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Dying Babies and The Myth of American Freedom

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the technology-forcing-us-to-face-reality dept.

United States 796

One of America's most enduring and self-deluded myths about itself is that it's a free, thus morally superior country. It's not, as last weeks' feature on Princeton Bioethicist Peter Singer made clear. This society is riddled with unapproachable taboos. But technology is changing that, making some of our self-inflated notions of ourselves actually come true.

Even as technology systematically liberates the control of ideas from the hoary grip of ideologues, educators, clergymen and dogmatic politicians, the underlying tensions in culture and society grow. We are freer than ever, but we seem to like it less all the time.

In the past few weeks, a series of institutions and public figures have run headlong into America's mythology about itself, particularly the demonstrably absurd idea that this is a free country.

Censorship is a natural, perhaps even a biological instinct. Nobody likes to see himself as a censor but everybody, from school principal to parent to mayor to flamer, seems to feel the call. We almost reflexively want to quiet what disturbs, provokes and offends us.

Check out almost any topic or opinion posted on Slashdot. Even here, there's usually one or more - frequently lots more -- messages declaring that a person or idea doesn't belong here or shouldn't be expressed, assuming that the offending idea hasn't already been moderated into oblivion. And this is one of the freest places in media, new or old.

But technology, as any teenager knows, is a wicked censorship slayer. Almost all information is now available almost everywhere. Memes, ideas, arguments, opinions - none can be universally corralled or suppressed. Heretics and hell-raisers have never thrived so much.

Priests and ministers can't control dogma, lawyers can't monopolize the arcane and expensive language of law, politicians can't impose ideology, publishers can't monopolize editorial content, academics can't keep a lock on research, and journalism can't control the social agenda. Technologies like the Net and the Web have made this so.

But here's the irony. Even as technology makes censorship virtually impossible, people keep trying harder to do it.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art faces the loss of a third of its annual budget, even eviction, because the mayor of New York City finds a painting in an exhibit offensive.

Some leaders of the Reform Party are demanding Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's ouster because of a Playboy interview in which he said, among other things, that people who support organized religion are weak-minded and needy. (Ventura ran his campaign on the Net, by-passing traditional media and expensive campaign structures). Good thing H.L. Mencken, the legendary columnist who savagely skewered members of the clergy as hypocrites, blowhards and airheads, died a generation ago. He couldn't get a job on any paper in America today.

GOP Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan has been told - by Senator John McCain among others -- to leave the Republican Party because his book argues that the United States had no pressing self-interest in entering World War II.

And in perhaps the ugliest and most significant of all these conflicts, Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer has been reviled as a mass murderer and attacked by politicians, university contributors and trustees, and advocates for the handicapped.

He's been forced to teach in a guarded, unmarked classroom because he's argued that in certain circumstances, parents ought to have the right to kill a severely disabled newborn in order to prevent or end the child's suffering and preserve the family's happiness and well-being. Euthanasia, he argues, is sometimes a lot more compassionate than the withdrawal of life support systems.


The First Amendment has never been a particularly popular one. Americans have always embraced freedom until somebody says something they don't like. Then they like to fire the offenders, chase them away, close them down.

Technology makes all of these options unworkable. Hundreds of cable channels, faxes and videotape, e-mail and cellphones make the notion of quelling an idea or putting the person who advocates it out of business ridiculous. The Net is inherently uncensorable. There are too many chat forums, messaging systems, mailing lists and websites, and not enough cops.

When New York Mayor Guiliani threatened to shut down the Brooklyn Museum for displaying a painting of a black Madonna with a clump of elephant dung affixed to her chest, singer David Bowie announced he was putting the "offending" exhibit up on his website.

Buchanan regularly takes to talk radio and cable interview broadcasts to explain his philosophies about World War II directly to the public.

New technologies like the Net and the Web have liberated discussions of sexuality which, until a decade or so ago, were dangerous, if not impossible for most Americans.

Earlier this week, Slashdot published a story about Peter Singer in which his actual views - rather than outrageous and simple-minded distortions - were discussed.

The Singer controversy is, in fact, a significant reason to stop and consider the new reality of freedom and technology.

Singer is a complex, brave and brilliant philosopher and teacher. He is an empassioned animal rights activist and has argued for years that affluent people have a responsibility to donate some of their money to the less fortunate (he donates a fifth of his salary to groups that feed the poor).

He is doing precisely what thinkers, academics and critics are supposed to do: raise chillingly complex ethical issues that confront society but are rarely talked about. Princeton futurist Freeman Dyson, for example, has long hailed the idea that genetic engineering will remove the physically ill from the world. Genetic engineering is rapidly pushing us towards the idea of a Master Race - at least for wealthy, techno-centered cultures which can afford it - in which all humans brought into the world are tall, lean, smart, healthy and attractive.

But Dyson's much more politic about the way in which he expresses his ideas. He's never advocated anything as extreme as killing critically-ill newborns - a jarring idea. Some say that clearly is murder. But Singer doesn't advocate genocide or the callous disposal of the disabled. He's arguing that in extreme circumstances, parents should have the right to terminate the life of severely disabled newborns who have no self-consciousness or chance to survive.

Personally, I haven't even begun to formulate what I think about this idea. But I want-need to read, mull and talk about it. The wanton use of terms like "murder" and "genocide" make that impossible, and that means we aren't free either.

Singer is no monster, and the notion that he's an advocate of mass murder seems outrageously simple-minded and hysterical, a club to shut him up rather than a way to support or refute his ideas. The United States is using medical and other technologies that may result in genetic selection to remove physical, even psychological problems like alcoholism that are increasingly being linked to heredity (see Tuesday's story on Slashdot on genetically engineered kids).

Parents using in vitro fertilization and other contemporary fertility treatments routinely participate in disturbing genetic selections. Doctors performing IVF, for example, routinely examine egg and sperm matches for the "healthy ones." Some prospective parents have sought permission to abort fetuses over concerns about gender, even cosmetic issues.

As genetic screening tells prospective parents more and more about the children they're about to bring into the world, parents will inevitably - right or wrong - make complex choices about the children they choose to raise.

Do they want tall or short ones? Boys or girls? And especially, do they want - can they cope with? -- terminally ill or severely disabled ones? Inevitably, parents will argue that they have the right to make these decisions for themselves.

Parents already can avoid bringing children with certain serious diseases into the world through prenatal testing. Do they also, as Singer suggests, have the moral right to withdraw life support, or even approve lethal injections?

This is, after all, a country which wildly celebrates techno- medical "breakthroughs" like multiple births, even though they pose enormous health risks to the children involved and require massive and expensive public and community assistance.

The McCaughey family in Iowa was showered with gifts, from diapers to a new home, for their septuplets. But the country didn't seem to want to consider the fact that the fertility drugs they'd used had created a whole new kind of high-tech welfare family, producing children whose parents couldn't possibly support them financially, and perhaps not emotionally, either. Multiple births of fewer than six or seven aren't even stories any longer, they're so common, even as many pediatricians warn that such children are at high risk for illness and disability. In a world whose population is nearing six billion, the use of medical technologies to breed human offspring - in growing multiples -- transcends religion or philosophy. It may be the 21st century's most urgent social problem, particularly as food production continues to decline.

Patriotism is invoked by blockheads in the United States so often that it's easy to lose sight of the particular genius of the people who hatched the country. Singer exemplifies America's founders prescient convictions - born out of centuries of observing the gruesome interaction between religion and monarchies and free speech -- that it's often the most upsetting ideas that warrant discussion - and need protection. If Singer focuses the country's attention on the impact of ill-considered medical research and genetic engineering, then he's a hero, not a villain.

If you're handicapped, it's easy to fear what Singer seems to be advocating. But he argues that what he's proposing is compassion and the importance of a healthy life, which he sees as much of a right as life itself.

This is as complicated and difficult a technological and philosophical debate as there is. But it's exactly the sort of discussion America needs more of, not less, in an era when supercomputing, artificial intelligence and life, and genetic engineering make the issues raised in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" seem simple. Genetic engineering is becoming a regular topic on this website, but not in the information spectrum off-line, where it's almost never mentioned.

Sociologists, historians and technologists argue that technology is never autonomous; it only does what we want it to do. But medical technology is, in fact, out of control, outstripping our ability to consider or comprehend it. We ought to thank Singer for having the brains and the heart to make us face these issues while craven journalists, religious leaders and pols hide their heads in the sand.

If America really were a free country, Singer would be able to talk about his ideas in the open, in a classroom without guards. He'd be able to list his classes in the catalogue along with the other profs. The Net, at least, makes it certain that these controversial memes will at least be considered.

And Gov. Ventura ought to be just as free to challenge the structure and function of organized religion, one of the most powerful institutions in American life and also one of the bloodier influences in modern history.

While the Internet has completely altered the context of free speech - online, people can and do find places to discuss anything -- these discussions take place underground, in a sense, at least for now. They're less welcome in the open, in the central institutions and outlets that collectively help set the country's political and social agenda.

Few major newspapers' op-ed pages would host a free-wheeling discussion of the issues Singer raises. No member of Congress would openly debate them or discuss them in campaigns. Few churches or synagogues would talk about them. No network news organization or newsmagazine would ever question organized religion the way Ventura has done.

In such a timid atmosphere, it's hard to know whether any of these ideas have legitimacy and are worth exploring, or whether some deserve to be roundly rejected. The so-called marketplace of ideas can't function effectively. In a country that talks so much about freedom, there isn't nearly as much as we and our elected leaders pretend.

It's ironic amidst all the commercial and patriotic drum-banging about the Millenium underway, that technology is forcing a country deluded with notions of its own self-righteousness to actually be free, rather than simply make the claim.

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796 comments

Hmm... (4)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618276)

I don't really see where you're going with this one. America is legally a pretty unencumbered, free country. People can believe whatever they want to believe. Whether or not it's popular is a completely different issue.

Censorship can be bad. Imposing censorship on other people without their knowledge or consent is generally bad. Self-censorship (like slashdot) is also called content-filtering, and it can be very good. I like being able to block ads and spam, turning off extra javascript, and I don't mind spending some time moderating comments because I think it makes slashdot a nicer, more comprehensible, relevant place for everyone.

Natural selection pretty much took care of babies who were too ill or sickly to survive. However, people tend to take care of them now. If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives. If they want the right to decide whether a baby who wouldn't normally live should be allowed to, I suppose that's their right, but there would need to be some guidelines to prevent abuse. Genetic screening might help too.

I wouldn't trust genetic engineering yet until it is well-proven. Why implement a technology when you know you don't understand its ramifications?

And, finally, do you like posting complicated, controversial articles of dubious relevance on slashdot? You know the kind of response you're going to get. Maybe a little bit more self-censorship might be in order. :)

Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618277)

it's funny, he knocks religion for being dogmatic and narrowminded, then signs praises for a bio"ethic"ist. Let's see, most religions abhor murder, and this princeton guy thinks it's a cool idea for terminally ill newborns!

Mr. Katz, what if you'd been the one born like that? Would you be so quick to praise the murder of newborns? Who is to say that this person can't go on to lead a productive life? That medical technology you claim is "outstripping" us can make the persons life easier to live, and be less of a burden on us. God forbid we should actually show some compassion for our fellow man.
Stick to reporting tech issues and leave morality to others.

Devo (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618278)

freedom of choice is what you've got
freedom from choise is what you want

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618279)

What's Jon Katz trying to say? He seems to be rambling on and on, and I haven't been able to figure out what he's trying to say. In terms of ego, Katz ranks up there with Ken Wilber. Both think they're "the men", but we know better.

quite obvious that you do not know what you are ta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618280)

Though I believe a person has the right to express an idea, I do not believe they have a right to tax dollars. Food production continues to increase not decrease. It is quite obvious that you do not know what you are talking about.

My impression of this... (2)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618281)

Aww crap, I had a long paragrah and IE ate it. So I'll start over and try again:

It seems to me that in our country today it is becoming acceptable for everyone to lambast White Male Christians. All other groups have some kind of protected status, but if a White Male Christian does something then it's OK to scream at them about it. It's becoming so that no one can criticise anyone except WMCs. I'd like to know when *I* lost my right to speak out against things I don't believe are right. Since when do I have less of a right to say 'No, that's wrong don't do it.' than anyone else does to say 'Yes, that's a good idea, do it.'?? Our society it moving towards the point where the only thing that is actually WRONG is criticising other people. We are already moving towards this with criminals, absolving them because they are 'genetically predisposed' to violence, calling them victims of society. No one wants to take responsibility for their actions anymore and whenever a WMC speaks up and says that they should everyone flies into a rage. If a WMC speaks out against a subject he is suddenly trying to censor you and is evil. Remember, free speech goes both ways, I have an equal right to tell you I don't like what you are saying as you do to say it.

Kintanon

"American Myth" died with Vietnam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618282)

Even hardened Americans figured out shortly after Vietnam that the United States was just another player on the international scene - it was not a moral paragon.

There is a wealth of literature exposing American hypocrisy - everything from Chomsky to Gore Vidal to Z Magazine.

Then again, given the pervasive anti-government stance on issues such as encryption, it wouldn't appear that many /. readers bought the myth anyway.

A good reminder for everyone (3)

Saige (53303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618283)

Thank you for writing this article. As much as it's going to be debated as to whether it belongs on Slashdot or not, it makes a lot of points that people don't think about.

America is on of the freest countries in the world. But in absolute terms we still have a long ways to go - it's full of laws that have no real purpose being there, and there are plenty of people wanting to go away from freedom.

It's easy to talk about how wonderful this country is if you're a white wealthy straight christian male. Start moving away from this type of person and watch freedoms decrease, both legal freedoms and social freedoms. You're gay? Sorry, you can't marry who you want even though we can't offer one good reason to make it illegal. You're atheist? Heck, you're not even allowed to take public office in some states, not like people would vote for you anyways.

People should be willing to discuss any idea, no matter how radical. After all, even if the idea itself is bad and useless, it can spawn other discussions and ideas that can be useful.

I'm hoping you're right, that the net will not only prevent censorship, but that it will help encourage the next generation to be willing to listen and discuss the controvercial ideas, not just reject them out of hand. To eliminate the remaining 'taboo' topics and opinions, such as that religion has bad effects.

America, land of bigotry, home of censorship. Where freedom is selectively given out to those that can buy it.
---

Lawsuits are being used to censor. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618284)

Mattel is using lawsuits to censor. I found a site [nmt.edu] a while ago where a student put up Barbie jokes and Mattel threatened action.

Mattel, and originally TLC, are trying to silence my complaints [sorehands.com] of their violating employment laws and common decency.

It is one thing to protect one's trademark. It is entirely another to squelch any commentary, analysis, critism, or satire.

Injured software engineer wins against Mattel! [sorehands.com]

Re:Hmm... (5)

RangerElf (32760) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618285)

Is it truly freedom, when you expect to be (at least) socially blasted for expressing controversial ideas? I don't care about the legal structure, but about society. Sure, legally they can't touch you, but you become ostracized by your peers. Is that the mark of a free and educated society?

What makes freedom is education, the knowledge that you should not be attacked for proffering a thought-out opinion, requesting consideration, or at the least discussion. At the same time, one can not inflict one's prejudices upon others.

Why should Jon NOT post his "complicated, controversial articles" on slashdot? I happen to like his articles; I've always considered slashdot to be the place for people who like to read thought-provoking news and articles, not a techo-sheeple palace.

It's one thing to know many things, and it's another entirely to actually think.

Euthenasia + Choice = Freedom (4)

z1lch (35931) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618286)

Parents already can avoid bringing children with certain serious diseases into the world through prenatal testing. Do they also, as Singer suggests, have the moral right to withdraw life support, or even approve lethal injections?

Yes. Absolutely. Just as a woman has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Just as any person should be able to make a decision/carry out the wishes of an individual's euthenasia. eg. cases of terminal illness. These are huge ethical decisions but should be owned by the people whose lives they most directly effect.

Ultimately the world suffers from chronic overpopulation/suffering and it aint going to go away in a hurry. As society becomes increasingly competitive, humans may have virtually thrown the key out the window on natural selection but artificially we still have a ethical responsibility to our race and the planet not to further weaken the gene pool. At least not to experience guilt and blackmail from society for making a life changing decision. Survival of the fittest is still relevant in a synthetic kingdom.

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618287)

If Mr. Katz was born in that manner, critically ill, doomed to a life of a semi-conscieos existence, he wouldn't have been able to write this article or answer your question. h would have lived his life in a vegetive state being an extreme emotional and physical drain on his family. so yuor question is moot.

censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618288)

Once again the censorship card is misplayed so lets clear it up right now - free speech does not mean you get to do it for free. The often invoked founders of our country never said or believed that speech was free of costs or consquences. You don't get to make everyone else pay to hear you babble lame or stupid crap; at least not unless we are going to pay equally to hear everyone else's rantings. If Singer wants to spout his eugenics then he can go do it and if Katz wants to underwrite him he is welcome to. I am what most people here would consider a very conservative Christian but for the record I totally oppose school prayer and most of the other Religious Right attempts to force religion into government. We have no more right to have our beliefs paid for than Singer does. Free speech is to promote the exchange of views, right or wrong. But the GOAL of free speech is not relativist - not everything is equal and we cannot all be correct. The GOAL is to find truth. One should expect many people to oppose those things that are not true. The problem today seems to be that everyone has accepted the postmodernist view that we can't ever really know truth, so everyone is right. Then free speech becomes an exercise in extremes - who can shout the loudest, who can promote the newest or most shocking idea. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Dung Madonna (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618289)

I don't know where Jon gets the idea that Guiliani was censoring the offensive art show. He simply said that the taxpayers don't have to pay for it. This illustrates one of the problems with socialism. That problem is forcing people to pay for things that offend them. If we lived in a truly free society, then I wouldn't have to pay for what insults me or otherwise harms me. Democracy is just a way for 51% of the people to oppress 49% of the people.

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (2)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618290)

Mr. Katz, what if you'd been the one born like that? Would you be so quick to praise the murder of newborns? Who is to say that this person can't go on to lead a productive life? That medical technology you claim is "outstripping" us can make the persons life easier to live, and be less of a burden on us. God forbid we should actually show some compassion for our fellow man.
Stick to reporting tech issues and leave morality to others.


Compassion is over rated. If you KNOW that some kid is going to have the mental powers of a 3 year old for their entire life, then what is the purpose of allowing them to mature physically? They perform no useful function, they are simply a resource drain. It would be kinder to them and their parents to never let them be born.

Kintanon

Re:Hmm... (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618291)

"If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives. If they want the right to decide whether a baby who wouldn't normally live should be allowed to, I suppose that's their right, but there would need to be some guidelines to prevent abuse."

Well, certain people in this country DON'T suppose it is anybody's right to decide so. In fact, they take it as THEIR right and responsibility to ruin people lives, if not end them. And there IS a chilling relation between these people and organized religion.

We can decide here and now what is ethically ok, but out in America people are being crucified for being gay or shredded by pipe bombs because somebody's god supposedly doesn't like them. That's far from "free".

Re:Hmm... (1)

jagular (87649) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618292)

I disagree with your last bit; this type of commentary is exactly why I enjoy /.

These are very real issues that need to be addressed and the best part of the web is the ability to do just that in a public forum.

We're just beginning to confront the ethical issues inherent in technology. For example, cloning. Does a human clone constitute another, separate being or a property owned by the original? Our legal system as we know it can't keep up with technology and the ethical considerations. The more we're aware of the issues, the greater the chance we're able to handle the coming ethical issues.

The New Disenfranchised (0)

WorkJabez (99145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618293)

The internet is only providing a form of free speech for those that can afford it. As ever, the poor are unrepresented.

Take a walk through Mencken's old neighbourhood in South West Baltimore. I guess it would be easy to call it run down. The people there have their problems, but technology isn't solving any of them.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618294)

do you like posting complicated, controversial articles of dubious relevance on slashdot yup, *BSD ... dubious relevance certainly controversial although not any more complicated than other OS'es

Yawn! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618295)

Gosh, you Americans! Until you've had a queen and an empire you'll never understand freedom..... :)

A double standard (5)

noeld (43600) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618296)

Jonkatz says

The wanton use of terms like "murder" and "genocide" make that impossible, and that means we aren't free either.

Singer is no monster, and the notion that he's an advocate of mass murder seems outrageously simple-minded and hysterical, a club to shut him up rather than a way to support or refute his ideas.

So Jon you argue that my using of my free speech to call Singer a monster is hysterical and reduces your liberties while your opinion that he is not a monster is worthy and makes us more free?

This is an example of using a double standard to try and win an debate. You overlook the possibility that to some of us the idea of killing children is monstrous and evil and anyone that advocates this is an evil monster.

I believe that the entire argument you make about freedoms is a smokescreen to try and reduce my freedom to speak by twisted emotional blackmail.

Noel

Check out the Lance Armstrong Foundation [laf.org]

You cant think what you want in the USA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618297)

I didnt read the hole article so i dont know if this was included. I not even sure if this is true, but im quite sure that being a nazi is forbidden in the USA. Or atleast nazi organistations are forbidden. In Sweden nazi are ofter forbidden to say what they think in public. That sucks. PS. I didnt read the hole article, i am terribly uninformed and i am stupid. All this may be totaly wrong. But hey, second post. No wait. D'oh. In 5 minuits five people posted comments. DS.

Re:My impression of this... (2)

Laner (57704) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618298)

Can I get an AMEN? :) Seriously, I agree completely. The irony is almost sickening - I am considered a bigot and "close minded" due to my classic stance on morality, and all I hear is the liberal left SCREAMING for tolerance. Yet do they tolerate my views? Nooooo...

Here's something to chew on - if you don't *disagree* with a position, you are not *tolerating* it - you *accept* it. In order to "tolerate" something, you must fundamentally disagree with the issue at hand.

Isn't it ironic, don't you think? :)

Censorchip (1)

hoppy (21392) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618299)

The Net is inherently uncensorable. There are too many chat forums, messaging systems, mailing lists and websites, and not enough cops.


I think it's a common assumption but it's not always true, if we don't care i think we'll learn that technologie is both the best and the worst thing.

Talk to elderer about the begining of radio (even if the comparaison is not fair due to the knowledge requirement to operate a radio) there is similarities. At first everybody was speaking on air (net) and it wasn't possible for governement to censor. But now HAM are really under pressure and can not use radio for something else than talking about radio (at least here in France).
Not enough cops you said, we will have enough sooner than we want.

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (1)

bsletten (20271) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618300)

You've missed his point entirely. He is not praising Venture for his beliefs. He is not praising Singer for his beliefs. He is lamenting their inability to vocalize those beliefs in the strictures of contemporary America.

While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say. -- Lee Gomes

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618301)

Dumb Ass, He was not knocking religion! He was making the example of what would be said of H.L. Mencken today who did knock religion.

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. So? (1)

dave_d (22165) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618302)

Interesting. I took it that Katz was praising Peter Singer for talking about the issues that are often 'taboo' to talk about. How many people do you know, would automatically say, "That's shouldn't be done", when asked about terminating serverly handicapped newborns? Do they even think about the issues involved? Probably not. I think Katz's article was more about applauding people that consider these ideas, and how these ideas and the people that discuss them are often viewed in a bad light, then it was about being in favor of terminating newborns.

I usually dislike Guliani, but... (1)

Adar (33202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618303)

he's right. Under any normal circumstances, a bunch of elephant dung wouldn't even make it through U.S. Customs; but because some blockhead puts a bad painting on top of it and calls the whole thing the Virgin Mary, it's somehow transformed into an exhibit piece. I'm Jewish, so I couldn't care less about it's offensive value or lack thereof, but it's pretty clear it's derogatory to Catholics. That doesn't mean it has no right to exist, but it does mean public funding shouldn't be used to display it, just like a thousand other things offensive to a thousand other religions. Use some common sense for once. (This doesn't mean Guliani's not a tyrannical blockhead for blowing the whole thing up- but tyrannical blockheads have points, too.) I do agree with the second part of the article...although, FYI, the NY Daily News (the city's major tabloid) ran an editorial by Singer in it's Op-Ed section. It's extremely hard to agree with him, but he gave an example from when he was a surgeon (a baby needing a heart transplant died when a brain-dead infant with a healthy heart was in the same hospital for days) that did make me at least consider what he was talking about.

Other forms of censorship (1)

Arcys (99663) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618304)

The mention of the media not printing contraversial views reminded me of other cases of the US doing stuff like that 1) East Temor (sp?) -worse genocide than Cambodia hidden from US public by American news sources 2) Bombing of Laos in the Vietnam war gained Laos the dubious title of most bombed country in the world 3) The push for monlingualism, Since most of the English world's political views are the same the news tends to edit simmilar stuff out The internet provides access to international news and the more sources the better.

Censorship is a form of disagreement (2)

Chilles (79797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618305)

Disagree less agressive!

That is really the isue here I think.
People aren't that good at agreeing with each other, that's a fact of life. What bothers me is the truly agressive way in wich some people disagree with each other.
Threatening to kill people or actually killing people has become just another way of telling someone you don't agree with him/her.

Humanity has to keep on talking about every issue that bothers us and killing the debate wether through censorship or through murder does not really help us in any way.

Mmmkay (2)

MaximumBob (97339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618306)

Um, ok. I don't really follow you on this one. Let's see if I can handle this... America is not free because a lot of people dislike Peter Singer's ideas and say so? That's not censorship. Freedom of speech doesn't guarantee you the right to have your views respected -- it just guarantees you the right to express them.

Speaking of challenging assumptions, who says free speech is really such a great thing? After all, the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution stems directly from the ideas of John Locke. Locke had an agenda in his ideas -- he aimed to weaken religion. By preaching tolerance for all religions, he removed religion from the forefront of every day life, and relegated it to something that's part of one's private life.

So really, the First Amendment is just a conspiracy designed by heathens to eliminate God's influence for the world -- of course, it sounds like you're all for that. There. If that doesn't get me moderated back into last week, I don't know what will. Oh, but wait, it shouldn't. I'm challenging popular assumptions, and my ideas should be heard by everyone. While we're at it, I think they should be subsidized with tax money. Oh well. Perhaps if I attach some elephant dung to this post...

Good topic, but Katz drives me insane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618307)

Katz seems to be talking about the pressures that society places on the individual to "follow the herd". For a much more consistent treatment of this topic (without all the "net is god" techno-babble) try reading _On Liberty_ by John Stuart Mill.

Re:Hmm... (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618308)

Natural selection pretty much took care of babies who were too ill or sickly to survive. However, people tend to take care of them now. If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives.

Not entirely. They use up a lot of public funds in terms of welfare and insurance. I'm not making a judgment; just pointing out a fact.

Re:Dung Madonna (1)

bsletten (20271) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618309)

It is a simple fact that artists are not compensated appropriately for their work. Public funding *IS* needed to support most forms of art. Even acceptable, highly-popular art like classical music needs public funding. So, pulling that funding is most definitely a form of censorship.

Re:My impression of this... (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618310)

Yes, well the reason may be because there is good cause to believe when lots of WMC group up and become vocal over things, people get killed, hurt, unfairly imprisoned, cheated, stolen from, etc. It's YOUR burden to separate yourself from fellow WMCs who believe in and promote heinous, dangerous, unethical, and illegal activity. As a matter of fact, SAY and SPEAK all you want. Just stay the hell away from our civil liberties. Remember, just because you don't LIKE something, doesn't mean there has to be legislation in your favor to force everybody else your way.

Re:You cant think what you want in the USA. (2)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618311)

I didnt read the hole article so i dont know if this was included. I not even sure if this is true, but im quite sure that being a nazi is forbidden in the USA. Or atleast nazi organistations are forbidden. In Sweden nazi are ofter forbidden to say what they think in public. That sucks. PS. I didnt read the hole article, i am terribly uninformed and i am stupid. All this may be totaly wrong. But hey, second post. No wait. D'oh. In 5 minuits five people posted comments. DS.


Wrong, the Ku Klux Klan is a Natzi organization and is permitted, though there is a limit on what type of expression they are allowed, i.e. it's not OK to burn a cross on someones yard or threaten them (Unless you live in Alabama). So yes, we do allow Nazi organizations in the US.

Kintanon

Another fatwa? (2)

robinjo (15698) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618312)

Salman Rushdie got a fatwa for writing his book Satanic Verses. We all, US included, condemned the fatwa and tried to get Iran to change their minds. "This would never happen in the free world", we think. But wait, it happens!

There's a lot of doctors living under a religious fatwa in US. You just have to do legal abortions and you may loose your head to religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalists, kill while preaching: "You shall not kill."

Practice what you preach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618313)

First you say that those who would use such loaded terms as murder are preventing a rational conversation and then you say, "Patriotism is invoked by blockheads . . ." I guess blockheads is a cool, unemotional, objective term. What this guy proposes IS murder by definition. To call it otherwise is to de-value life until, at some point, silly internet columnists are deemed expendable and promptly done away with.

Bleah, messed up the formatting. Read this instead (0)

Adar (33202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618314)

I usually dislike Guliani, but he's right. Under any normal circumstances, a bunch of elephant dung wouldn't even make it through U.S. Customs; but because some blockhead puts a bad painting on top of it and calls the whole thing the Virgin Mary, it's somehow transformed into an exhibit piece.


I'm Jewish, so I couldn't care less about it's offensive value or lack thereof, but it's pretty clear it's derogatory to Catholics. That doesn't mean it has no right to exist, but it does mean public funding shouldn't be used to display it, just like a thousand other things offensive to a thousand other religions. Use some common sense for once. (This doesn't mean Guliani's not a tyrannical blockhead for blowing the whole thing up- but tyrannical blockheads have points, too.)


I do agree with the second part of the article...although, FYI, the NY Daily News (the city's major tabloid) ran an editorial by Singer in it's Op-Ed section. It's extremely hard to agree with him, but he gave an example from when he was a surgeon (a baby needing a heart transplant died when a brain-dead infant with a healthy heart was in the same hospital for days) that did make me at least consider what he was talking about.

America is free (4)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618315)

And that includes people's responses. If you can't censor one side, you can't censor the other, either. Freedom is two-edged, which is precicely why dictators decry it.

The artwork fiasco, and the New York mayor's response are a case in point. Yes, the art gallery should have the right to show what it likes. On the flip side, the mayor should have the right to say what goes on on property he's responsible for. You can't have one-sided freedom. It's an all or nothing deal. You cannot expect only the side you cheer for to have the right to speak up.

The mayor has not once said the museum of art can't show what it likes, he's only said it can't show this material on Government property, with Government money. Is that really censorship, when nobody is being stopped? All that's happening is that the mayor has set boundaries - something every person does every day, because it is both healthy and necessary.

John Katz' choice of a title has shock-value - something you expect from "The National Enquirer" or "The Sun" (the UK newspaper). What it doesn't have is relevence to the article. There's nothing about babies, dying or otherwise, in the story, either literally or figuratively.

There IS freedom of speech in the USA, but don't expect others not to use it, too, when you say something they don't like. John Katz' arguments are just as much an attempt to censor and muzzle others as they are over censorship of things he doesn't like. So what if this faceless "they" have more power than he does? It's the attitude which matters, and what you do with it.

I do not agree with censorship, deliberate distortion of facts to deceive or manipulate, or any other attempt to pervert reality. I DON'T differentiate between the alleged agressors and the alleged victims. If something is a definite "wrong", then who does it should not matter. As soon as it does, you have a dictatorship, with one side dictating the reality of the other. Plain and simple.

Then, there are other aspects to this. This is not a plain and simple situation. It never is. Take the case of the museum of art, again. That pig that was cut in half - a life was sacrificed for people's viewing pleasure. Is this any better than badger baiting, hare coursing or fox hunting? Yet these are either banned or under review, in many countries, as cruel and barbaric. Not surprising, really. It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that degrading the value and significance of life is, at best, seriously sick and diseased.

Yet we are to believe that a mayor, who has obligations by law, is being censorus by drawing attention to the fact that he's not going to excuse an exhibit which may be illegal under State and national law. I'm not saying he's "right" - I am wary of the concepts of "right" and "wrong", they are misused so much - but I know damn well that if John Katz ever became President, we'd know censorship like we've never had before.

Mini-Katz (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618316)

Mr. Katz, what if you'd been the one born like that? Would you be so quick to praise the murder of newborns?

I don't think he would've been able to contemplate anything or praise anything since his brain wouldn't have had a chance to develop yet. That's the entire point of why infants are inherently different from adults.

short post (1)

Shadukar (102027) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618317)

not meant to be offensive, just pitiful attempt at toilet humor. "Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has em. Some are bigger than others"

puleaze (1)

redtoade (51167) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618318)

What a bunch of long winded crap. Thank God I didn't waste the $25k a year to go to Princeton... sheesh.

Bottom line: You rights stop where my nose starts. And there are 270 million noses in this country. Why did you waste all that typing to ignore that fact? The only way to truly be free is to be the only human alive within the range of that person's perceptions.

OF COURSE our freedom is limited when people deal with each other. You can't do just anything that you want to do... that's why we spend all those years in grade school learning how to "get along well with others." I can't believe that college types haven't learned lessons that first graders take for granted.

"Freedom" is a term regarding government vs citizens. This completely tangential conversation on how I'm not free because I have to feed my dog everyday is verbal masturbation at best.

Stop wasting our time


thank you! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618319)

someone with the balls to say what needs to be said. alot of you will disagree with this, thats your choice, but these ideas really need to be thought about seriously.

Freedom (1)

dianos (94336) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618320)

Knowledge is power, therefore it must be controlled. Privacy is a privilege, trying to hide it must be illegal. Preaching Ignorance, our way is the right way. The "Matrix" is here to keep you where you are, to provide the illusion of freedom. And when you can see it, you will realise that there is no freedom unless you make your own rules.

"Moral Righteousness" = national FUD (1)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618321)

Warning: I'm on a soapbox.

Frankly, any claim of America's moral superiority to some other nation is a highly dubious one. The same applies to cultural superiority (one which I hear a lot of conservatives whip out).

I personally believe that moral superiority is something tangible; that there is a such thing as objective morality, and that the United States has violated it with foreign and domestic policies that are contradictory to the benefit of humankind in general and Americans in particular. We support tinhorn dictators in the name of oil (before, it was "fighting communism"), we let companies put cyanide and other poisons in our water, and we let the government walk all over our civil rights in the name of a drug war. The same can be said of almost any other country, and almost certainly every industrialized nation, over the last 100 years.

Claims of cultural superiority are simply fascist nonsense, since the measuring stick of superiority depends on the culture from which one measures.

The best that we can say about America is not that we are morally superior, or that we are culturally superior; but that the United States generally allows persons to seek their own path, with a minimum of interference in most cases. Whether this is good or bad depends on your yardstick.

Arguing != Censoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618322)

Let's not confuse arguing with someone and saying that they are wrong or that their ideas have deadly (literally) consequences with censoring. How can his ideas be taboo if they are the subject of immense debate? Singer can print any book he wants. America isn't a free country because there are guards in his classroom? Puh-lease. The guards are there for his safety because there are nutcases. When you advocate killing one-year old babies, its worth taking some safety precautions for yourself.

Re:A double standard (2)

Saige (53303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618323)

So Jon you argue that my using of my free speech to call Singer a monster is hysterical and reduces your liberties while your opinion that he is not a monster is worthy and makes us more free?

This is an example of using a double standard to try and win an debate. You overlook the possibility that to some of us the idea of killing children is monstrous and evil and anyone that advocates this is an evil monster.

I believe that the entire argument you make about freedoms is a smokescreen to try and reduce my freedom to speak by twisted emotional blackmail.


No, his point is that large groups of people are themselves using emotional blackmail to even eliminate discussion of his idea. Instead of trying to refute it, all they're doing is labeling him a monster, murdered, advocate of genocide. And trying to make anyone else not even consider discussing his idea for fear of being labeled the same way.

There's an enormous difference between bringing up an idea for discussion, and implementing it. Treating him like such a horrible person and making him fear for his life for suggesting an idea is censorship - social censorship. Especially when we know he really can't go out an implement it, even a little bit.

Nobody's telling you that you're not allowed to be a hysterical emotional reactionary. Just that it does more harm than good.
---

Re:Hmm... (2)

vyesue (76216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618324)

it might be their life, but its not their money and so its not their business. when their critically ill retarded handicapped genetically deficient baby ends up in the neonatal ICU for a couple weeks, who's footing the bill? people who pay for health insurance and don't use it. this my money and your money that is "saving" these babies.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Erskin (1651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618325)

People can believe whatever they want to believe. Whether or not it's popular is a completely different issue.

Doesn't being persecuted for your beliefs count as a loss of freedom? I doubt many other people will repeat Singer's views with the obvious results it's had on his life, just because his thoughts were unpopular.

Natural selection pretty much took care of babies who were too ill or sickly to survive. However, people tend to take care of them now. If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives.

If we lived in a purely opportunitstic and capitalist society, perhaps. But, we don't. We have many goverment programs which aid the general populace, and many of those include financial support for those in need, regardless of how they got there. The general taxpayer pays for these subsidies, in essence funding poor decisions. That's why seatbelt lawas were passed. (Of course, we could have instead, removed the tax money from hospitals and such...)

I wouldn't trust genetic engineering yet until it is well-proven. Why implement a technology when you know you don't understand its ramifications?

I believe the point was not to advocate this as a solution, but merely acknowledge that there are options already in development that make Singer's issues worth discussion.

And, finally, do you like posting complicated, controversial articles of dubious relevance on slashdot?

I don't know so much about the dubious relevance. That's almost always an argueable point thanks to the "Stuff that Matters." definition. Of course, it does refer to both technology used as communication (particularly the internet) and a previously posted /. article. That seems pretty well grounded.

Is the article really that complicated, or is it the issue itself? Is controversial a reason to not post an article? Isn't that kind of limiting exactly the point this article is trying to explore? (Every geek loves recursion!)

I'll give you that John may take a lengthy approach to it, but he's a journalist, and not a man page author. That's one of the reasons I liek having him around. ;)

--

Re:The New Disenfranchised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618326)

You gotta be kidding. Almost all of the people who are counted as "poor" own at least one color TV ( this statistic has been published time and again for many years).

I Now Understand. (2)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618327)

I've been reading /. for several months and I've noticed an overwhelming sentiment in the community that regards John Katz as an ineffectual, boring hack of a writer who has perhaps overstayed his fifteen minutes of fame. I'm not overly familiar with Katz' writings outside of the pieces presented here on /. so I had nothing to measure him against. I wasn't quite sure how he gained the enmity of the majority of the community.

I now understand.

Katz attemtps to gauge America's "freedom" based on three controversial people and the debate that ensued from their controversial actions. He clumsily attempts to equate "blockheaded" debate as infringements upon freedom. I guess in Katz' world we are all free to speak our minds in a utopian vacuum where we sit and either nod or shake our heads in agreement or disagreement. I'd like to be the first to welcome Katz to the real world. Whether America is freer than any other countries is perhaps debatable. If we are to equate freedom with civil debate, then I question whether anyone is truly free.

This commentary from Katz has the feel of a being hastily slapped together and culled from several Junior High School term papers laying around somewhere in Katz' attic. If Katz has free rein to peddle essays of dubious quality he will only furthern harden the community against him.

Freedom in the US (1)

JustCause (83255) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618328)

We are not free. You can look at it however you want to, we are "free" in a sence, but us the citizens are not truly free. Being Free means that you have a TRUE choice in a matter, not a choice that is presented to you in a gift wrapped box by the ruling Few. I've only been studying political science for a short time, but I believe I have a fairly firm grasp of the major concepts. For one, are you or anyone you know able to truly say what you feel at any given time? No, some because you don't wish to offend another person, but other times because at the risk of that offense you may be subject to a lawsuit since the comment pained someone emotionally. What the newspapers, magazines and Net sites editorial sections have become are not a place to exchange ideas. If you notice it's where some brave soul brings up an idea, and many others 'flame' that person for thinking of the idea. A public forum should hopefully be a open place to exchange ideas.
The most recent place in the world to have true Freedom, is in East Timor. The people were presented with a choice. Vote for Independence from Indonesia, or to become a form of colony, much like Puerto Rico is to the United States. They were not told, vote for this Democrate or this Republican. They had the ability of holding their own future in their hands, true power and freedom...
Yes we have freedoms: religion, speech, right to bare arms etc. But notice that you, and individual, have little actual power and freedom in the scheme of things. Being Free involves having the ability to choose anything you want... The Internet is the closest thing there is to freedom. Since it involves a choose of anything, the Few in power are scared since they have little control over it. This is where the Many should be able to let their voice be heard...
Enjoy, hope this at least spins a few wheels for people...

Re:My impression of this... (1)

xnixnix (31045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618329)

Same happened to me (only with netscape, though ;-(), but anyway her a shorter version.

This essay reminds me of some reactions to a german philosophers (sloteterdijk) essay. He wrote an essay about genetically breeding the master race, in essence some ideas of nietzsche and plato about change in humanity in light of the new (perceived) genetic possibilities of biology. Also some discussion voices with the old kill-words like Genocide, Racism, Faschism. It is always these self-contradicting (verbal) actions that make me so dizzy. (aka "only ppl with my views are subject to the freedom of speech"). For an in depth discussion see the zeits archive [bdaserver.de] . Now this is in german, so use babelfish or whatever. And do not flame me because u think i support this essay. I actually do not and think it is written to touch the taboos.

Re:Good topic, but Katz drives me insane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618330)

blow it out yer ass

gimme a break .. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618331)

It seems to me that in our country today it is becoming acceptable for everyone to lambast White Male Christians.

Yes, America is a country that is well-known for its persecution of Christians.

Here are some shocking examples:

Life In Our Anti-Christian America [infidels.org]

Look. Many "White Male Christians" have made it their life's work to "lambast" other groups. If it's not calling Muslims the "s pawn of Satan" [deja.com] or advocating killing homosexuals [infidels.org] because the book of Leviticus says they should be put to death, it's blasting professional women because they have high-paying corporate jobs instead of a non-paying role as a submissive housewife.

I'm sorry if it offends you when people say that these views are completely full of shit.

But they are. They just don't fly anymore.

Re:My impression of this... (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618332)

I think the terminology of "tolerance" has been the convention, because INtolerance was the historical problem. Now I think acceptance/tolerance can almost be used interchangeably because tolerance is now the default (hopefully).

Actually, as per your example, America DOES tolerate your views, just doesn't accept them. If everybody is tolerant of others besides YOU, then you are the one who must be /tolerated/ by the rest because YOU have a view others *disagree* with.

Re:My impression of this... (2)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618333)

Yes, well the reason may be because there is good cause to believe when lots of WMC group up and become vocal over things, people get killed, hurt, unfairly imprisoned, cheated, stolen from, etc. It's YOUR burden to separate yourself from fellow WMCs who believe in and promote heinous, dangerous, unethical, and illegal activity. As a matter of fact, SAY and SPEAK all you want. Just stay the hell away from our civil liberties. Remember, just because you don't LIKE something, doesn't mean there has to be legislation in your favor to force everybody else your way.


Which also means that there shouldn't be legislation to force anyone any other way. I've never seen a group of WMCs become violent, anywhere. I've seen a lot of hate groups, anti-christian, anti-black, anti-jew, anti-almost anything become violent. But I have yet to see a group of christians attempting to lynch a scientist. Admittedly there were a lot of frightened paranoid christians who DID kill a lot of scientists in one way or another over the last few hundred years. But there have also been plenty of OTHER groups killing scientists for whatever reason. The foibles of Christian society are not unique to it.

Kintanon

Katz: Bigot or Troll? (0)

Dictator For Life (8829) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618334)

This has to be the most over-the-top Katz piece yet. It's clear that Mr. Katz is the most bigoted contributor to this forum.

Sigh. I don't even know where to begin in dissecting this tantrum of his, but I'm not really sure it's worth the effort.

In the first place, I can't shake this feeling that Katz is nothing but a poser: a pure pseudo-intellectual with delusions of self-importance. There is little if anything in this rant of his that could be substantiated by either a) evidence, or b) logic. The First Amendment has never been a particularly popular one. ???? Puh-leeazze! What dorky planet are you from, Katz? Oh, and this is choice, too:

Singer exemplifies America's founders [sic] prescient convictions - born out of centuries of observing the gruesome interaction between religion and monarchies and free speech -- that it's often the most upsetting ideas that warrant discussion - and need protection.

Katz, have you ever read a history book? I doubt you that you have. It's obvious that you are dreaming up this fantasy worldview of yours as you go.

There's nothing to see here in Katz's latest crybaby, narcissistic tantrum, folks. It's nothing more than the latest troll from Slashdot's own resident troll: a two-bit, indefensible pseudo-intellectual screed not worth the electrons it's made from. If only it were true that he would go away if we'd just ignore him...

Censorship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618335)

About the whole Brooklyn VIrgin Mary and all that:

I am not sure how the statement "We refuse to give you money to put up your 'art'" translates into censorship.

If you are going to try to shock and upset the establishment with your art, dont be upset when the establishment decides that they dont want to pay for it.

No one is saying that you cant make art--they are saying that they dont want to pay for it.

freedom is only in one's mind (1)

graycloud (72586) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618336)

i have to question your assumptions on freedom in your comments.

as a native american i call into question our freedom in this country many a time, but having livedin many other parts of the world i must say that the 'freedom' we experience in this country is certainly of a much truer nature than you claim.

the censorship that you refer to and the privation of ideological freedom that you mention are not those imposed by the country itself but by the very fact that we are able to express our ideas freely, and expect the freely expressed ideas and actions of our ideological opponents to do the same.

censorship is a natural instinct, a way to protect our view of the world by suppressing the views of others; the censorship you alude to however is not institutional (not that it does not exist) but rather the instinctual reaction of individuals and groups who feel threatened by an idea and who fear the acceptance of something that threatens their world view.

it is the fact that these people, rightly or wrongly, can express their disapproval of an idea and attempt to suppress it by whatever means possible that essentially expresses our 'freedom'. our 'right' to disapprove and to make "our" ideas superior. like any other animal we are attempting to secure or domain, even if it is in our minds and the mids thsoe around us.

the reaction of many of these groups is "almost" understandable considering what many so called freely expressed ideas have doen in this century, when people were truly unable to oppose them and ended up blindly following them to protect themselves and their families.

do not criticize what freely expressing our ideas, in whatever foolish actions we choose, as being a los of freedom, if anything, it exemplifies just how far we have come, and just how basically instinctual we truly are as humans

Reverse censorship (1)

yldob (76839) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618337)

I see the problem here as being not that people are attempting to censor more than they were in the past, but that with the advent of new technologies more people are able to present their oppositions to others ideas. Attempting to quell this is also a form of censorship. If I want to do X and so-and-so doesn't like it, then so-and-so has every right to scream out loud and promote their opposition to my X idea. At the same time, it is sometimes scary to the lenghts at which some will go to to promote their opposition to an idea, using harsh terms such as mass murder in the case presented by Katz.

Also, the art issue is fairly complex. I don't think that my tax dollars should be used to support something that I find offensive. However at the same time, I feel art is an important part of society and needs to be supported in someway.

I have no solution to offer to these problems, but these nonetheless are my opionions.

Re:My impression of this... (2)

vyesue (76216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618338)

see, this is somethign that bugs me about those religious people who are always trying to get people to do what their god likes. they always say "I have a right to express my views too", and they do, under the first amendment. what they don't have the right to do is hold me hostage with their god's laws; disagreeing with abortion or euthanasia is one thing, actually trying to make it impossible for me to kill my baby is anyther thing entirely.

Seperation of Church and State (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618339)

Yes, but selection of which exhibits to support and which not to on crtiteria of religious offensiveness goes against the separation of church and state clause.

Imagine if we had, for instance, "Everyone must pay taxes, except for people of such-and-such a religion."

Oh, wait.. that's already true... :P

Re:My impression of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618340)

What bullshit! White male xtians are the most powerful class in this country and even the world, yet they are trying to paint themselves as victims of discrimination. You people have no idea what it's like to be on the receiving end, and so you get a little criticism and you start crying in your soup. Grow up!

Re: Well said (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618341)

It's funny how anti-censorship diatribes almost always turn pro censorship in some underhanded way. ("You can say anything you want unless you criticize the group I consider 'free thinkers'").

Re:A double standard (5)

nevets (39138) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618342)

Your right to denounce Singer is perfectly fine.

The problem is arises when Singer needs guards to speak his mind. The problem I see, is that people are afraid to speak about things that upset them. I'm no different from anyone else. I get upset when someone states something that offends me, but instead of censoring the offending remarks, I argue against them. I try to do an intellectual debate to denounce the offending comments. People have a tendency to flame or cast insults or even worse, violence against individuals instead of pointing out the problems with there discussion.

The best way to understand things is to listen, even if it is something you dislike.

Sometimes censorship may be a Good Thing(tm). If you can argue that it is. I would argue that posting the instructions on making bombs on the internet is dangerous, and make a case for censorship of it. Not for opinions in general, but to show a direct consequence of the problems caused by the publishing of that content.

Steven Rostedt

Formulation of Ideas (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618343)

What I like to do is if someone states something such as what Mr. Singer has stated, I try to read as much as possible about the issue, then form my own opinion. I try not to form an opinion based on what a single group says, until I've heard both sides of the issue.

What scares me is when governments refuse to listen to both sides of an issue, or atleast acknowledge the other side of the issue.

An example of this can be found in a blurb in Focus on the Family [family.org] which it appears as though the government is ignoring a study done by the American Psychological Association [apa.org] simply because what the APA is saying does not fit politically with what the government has been saying since the 1970's. At the time of this writing, the Focus on the Family web server is down, and I don't want to make a statement regarding the contents of the blurb because I can't quote it exactly. However, there are several good articles on the APA where if you just search on APA, you will find them.

Another example of this would be government funded studies which say that marijuana is not any worse then cigarettes or alcohol. Because the government has been saying for years that marijuana is bad for you, they refuse to acknowledge their own studies. The information regarding marijuana can be found on the ACLU [aclu.org] website in their drugs section.

In both of these cases, I have not made a decision as to what I think about them, but I try to get further information in hopes of making a better decision.

Generally, even if I don't agree with what a person is saying, I will not try to stop them from saying it. They have that right to say what they think regardless of whether or not I agree with it.

Re:My impression of this... (1)

substrate (2628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618344)

Personally I say you are entitled to your point of views, I'm entitled to agree or disagree with them as the case may be. Feel free to shout out your views where ever its appropriate.

However, a big part of the reason white Christian males (or Christians in general) are being ostracized now is that while they feel they are entitled to speak their mind, no opposing views are entitled. This isn't necessarily about you, I don't know you personally, but the Christian society as a whole.

Any media which presents an opposing view with any more realism or tact than Jerry Springer is boycotted and thus silenced. In my community the screaming hordes of Christians have banded together to ban books from the school libraries. Do they advocate genocide, popularize Hitler or are they hard core porn? No, they're books that try to help students understand that gay persons have a right to live and a right to happiness. Whether or not those people agree with the philosophy or not, if they expect the freedom to express their views they should tolerate the same freedoms in others. Rather than voicing opinions they've got a mob mentality and the numbers to allow them to supress opposing views. That's not exercising free speech, thats NAZIism.

on the ball (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618345)

though i found that this story a bit drawn out the ideas talked about were very true. those of you who don't understand what katz is talking about need to really read the story. we are all censored even though we live in a free country. are we censored by the government? sure. but more so by the people around us. dont believe in the morals everyone else does. great for you. youll be shunned though. look at jesse ventura(sp?). someone finally had the courage enough to speak out about his views on religion. being an athiest i know that many are grateful someone finally stood up and said this. but look what happens. the majority of the country is religous and he is thus shunned for his views. what ever happened to the seperation of church and state.

if you didnt understand the article or what he was saying take a step back. try dropping all the prejudices and ideas that have been embedded in your brain and really take in what he is saying. killing deformed and retarded babies? it may not sound good but it is an idea that people should talk about. after hitting the 6 billion point we need to look at the way we are reproducing because soon enough there won't be enough room for all of us. if you really want to understand and dont see the ideals embedded in your brain maybe you should read ishmael [ishmael.com] by daniel quinn.

another good place to go and read that deals with over population and gets lots of the shunning i talked about visit the voluntary human extinction movement [vhemt.org] .

want to write me about this post? click here [mailto] .

Re:A double standard (1)

nevets (39138) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618346)

Sorry the first sentence should have been.

You'r right to denounce Singer is perfectly fine

That missing apostrophe can make it confusing.

Steven Rostedt

Re:"American Myth" died with Vietnam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618347)

Um, I think we did win the cold war. Ever hear of "loosing the battle but winning the war" ? If you don't think the arms race and containment policies were effective I say you're deluded.

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618348)

This is a typically dogmatic and narrowminded response. First, you don't want people reporting on issues where the point of view may not be compatible with your version of morality as evidenced by the line:

Stick to reporting tech issues and leave morality to others.

Second, Jon isn't praising the bio"ethic"ist's views, only his courage to express idea's that the rest of society wants to censor.

even if there were a moral absolute, the only way that it could be discovered is by the freedom of idea's, no matter how monstrous (or utopian) they may seem.

Typical Katz nonsense (1)

briancarnell (94247) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618349)

Does Singer advocate murder. You decide, this is what he said Tuesday night at a debate on the euthanasia issue:

"Killing an infant is not equivalent to killing a person because by a person I mean something more of a rational self-aware being," Singer said.
-From the Associated Press

Nobody, btw, is arguing that Singer doesn't have a First Amendment right to say what he's saying; the issue is whether or not Princeton should be supporting him in that.

Katz said this is what universities need to do but I say that's BS. A racist who thinks blacks should be murdered to purify the white race in America raises a lot of interesting ethical issues, but is no more deserving of a prominent professorship at Princeton than Singer is.

BTW, the obvious implication of equating Singer's position with Dyson's is that it is a roundabout way of equating abortion with infanticide (which Singer tends to do as well) -- hey Katz are you going to take up the prolife crusade next?

Re:The New Disenfranchised (2)

vyesue (76216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618350)

yes? and?

survival of the fittest, baby. technology isnt supposed to solve all our problems, its supposed to be a tool for people to use. if some people are too poor to afford it, that shouldn't be our primary concern.

I think it's kind of amusing how everyone wants to do away with floppy drives and ISA busses and other dead-end technology in the name of faster forward progress, but we're always worried about making sure the lower class is properly worried about. this is natural selection at work; don't let your conscience get in the way.

con-science = against science. (?)

Being a Nazi in the US (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618351)

That's not true. You definitely can be a Nazi or a member of the KKK. In fact, the ACLU reguarly has to defend their rights to peaceful demonstrations and so forth. Now, some of the heads of the ACLU are Jewish, even, but although people may get personally offended or even despise the views of white supremecists, they fully support their right to free speech.

That's why I so admire the ACLU's guts to stand by what they stand for so firmly and non-discriminately support the First Amendment.

Btw, I'm not saying that it's any easier to be a member of the Nazi party or the KKK than to be Peter Singer due to social pressures...

Agree (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618352)

Obviously looking for something to write about, it seems he takes a topic we all hold dear and throws around a few buzzwords and catchphrases and mentions a few sensationalized stories that have been in the news recently, and rambles on and on.

If you hold the First Amendment so dearly, then you must agree that the people who complain about art, defend or decry religion, call for censorship (but not the act itself) and state they are horrified by the thought of mercy killing, are also practicing their first amendment rights.

For some reason we like to spout our opinions, and when someone disagrees we cry censorship or label them as thought police, when they are simply practicing their first amendment rights.

OK, here's a good example: the recent art exhibit in New York. The mayor does not have the right, nor the authority (on his own) to pull funding, and I hope the museum wins any lawsuits that result from this. However, the Mayor and all the people who supported him (by protesting and boycotting the museum) were also using their first amendment rights. Do they not have a right to voice their opinion about how their tax dollars are spent?

Censorship a government issue (3)

DrFalkyn (102068) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618353)

The Brooklyn Museum of Art faces the loss of a third of its annual budget, even eviction, because the mayor of New York City finds a painting in an exhibit offensive.

Which he is in he perfectly legal right to do so as Mayor of NY. Just because they have the right to say whatever they want doesn't mean we should be forced to fund them!

Katz, your argument works both ways. Those who called for the removal of Singer, Ventura, and Buchanan had just as much right to free speech. In the case of witholding funding, Singer doesn't have any 'right' to be a professor of Bioethics at Princeton, and Princeton has eveery right to dismiss him if they believe his values are directly opposed to the mission of the university.

Censorship is a government issue, not a social one. You have the right to free speech within certain bounds. You don't have the right to commit treason and claim you are protected under the first amendment. You can't threaten the president's life. You can't operate a radio station without a permit from the FCC. Yes, I'll probably get flamed for this one but I think all these limits on free speech are reasonable.

If there was absolute freedom, there would be chaos - Aristotle

I Agree... (1)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618354)

The U.S. still has a long ways to go in many areas... but damn, I really am proud to be an American. At least people can actively, and outragreously attack (vocally) anything they see fit. Every American out there screaming that the United States sucks, has to realize that we are one of the few countries where they can DO that!
The right to bash and ridicule you own country is something that many people really take advantafe of, without realize what kind of power that is.

Re:censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618355)

I think you have missed the point a bit. You seem to have already dismissed Singer as being wrong. Now perhaps you have thought about it in some detail or perhaps not. The point, like you said, should be to try to find the truth. The only way to find the truth is to explore the idea openly. Katz is pointing out that many people, appearently yourself included, don't want to participate in a conversation about this becuase it's "lame or stupid crap". And even though you may be willing to discuss Singer's idea rationally, there are many people who are not. And that is the point.

The real problem (4)

netwiz (33291) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618356)

Is intellectual laziness on the part of the US citizenry (and the human race in general). I spoke with one of my friends at length regarding the gun issues facing our country and world. He constructed a fascinating argument using personal responsibility as the reason why guns should be legal and unencombered. Managed to use the 1920s prohibition as an example. When I brought up the fact that the _exact_same_argument_ (personal responsibility) can be used to promote the legalization of drugs (he did use prohibition as an example), his response was, "No not really. Drugs are bad."

?????

How did this happen? It just amazes me that people are so often blind to flaws in their logic, just because it would force them to change their mind. Reminds me of something the fortune file served up the other day:

"The very powerful and very stupid have something in common. Instead of changing their mind to fit the facts, they try to change the facts to fit their mind. It can get pretty nasty when you're one of the facts that needs changing."

I forget who said this. Oh, yah, it was Dr. Who.

Re:Hmm... (2)

MattTC (45020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618357)

American society has NEVER been a place where it has been acceptible to deviate too far from the norm. One might argue that this is why those old white guys in the 1700s felt comfortable releaseing a large portion of control over to the masses; they knew that they wouldn't let the crazies dominate.

Katz: What do you expect? When people hear an idea that they are passionately opposed to, they will try to SHOOT IT DOWN. This is typical of debate.

People who make their living on controversy, whether you call them pundits or trolls, should not be surprised when there is a negative backlash to their ideas. The more controversial the idea, the more flamed that person is likely to get. This is a tradition of the internet, and is a controlling influence on those who would like to bombard us with their opinions, no matter how insane they might be.

I personally consider the idea of killing off disabled children to fall into the Whacko category, along with those folks who try to tell me that the holocaust didn't happen, the moon mission was a fake, and that the Earth is really flat. People who push these kinds of ideas in front of me tend to get pushed right back. The more I care about an issue, the harder I will push. Surprise!

When do we get to have an article saying how it would be better if we killed all kids at birth who might grow up to be lawyers? I could get behind that one :-)

The point (4)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618358)

As I write this, I see five comments of six suggesting Katz shut up, or not write the article.

This demonstrates exactly what he is talking about. As long as people can't speak without the fear of offending others, we aren't truly free. Not that Katz is going to be inhibited by the abuse he gets, but a more timid person with ideas as or more worthwhile might be.

When someone suggests euthanasia in cases where conciousness isn't present or survival is not possible he is reviled. Maybe the idea is wrong, but a free society attacks the idea, not the person behind it.

If I were to suggest revolution in my country, and it happened, innocent people would die. How is this any different from the euthanasia controversy? Is suggesting revolution worthy of being named a mass murderer then? And why aren't the founding fathers reviled?

Examining an idea never hurts. It may be wrong, but in the process of honestly determining that for yourself that you can learn important things.

Let Katz write. Filter him, or turn your eyes if you think it worthless. You at worst harm yourself that way. Inhibiting free discussion harms everyone else's right to be exposed to ideas they may find more valuable than you.

Euthenasia, Censorship, Poly-Ticks, Etc. (1)

[iB] (101505) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618359)

It seems that in our society, we scream about wanting honest politicians, yet when we get one such as Governor Ventura we start screaming about it and asking for his resignation. I think people just don't know what they want anymore. First it was survival, then it was luxury. Now it seems that people just want to be right, at any cost, no matter what the discussion or platform, and at the expense of others. While I don't agree with the Professor from Princeton, or with abortion in general (except under extreme cases, such as rape), I do think that we should have the right to die, and I do think he, and others, should have the right to try to convince me, and others, of their points of view free from censorship. The problem I see is with other people choosing whether another living being should live or die, and in this case, if the Professor from Princetons ideas were put into practice, we might have been deprived of great minds, such as Stephen Hawkings. A great loss indeed. - iCEBaLM

Re:A double standard (2)

Your_Mom (94238) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618360)

What Jon is saying is that People are instantateous calling Singer a "a monster" while people are not paying attention to the flip side of the coin. I think singer's idea is sick and my morals wouldn't let me accept it. But the idea is fine and dandy. I wouldn't call Singer a monster any more then calling you a close-minded idiot. ;)

You are proving Jon's statement by saying 'thats a stupid idea. He shouldn't say stuff like that' What Jon is saying is that Singer, You, Your next door neighbor, and everyone else can say your opinions. Unfortunately since a LOT of people are stuck in the mindframe 'I am right and everyone who disagrees should be shot' mindframe Singer, myself, and anyone else who has a diffrent way of looking at things, can't go expressing our ideas that aren't "social acceptable".

In other words people should just grow up.

Intelligent Discussions (1)

joefission (101644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618361)

It seems it is very difficult to discuss ideas without invoking some level of hypocricy from someone . I think this is where Jon is coming from. Can we discuss ideas in an intelligent manner without labeling them and throwing out the whole idea? Maybe, maybe not.

I see it all of the time with the Drug War. There has yet to be a true discussion with the actual policy makers about the drug policy and its implications. For instance, in the Drug Czar's eyes, medical marijuana sends the wrong message to our children. Yet he is all for doctors ability to prescribe Marinol (THC and oil pills). Bill Bennett is against drugs but is for the theraputic effects of wine.

Is it possible to describe what a person doesn't like about an idea without actually labeling it as something else? It might take a good hard look at yourself first, and few want to do that. People tend to get upset when an idea attacks their ego.

Ventura's statements about organized religion being a crutch for the weak minded seemed true to me, but not my friends who go to church. A poll that came out after the statements reported >70% of those polled believed religion was very important to them, yet around 40% actually went to church at least once per week.

If an idea breaks down what a person believes to be true about themselves (a vested value) then they will usually resist. Be like the Dalai Lama and discussions will be intelligent. But I'm not holding my breath for anyone (including myself) to be able to do that with all ideas. :-)

Re:gimme a break .. (2)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618362)

Yes, America is a country that is well-known for its persecution of Christians.

Here are some shocking examples:

Life In Our Anti-Christian America

Look. Many "White Male Christians" have made it their life's work to "lambast" other groups. If it's not calling Muslims the "s pawn of Satan" or advocating killing homosexuals because the book of Leviticus says they should be put to death, it's blasting professional women because they have high-paying corporate jobs instead of a non-paying role as a submissive housewife.

I'm sorry if it offends you when people say that these views are completely full of shit.



Ummm... those views ARE full of shit, which is why you won't find many people under *80* who still follow them. I agree, some WMCs have repeatedly flamed Muslims for their beliefs. However that is free speech, it's ok. Muslims have flamed christians (Sometimes literally flamed) and THAT is ok as well. What is NOT ok is when everyone objects to the first and tells the WMC he is evil, but not the second. Try being a bit more open minded, go actually talk to some christians... Hopefully you won't run into the stupid ones, they are out there...

Kintanon

Re:My impression of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618363)

Erm... it's not a simple issue. How is it your baby in the first place? Does this mean my parents can come and dust me off anytime they want? How come the same people that are pro-abortion want to stop me from owning a gun? I think there are some Christians that are pretty narrow minded. But Society as a whole seems narrow minded. And they are both VERY emotional about it.

Re:My impression of this... (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618364)

"Which also means that there shouldn't be legislation to force anyone any other way."

Tell me a piece of legislation that FORCES you to do something against your morals, which also DOESN'T exist to uphold the freedom of others (in cases where there is a conflict between the two). Any? As per the constitution if YOUR morals impede others' freedom, their freedom wins and your morals lose. Tough.

"I've never seen a group of WMCs become violent, anywhere. I've seen a lot of hate groups, anti-christian, anti-black, anti-jew, anti-almost anything become violent."

And who do these groups consist of? Is it Hispanic females? Maybe black homosexuals? NO. They consist primarily of WMCs. But I've never heard really of an anti-christian group, besides /other/ fundamentalists in other countries. But I have yet to see a group of christians attempting to lynch a scientist. Anyway, violence is often not the greatest problem. People who disagree with WMCs in governmental and powerful positions have a tendency of not getting hired/raised based on merit, not getting the same general privelages or funding, "disappearing" or getting incredibly long sentences in remote prisons (just ask Leonard Peltier), etc. Anyway, just recently WMCs dragged a black person behind their truck until he died from virtually distintegrating alive. Those guys were'nt radical AFAIK, they just saw a black, didn't like him, and decided to torture him. Good ole boys. Also there was some thing in Oklahoma city I happen to remember.

"But there have also been plenty of OTHER groups killing scientists for whatever reason."
Ok, list some (that exist in this country, because after all our legislation only effects this country). If these other groups do exist, the onus is on them also, it does not absolve christian lunatics.

"The foibles of Christian society are not unique to it."
No, but they are to this country. Christians have a dangerously large influence. Christianity's foibles, and it's followers, affect legislation and freedom in this country more than any other religion.

Freedoms, Humanity, Belifes.. and ofcourse Tech... (1)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618365)

I don't believe nor disbelieve what Mr Katz has to say.

I can honestly say, i don't feel free in my own country, but its not my countries fault. Crime is rampant, politics are nothing but corrupt, officials are corrupt or hold powers that shouldn't be under there single control.

Union labor is a problem. Its nice to think people as a group have control, but i don't believe in union since they don't do anything as a group except protect themselves. I would believe in union labor if they would start there own companies, and work from the ground up instead of the top down.

Politicians, leave it to them to decide my future. Nobody really pays attention to how they control your lives until its too late. For example, my town has a horrendous crime problem, the mayors solution is to build a new police station. sounds good, but one problem, it costs 6 million dollars, and its only half a block down from the existing and fully functioning police station. That is really a waiste of money, and i can't stop my taxes from that waiste, and it urks me that this mayor has been in control for this long when he is this inept at his job. (BTW: lancaster PA is the town i'm reffering to).

About the ill, and people born terminally ill. Its there right to live, but its my right to live myself too. Don't spend my tax dollars on the terminally ill, spend it on prevention from those diseases or spend it on my own healthcare, and my own disease prevention. If its used to keep someone alive, save it to keep me alive. Sounds like i'm an asshole, but i can't stand watching the news seeing how crappy my retirement will be since the existing concepts and plans will be bankrupt, but its nice to know my tax dollars are being spent on terminally ill, instead of the prevention of these disease. Naturall selection has been around since the inception of everything around us, stars get swallowed by bigger stars, bears it smaller animals, big fish eat the small fish, strong big fish kills weak or sick big fish.. strong big fish never gave his food to the weak sick fish just to have it survive, but strong big fish would give its food to its healthy own baby fish to survive. Nature has its ways, and sometimes it has its own problems.. but polution, drugs, stress, poisons, wars, crimes, rapes, diseases and all these other man made problems create most of our terminally ill. leave it to us for our own demise.

Religion.. believe what you want to believe, but don't preach it to me. I believe my own beliefs, so don't EVEN try and get me to think otherwise. I don't dis other peoples beliefs, herritages and don't feel that should have any consideration on how my life is lived either. Just because your a perfect christian senator you shouldn't be able to take my right away to buy liquor on sunday mornings. You also shouldn't be able to take away cigarettes because they're bad for your health and leave guns for sale.. treat people as an equal society for a change..

society.. definatly heading for a civil war, be it a crackdown by police, a change of culture a movement by the people.. whatever it will be it doesn't have to involve guns, but there is alot of hate out there, alot of pain, and alot of grief.. thank god again my tax dollars are buying new police buildings, cars, and fancy hotel's for new convention centers.. but hey, kids can keep killing each other, schools can keep raising local taxes to pay for education, my car can keep getting broken and my property taxes can keep rising..

whats so free about being trapped by everyone elses beliefs. its not just "the us isn't free or i don't believe the us is as free as it could be" but maybe there is no such thing as freedom.. I can't drive my car fast on a road i made unless i register it as a race track and claim it private property.. otherwise a state trooper could give me a speeding ticket... i can't paint my house my own colors because county laws prohibit you form doing so. i can't admire nude paintings becuase some religious biggot won't let them hang, i can't be comfortable with my beliefs nor my personality in public, because people get offended, when in reality its none of there business..

people think people need to respect them for superiority, people SHOULd respect people for PEOPLE. but my life is my life, because i hate one kind of food doesn't mean i hate the people that make it..

Again, these discussions go really no where.. i'm suprised its on slashdot.. you can go off on so many tangents its not funny..

but, to hit the technology standpoint.. nothing has really been breakthrough since mans entrance into space.. bugdets are cut, computers have to be standardized, so new ones just are not accepted.. technology has to fit a budget and not a future.. we limit our minds to only things that will make us money instead of make us better (believe me.. GNU software does not make us a better person.. its a step to get technology to move instead of sit, but not quite something to base your principles on).

again its political.. my money gets spent on killing people, building new jets, i guess i've paid for a few bombs to be dropped.. i'm not at all proud of supporting the wars we go into, i don't believe in war.. but i guess as a us citizen i have to feel proud of our service men.. whats so proud about killing someone.. whats there to protect.. is civilization and peoples freedom based on an ego and superiority or is it based on humanity and choice?

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618366)

I wouldn't be so quick about saying that "most religions abhor murder". It might be true that some do. But look at christianism, which on its own is already responsible for the largest genocide(s) in the history of mankind. Do you know how many people died because they didn't (or didn't want to) believe in god? Let me think, Arabs, Moors, Incas, Africans, American Indians to name a few...

Then read the ancient testament - no don't tell me that the Bible is the new testament, what do you think the new testament is based on? - and tell me wether it abhors murder. In fact, there are quite a few "crimes" punishable by death (usually by stoning, in those times)...

But back to the question of terminally ill /severely handicapped newborns...have you ever seen preserved freak fetuses? Have you ever seen what monsters nature can produce? And I don't mean monsters in terms of behaviour, but rather physiology. Believe me, there are many cases and diseases where I (and you, too) would rather die painlessly before I have time to realise (assuming the ability to realise anything) what is happening to me.

What if you were born with a disease that gives you say, 5 years to live? You grow up, tumble about, go to kindergarden, make friends, have memorable birthday parties...and then, you turn 4, and the symptoms start kicking in. A year later you die. So, what good did you bring to the world? Not only will your death emotionally destroy your parents, but maybe also financially (I don't want to be misunderstood - anyone who has ever had extremely ill relatives knows how much Intensive care costs). At the end of the road, you are dead (and you suffered a slow, probably painful death), and your parents are crushed.

The whole thing looks quite different if euthanasia is performed -- you save yourself, and your parents/relatives quite a lot of troubles.

And btw, springer isnt talking about euthanising people with trisomy 21 or similar diseases...but as Katz says, Terminally Ill newborns, or those handicapped beyond any hope of productivity.

Have a nice day!

Re:Euthenasia + Choice = Freedom (1)

Ray Dassen (3291) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618367)

Just as a woman has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Just as any person should be able to make a decision/carry out the wishes of an individual's euthenasia. eg. cases of terminal illness

There is still a large difference between the examples you give (which amount to honouring a mentally sane and mature person's explicitly stated wishes) and the example you respond to (a newborn child is not a mentally sane and mature person yet) as well as other cases (people who are no longer capable of expressing their wishes and haven't explicitly stated them when they still could).

Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing that euthanesia is morally reprehensible in those cases, I'm merely saying that these situations aren't equivalent.

Re:Dung Madonna (1)

borzwazie (101172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618368)

Umm...compensated appropriately. You cannot define compensation for art. Why?

Well, let's see. I personally think that "Piss Christ" isn't worth the materials used to build it. Does that mean it's not "art?" No. I don't think it's art. Might be art to someone.
AC made a good point here. Why should I have to pay for an artist to create something I don't think of as art?
If you cannot place a definitive value on something, if you cannot say if something is, or is not, art, then how can you allocate money for it, on the premise that it IS art?

I'm all for the creation of art museums, and art in general. Does society benefit from an art museum? Sure. Does society benefit from "Piss Christ" or "Dung Madonna?" Do I have to pay for it if I don't agree? Are artists in it for the money, or do they create art because there is a need (maybe just their own) for it?

Valid: maybe, Ramble: yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618369)

Rambling in a sense is good as it let's us ADDers and manaic depressives of the world get a bizare sense of grandeur. However in all ventures upon something that is truly new, in the sense it is somewhat unknown or philosophical, there is uncertainy and that uncertainty can translate into risk. The benefit of incurring that risk may be Katz may be correct in his philosophical ramblings. Knowledge for it's own sake may be important whether or not we recognize it.

I believe the truth of the matter is that the genes that forged us at birth still have the brain to play political games for the paleolithic environment and concern ourself with retarded issues of 'he said, she said'. When quite frankly it is not about what people say but what is about the truth of what goes on.

I believe in free markets and open minds as an inevitable reality. If you don't like some claim "change the channel" or "press back on the browser". Who cares what people say?

Good points (1)

ragnar (3268) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618370)

I think Katz makes some very good points in the article. Americans (I am one) would do well to remember that they embrace many ideals in theory, but not in practice. The vote is another example. For some reason everyone in America thinks it very important to have the right to vote, but most choose not to vote.


It is terribly brutish for people to try to suppress other ideas, however this doesn't mean that any idea should get publicly funding regardless of its popular support.


This article is very much in line with arguments over Internet pornography and decency, as if such a term could have consistent meaning. Parents unacustomed to technology look for filtering software to even their odds with technically saavy children. If they simply had a frank discussion with children they could recognize the difference between art and trash. An intelligent mind is the only effective filter on the Internet.

Re:A double standard (3)

AngryMob (89923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618371)

Dear noeld,

I respond to you to say that you have completely understood the point of free speech. You suggest that by denying your right to lambast and shut down Singer, JonKatz is denying free speech. Perhaps in the literal sense this is true. But a qualifier is necessary here, perhaps one that wasn't clear to you.

Free speech is supposed to advance the expression of ideas. John Stuart Mill presented the thesis that in an ideal society, ANY idea can be aired without fear of being stifled. That is, if you have an objection to an idea, you do not shut it down purely because you find it anathema. This is tantamount to assuming your infallibility, and that is perhaps the greatest mistake anyone can make.

There is, of course, perfect justification for this. After all, if you find Singer offensive, so what? Is the expression of his offensive idea going to somehow sour the world? Hardly. Why do you find it so galling that someone might have a thought contrary to yours? After all, if your idea is the truth, then how can it suffer when held up against a false idea?

The actual answer, I believe, is that people do NOT know the truth. They hold a comfortable stance because they can understand it and deal with it, but challenges to this stance therefore become vexing, uncomfortable - and thus, you reason, wrong. You are unwilling to change, even though you are not necessarily right. This is flat out wrong. This is dogmatism at its worst.

Why do people poke fun at the Catholic Church for its calls for censorship? Because it's inherently ridiculous for any body claiming to know the truth to fear challenges to it. Can you explain for us, Mr. noeld, why you don't want Singer to say what he says? Why do you fear an idea?

SA

Re:Jon Katz, Anti-religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618372)

>abhor murder, and this princeton guy thinks it's >a cool idea for terminally ill newborns! He thinks it should be an option at least, when a baby who would die on its own when given normal newborn care rather than horrendously expensive unnatural machines keeping him/her alive. Maybe some babies should be allowed to die. Reasonable efforts should be made to keep the kid around, but at some point nature should take its course. Fact is in many places on earth, even many in the USA, we are running out of space for people. Eventually if human reproduction goes on unchecked, we will squeeze out other species and the balance of food/people will get dangerously short the world over... Maybe if a few more people are allowed to die, things will be easier. >Who is to say that this person can't go on to >lead a productive life? At what cost to the species in the end? I'd hate to see the last world war get fought over a few ears of corn, which if the population keeps growing that will be the essential cause of the final war. >That medical technology you claim is >"outstripping" us can make the persons life >easier to live, and be less of a burden on us. Less of a burden, until we run out of space. Large scale colonization of the Moon, Mars, and stations in Earth Orbit are many years off. If we don't allow some of the weaker to die(not kill them, just let nature take its course) then we will have more competition for food supply and other resources when the inevitable overcrowding comes, and since so many weaker humans stayed in the gene pool we would be weaker as a race. We would go to war, much of the planet would become radioactive wasteland, and all because we had to help all our weak children. The big question, is where do you place the authority to let weak children die? And how far should it extend? Certainly they shouldn't say "He looks like he has a congenital heart defect, shoot him now." However, maybe "Mr. and Mrs. Jones, your child suffers from a severe heart problem. Without extensive life support, regular medication, and frequent surgery, your child will not live past 3 weeks. What do you want to do?" The second I believe is a good way to handle this issue. The doctor explains whats going on, leaves the parents to decide. What is wrong with that?

hmmm... (2)

Dark Fire (14267) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618373)

It seems to me that most of these issues surrounding euthanizing disabled newborns always goes something like this. They point out that it is showing compassion to euthanize disabled newborns since they wouldn't have much of a life. After that, this compassion is never mentioned again and economic issues, how it affects the rest of the family, how it affects the parents, etc. Those are all points to look at, but the so-called compassion stops their. I have a real problem with that. A newborn is a life, a person that trusts you to take care of them. These arguments all revolve around making the parents' life easier by euthanizing the newborn. It is really the newborn that is being affected. If one of your children becomes disabled at age 31 in a car accident or something and you and your spouse have to start taking care of him again, the thought of euthanizing your 31 year old never comes to mind, though there is little difference in the situation. There is one element that is different-you have grown attached to your son or daughter and want to always love and take care of them. Every parent wants a perfectly healthy baby, but it doesn't always happen. So you just kill it until you get what you want? When you and your spouse make a baby, you must take responsibility for the child you create. I don't believe any of this really is about being compassionate towards the disabled newborn, but is more about making the euthanization of disabled newborns socially justified. The people creating these arguments focus very little on the person in the group that is the most affected, the disabled newborn. To lose life is to lose the ability to change the lives of the ones you love for the good-to help them when they need you. When a disabled newborn is euthanized, it is the most affected of anyone because it loses that ability. You can never compare the value of life to economic, emotional, or physical hardships. If we ever allow those to come up equal or greater on the scales compared to life, we will be in serious trouble as a society. We must all grow up and be responsible for what we create, for our actions, and not look for an easy way out. I guess we are all a generation of children-the "me" generation. Well, that is my .02.

Wow that article is too long. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1618374)

Hmm.. Katz tends to ramble.. but he is right.. Singer should be allowed to speak.. His books make a fair ammount of sense. The fact that people feel a need to censor and torment professors of philosophy is sad indeed. The lack of freedom spoken about is philosophical freedom. Yes compared to many countries we revel in freedom. However ideas which contrast with certain Christian ideals are reviled. Even non Christians find many ideas too repulsive to discuss. Take for example, a 30 year old male sleeping with a 14 year old girl. In many societies this would be normal behavior, and one would be married and have kids. Now, the 30 year old would be arrested and put on a list so he can be harassed by his neighbors. I'm not defending this or recomending this, but the idea is 'these are our morals and they are right' has been getting out of hand. No one even bothers with any sort of explanation of why X is wrong most of the time.. Its merely 'because I know its wrong'. This is unacceptable. We cannot have a free country and limit peoples right to die and have sex for no other reason but religion and its ideals.

The Katz Worldview (1)

Dictator For Life (8829) | more than 14 years ago | (#1618375)

In the drooling world of Jon Katz, the actual meaning of censorship has been lost. We no longer remember the cases (in past centuries, and -- yes, Katz, even in this "enlightened" one, in areligious countries like China and the Soviet Union) where people were imprisoned and their books burned because of their books' content.

Nope. For Jon The Drooler Katz, censorship occurs (or is threatened) whenever anyone protests federal subsidies of some hack's so-called "art" (my, but it's a long road from Rembrandt and Van Gogh to some loser throwing elephant dung and calling it "art").

Katz is a drooler. Remember that, and give his tantrums the respect that drool deserves. I sure do.

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