listens to NiN or Ministry, runs a counterstrike server at home, and realizes that black is cool cause it goes with *everything.*

And the above will only happen IF the PARENTS of that kid decide to back him/her and go to bat for them. Many parents are just as scared of the school system as the kid is -- or honestly believe what the school is telling them, because they dont understand their child's motivation either.

The worst part is that once again people are going to have to be hurt by something before they realize its bad - much like a toddler burning their hand on a stove to find out that its hot.

Just my 2 cents.

Why I don't like WAVE. (5)

Dante Aliegri (119831) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135838)

WAVE scares me because what could have happened to me.

First off, one needs to know what my situation was.

April of last year, I was told I had a brain tumor, specifically a Pilocytic Astrocytoma ( horrible spelling, sorry). Because of that tumor, my senior year had been hell, I couldn't get any work done, I'd sit in the bath at 3 am, wondering why my neck hurt. My junior year wasn't as bad. I had been put in the night school, because I wouldn't get out of bed before noon. I dropped out of that also.

I had been to a psychologist, psychiatrist and a chiropractor. I was given Prozac and a few other drugs, but nothing helped.

Everyone though I was crazy.

What would have happened to me if WAVE was in my school in my Junior year, when I was still in school? I had many signs that would warrant someone turning me in ( hence, why my parents took me to a Psychologist..).

I don't have an answer, but at least I know the question.

DanteAliegri.

A Bigger Reason to Pay Attention to School Boards (5)

Prof_Dagoski (142697) | more than 14 years ago | (#1135839)

As if extremists on school boards banning the teaching of evolution wasn't enough, this WAVE thing points out how important it is to check out what's going in local school boards. The local school board is one of the most ignored public decison making entities in the entire US system of government. This is where decisons like implementing WAVE are being made and affirmed. I think we all need to locate our school board reps and write them some letters expressing our concerns. Sitting in on the open meetings is a darned good idea too. Running for school board is another really good idea. In a lot of cities and counties, board members often run unopposed due to the overall lack of interest. Great place for a concenred geek looking to get into politics to start. At the same time, this lack of interest is dangerous. Decisons to implement programs like WAVE often happen without any attention being paid. We're lucky it got noticed this time. At the same time, we have an opportunity to make a real difference here. Due to the scale involved here, your input as a citizen has a big impact, and if you should decide to run, you might get elected. It'd be good to have some technically savvy people resident in these decision making bodies. It'd be even better to have level headed, analyical people making good decisons.

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