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Technology: Fueling Hatred and Misunderstanding 476

Red Leader. writes "This Thomas Friedman op-ed entitled "Global Village Idiocy" and this article by George Packer, entitled "When Here Sees There," both touch on some interesting observations regarding technology's impact on tolerance and understanding. My favourite quote from Friedman's piece is "the Internet, at its ugliest, is just an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered information."" We've previously posted the Packer piece, but combined with other story, I think it's worth a retread.
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Technology: Fueling Hatred and Misunderstanding

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  • Maybe this is pointless, but I wonder if it's possible to have positive thread about this.

    I'll ask the question, and see if anybody replys.

    How can this be fixed? What can we do about it?
    • by hagardtroll ( 562208 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:02AM (#3509491) Journal
      The only solutions to problems caused by free speech is more free speech. A little education and critical thinking can go a long way to dispell the crap that goes across the wire (or airwaves.)

      Don't just listen to what is said, learn about who is doing the saying. If you know the motivation of who is doing the communicating then you can go a long ways towards determining its value.

      How many people believe the car salesman when he tells you "This creampuff was only driven to church on sundays by a little old lady..." Look at the odometer, check the tires and check the engine. On every story you read and every comment you hear.

    • Yes, of course. It must be that Internet is "Fueling Hatred and Misunderstanding" because it says so on slashdot and hence, everything on the internet (and slashdot) must be true.

      Without a proper scientific study to back it up, it is pointless to even start a debate, this is just bad journalism. Take some inflmatory example and extrapolate it to every internet user and with a few logical leaps, voila, the internet is "Fueling Hatred and Misunderstanding". Jeez.

    • Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. As with everything in life, there is good with the bad.
    • I think it will fix itself, in time. Really we've only been dealing with this for the last 10 years, which isn't that long. Sure, today's adults will take offense to just about every dissenting view on the internet, but their children will spend their whole lives amidst dissenting views and grow accustomed to the fact that not everyone has the same opinion. I think in this respect technology and integration is a good thing. We just have to phase out conservative, myopic viewpoints and usher in a new era of peace and understanding.

      That may sound like sugar-coated crap, but I've already seen evidence of this on IRC. Virtually nobody has the same ideas about anything, so in order to have any kind of meaningful interaction you pretty much have to compromise. At times it's a bit harsh, but overall it seems positive.
    • You ask:

      How can this be fixed? What can we do about it?

      Why does this need to be fixed? This is a great opportunity for a knee-jerk reaction to "Oh my God, look at what is going on here; there should be a law" reactionary thinking. The beauty of the Internet is the fact that it is, at its most basic level, a pure democracy. Anyone with a voice/idea/concept can post it for the world to see. Whether you agree with it or not is not the point. If you don't like it or disagree, that is your opinion, your right to dislike/disagree. Granted, there are things on the 'net that, for the most part, we would all agree should not be there (child porn, cruelty to animals, Pokemon, etc) but there is no legislation/enforcement that will eradicate anything from the 'net.

      "Fixing" the 'net is not possible. You also ask "What can we do about it? You can ask your ISP not to carry sites that you find offensive. Once again, however, we cannot legislate morality.

      • Re:Positive Thread (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Random Feature ( 84958 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @10:00AM (#3509754) Homepage
        You can ask your ISP not to carry sites that you find offensive.

        And if we use the same ISP and I don't find it offensive, then what?

        In the words of Metal Church, what gives you the famous final word? to think that your opinion is preferred?

        Just like television, radio, newspaper. If you don't like it - don't watch it/listen to it/read it. Why should anything on the net be different?

        Do I like pr0n? No. Should it be banned? No.

        I am no so arrogant as to believe that my repressed, mid-west ethics should be the deciding factor in what is and what is not allowed on the Net. While I of course secretly hope (as do most people) that my morals would propagate and take over, I'm NOT willing to legislate that and destroy the right of others to enjoy whatever hedonistic or perverse content they desire. As long as it isn't violating any laws, it's not my decision.

        And it shouldn't be yours.

        Asking ISPs to not "carry" sites that I find offensive is the same as asking FOX not to air the Simpsons or my local radio station to not play pop-music because I find these things offensive.

        Wouldn't happen and shouldn't happen.

        Voltaire had the only right answer in these situations.
        • That is why I said to ask, rather than demand or jump up and down with your MidWest ethics and say that you will boycott and flame everybody who has an opinion different than yours, etc.... That is why I suggested asking....

          Please read before posting...

          • I did read your post.

            Your suggestion to "ask" implies that you condone such an action.

            I do not.

            And before you go whack on that... While asking to have a site blocked should be an option, I don't believe that anyone actually should ask for such a thing.

            • I see -- I do not condone the act of asking for 'questionable' material to be removed from anywhere -- Internet, library, television. My suggestion of asking the ISP to remove a questionable site was in response to the poster asking "What can we do about this"....
    • The essential problem with most arguments of this sort, is that they treat every new form of media as if it is an entirely unique phenomenon rather than seeing it simply another method of communication. Certainly, the internet has enough unique properties that it deserves particular consideration. But, when it really comes down to it, people have been lying and believing lies just as wildly and destructively for much longer than the internet has been around. TV and radio constantly broadcast partial truths, complete fictions, and truths expressed with bent language for decades. Some people believe everything TV, radio, newspapers, tabloids, etc. say already. Others are more selective. Just as we've learned to tune the signal from the noise with other media, we will adapt to the internet. When those with little technological experience begin to understand a little bit of the workings, they'll have as little faith in the validity of random online material as we do.
    • To cure a disease, you can...

      a) Wait it out, if it's the sort that goes away before doing permanent damage.
      b) Destroy the contagion within the host, if you can get to it without killing the host.
      c) Kill all the hosts.

      The contagion is misinformation. The carriers are people and their media sources. Take your pick of options.
  • From the article:
    "They say, `He got it from the Internet.' They think it's the Bible."

    Or perhaps they even thought it was Koran? After all, Muslims don't put too much faith in the Bible...


  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Monday May 13, 2002 @08:57AM (#3509462) Homepage Journal
    It is no secret that groups that have increased contact with another group will find something to complain about. Romantic thoughts about a group are certain to be dashed with closer contact. Those ideals are likely to be supplanted by the worst stereotypes that the other group falls into.

    In the South Central L.A. neighborhood, blacks who have no historical animosity about Koreans find themselves filled with anger at the stingy, disrespectful store-owners. The Korean store-owners, in their own right, harbor fears of the dangerous, thieving blacks. The result of this animosity was displayed during the Rodney King riots where blacks looted Korean stores with a vengeance and Korean store-owners shot back from the roofs of their stores.

    Right or wrong, these stereotypes arose out of *increased* exposure.

    • A gang member from south central LA can buy a computer, get addicted, cease their gang activities, and eventually after a few years, make friends with a korean person on the internet.

      Stuff like this happens on the internet alot easier than it would happen IRL. Understanding can only happen when you talk to people of diffrent races and cultures, On the net I've spoken to people of every race, I know all people are the same on the inside even if they are diffrent on the outside.

      This isnt something you can teach an ignorant person in real life, they have to go online and learn this.
  • Filter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plarsen ( 579155 )

    "the Internet, at its ugliest, is just an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered information."

    Since most I know I've learned from Internet, my brain must be full off unfiltered intelligence :).

    But seriously, I think that has a positive sideeffect, because you have to develope your own filter, which isn't even close to standard (Radio, Television) filters.
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @08:59AM (#3509471) Homepage
    From Douglas Adams on the universally translating Babel fish:
    "...the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing the barriers to communication between all civilizations, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of the galaxy."

    From the article:
    "...integration, at this stage, is producing more anger than anything else."



  • It's human nature. People believe what they want to believe, especially if they feel threatened or marginalized. As the author alluded to, the Internet is just a more efficient conduit for pure garbage.

    And, unfortunately in this case, we can't fight fire with fire. Spreading the "truth" will not convince the "believers," in fact it may make them even more incensed.
  • I believe the best treatment for hate speech (on the Internet or otherwise) is more speech. Here's a couple of pieces, one that I wrote, the other a quote of a speech made 102 years ago that's as valid today as the day it was written:

  • by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:05AM (#3509504)
    "untreated, unfiltered information"? Shock horror, maybe he'd preffer that The New York Times gets to filter our information for us? This is the biggest sin of liberal mouth pieces like the NYT, ommission. Read that paper and there's stuff you'll just never hear about, points of view they don't want you to hear.
    • "untreated, unfiltered information"? Shock horror, maybe he'd preffer that The New York Times gets to filter our information for us?

      Did you read the whole paragraph? Let me quote it.

      At its best, the Internet can educate more people faster than any media tool we've ever had. At its worst, it can make people dumber faster than any media tool we've ever had. The lie that 4,000 Jews were warned not to go into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 was spread entirely over the Internet and is now thoroughly believed in the Muslim world. Because the Internet has an aura of "technology" surrounding it, the uneducated believe information from it even more. They don't realize that the Internet, at its ugliest, is just an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered information.

      This is the biggest sin of liberal mouth pieces like the NYT, ommission.

      Try putting someone's quote in context before you rant about how idiotic it is (without even backing up your statements). And try not criticising someone else for something while you're doing it yourself.

      Read that paper and there's stuff you'll just never hear about, points of view they don't want you to hear.

      Get your opinions from slashdot and short snippets of the article surrounded by rhetorical spin which completely ignores the intent of the snippet.

      Does that mean slashdot is bad? Not really. But it does tend to solidify the ignorant opinions of some of the people who read it and don't think for themselves.

      If you still decide you want "untreated, unfiltered information," try reading slashdot at -1 some time. Then come back to me.

  • by Coriolis ( 110923 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:09AM (#3509519)

    The Internet does nothing by itself (in fact, it could be argued the Internet does nothing period, but I digress). The Internet doesn't make information/rumor/lies, it's the people who use it. All that's going on here is he's being smacked in the face, apparently for the first time in his life, with the true nature of humanity, which is particularly easy to observe on the Internet. For those who haven't been keeping up:

    • Humanity is largely made up of lackbrained, slackjawed gawpers who'll believe any toss spouted by just about any authority figure.
    • Most of humanity talks toss most of the time.
    • I refer the honourable gentleman to Sturgeon's Law.

    People are this idiotic all on their own, all the time. People aren't just willing to fall into the "us vs. them" mentality, they're eager. All the Internet does is accelerate the process.

    On the Internet, no-one can hide from the true nature of humanity. Do something about it or deal with it.

    (phew, I needed that...)

  • I really don't think the world is getting nastier. We created these global networks so we could improve the world, which clearly implies that it's been in a sad state of repair for quite some time. While it doesn't help some sitautions, such as fueling the greed-inspired hatred of those who simply refuse to look at how their own government brought pain and suffering upon it's own people. Or may be they simply never realized that before because of government controlled media where they live being a dominant force in their daily lives.

    Of course, now we are only starting to look at these problems and the potential solutions because of our global information networks. As far as "manifold suspicions, rumors, resentment, and half-truths" are concerned.... what do you really expect? Regardless of right or wrong, most of those who are willing to speak the loudes are those doing their best to promote their agenda and make change in the world that they see fit. It's always been like this. The main difference is now, scientists and educators can get their messages out too without the traditional bottleneck preventing content distribution. Of course, there's still a bottleneck on how much content the avarious audeinces can tolerate, but that's another matter altogether.
  • OK, so some people around the World don't much like the ideas of some
    other people. I can see that Bill O'Rielly might upset some people.
    But they should understand that some others really do feel like that.
    If this journalist thinks the USA is represented by the NYT, then
    she's seriously misleading herself.

    The world may not be as nice
    a place as political correctness would have you believe. But then,
    it is not. Get over it, and work at overcoming differences if thats
    your thing. Nothing
    worse than not addressing something that could be addressed because
    you think it doesn't need to be. Wasted opportunity.

    If nothing
    else, information helps you know your opponent. This is always a
    good thing. So is a critical mind, unnumbed by state-controlled
    or editorially sanitized press.

  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:15AM (#3509541) Homepage Journal
    The Internet is strictly a technical medium, with no inherent bias, filter, or viewpoint. As a result, all "news" has the potential to be more opinion than news, and there's no inherent correction for bias.

    Take a look at the US for example, arguably the most tech-savvy nation of sophisticated media viewers on the planet. How many people do you personally know who take everything they read "on the web" as pure unvarnished gospel? How many people beileve the e-mailed virus hoaxes, chain letters, and Nigerian 419 scams?

    A lot more than you'd hope, that's how many. And that's here in the US, where supposedly they'd know better. They don't.

    Now take this human tendency to believe what's written, and take it to a repressive or technologically unsphisticated country that normally only sees the news their government wants them to see. Give them satellite dishes, but with channels that present events in the same fashion, agreeing with the prevalent viewpoint. Give them a media that exists at the sufferance of their host government, where if they stray too far from the party line they'll be shut down and possibly jailed. Give them no incentive to look at two sides of a story.

    And then teach the citizens that do have access to more sophisticated and independent news your point of view so thoroughly that they assume that anything outside of that narrow viewpoint they subscribe to is just lies, distortion, and propaganda.

    Watch what happens. We're even seeing it to a lesser degree here in the US - witness the rise of Fox News, the Washington Times, and all the specialty news presenters that have sprung up. People are not inclined to listen to viewpoints outside of their own worldview if viewpoints that correspond to it exist. Liberals think the media is too conservative. Conservatives are convinced the media is liberal. Both would rather get news from sources that tell them that their view is correct, and ignore the other side.

    And we wonder how people can't see through the obvious (to us) bias on Al-Jazeera?

    It's a similar problem here. It has nothing to do with the Internet per se, other than to say that it's easier than ever to confine your information sources to those that agree with you in the first place. What can we do about it? Very little, I'm sorry to say. The Internet is what it is, and humans seem to be by and large tribal in nature. I used to think that eventually all nations would be relatively harmonious, learing to live together as people from different traditions, religions, and cultures in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity together. But people don't seem to want it, and politicians won't let it happen even if the people did want it.

    The human race is screwed.
    • by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:40AM (#3509651) Homepage Journal
      "And we wonder how people can't see through the obvious (to us) bias on Al-Jazeera?"

      Bias is in the eye of the beholder. Bahrain has banned Al-Jazeera [] because the government there feels it is too pro-Israel.

      Is that the bias you meant?

      - Robin

    • by popeyethesailor ( 325796 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:50AM (#3509702)
      Monday morning blues...

      Look at the +ve side.. The biggest advantage Internet has over other media is that both sides of the story are available, if you're willing to look.
      An American read an Arab news forum; an Indian can browse a Pakistani newspaper; What other medium provides such unbiased coverage ?
      It is upto the individual analyze different news sources, and form an opinion.

    • The problem is with the human race, and yes the human race is screwed. WE have been for centuries. There has always been wars between factions, the middle east has NEVER been at peace, there has always been opressed, hated, and hungry people. and there always will be. It is human nature to hate that which they dont know about, It is human nature to be sheep that blindly follow some strong leader (Hitler,stalin,branch dividians.. they all followed some nut that had huge charisma and was a perfect example of being the alpha male.)

      and it will happen this way forever. People keep making the mistake that the human race is highly intellegent, it is not. a small percentage of the human race is, the bulk is dumb as a box of rocks, and therefore gladly hate an entire ethnic group because they blew up a couple of big buildings... AND the media told them to hate them.

      The internet just allows more wierdows and lunatics to post openly their twisted views and hate speech. nothing more... it does not breed anything except for information.
    • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:59AM (#3509748)
      It has nothing to do with the Internet per se, other than to say that it's easier than ever to confine your information sources to those that agree with you in the first place.

      This is related to a phenomenon that psychologists refer to as confirmation bias. The basic gist is that when someone comes across a fact that confirms something they already believe to be true, they give it greater significance than when they come across a fact that does not confirm what they already believe to be true, or disproves it.

      People gain more satisfaction processing facts that confirm what they already believe than facts that don't. I personally believe that this is related to another phenomenon that I have observed, but don't know if there's a name for it (I'm sure there is - someone please enlighten me). That is that our environment is very complex, making it difficult to interpret. We analysed the world by compartmentalising things, usually into two opposing groups. This human tendency is heavily reflected in the world of politics - the left and the right, for instance, and that most horrible of modern concepts, "Unamerican".

    • This is why education is so important. Although it most cases it fails to do so, it is the only way to prepare somebody to look at "information" critically.

      I am impatient with the people who don't want children to learn the nasty side of the US subjugation of the American Indians on the grounds that children taught this way won't grow up to love their country. I'm also impatient with the people who push the idea of the Indians as noble savages. Education shouldn't be about teaching people to love their country, nor should it be about teaching them to abhor injustice. It should be about empowering them to to apply their values in the real world. I think it is safe to trust people to make the right decisions if they are informed and difficult to manipulate.

      Avoiding controversy cripples the critical faculties, and opens the door to mass delusion and hysteria. Stir in media for which inflaming emotions is an easy way to make a buck, and you and I may well be spending our golden years surrounded by ignorant savages. This can only be fixed by local involvement and support of education. Do you know anything about the people on your school committee? Where the local school budget is being spent? You'd better. Education may be an imperfect solution, but the only other one is to try to control the media so that it only presents salutory messages.

      • Thinking critically is the key to everything.

        For example, I am about the staunchest support of the Catholic Church your likely to see (on /. anyway), however I can recognize that the current scandal is not just the media blowing a few cases out of proportion (even if they are). I also don't think that the Church is fundamentally flawed and am willing to ackowledge that members of it have done and continue to do very bad things... even at the top.

        However, being reasonably well-educated I can see the context in which things are happening and realize that a few bad apples won't spoil the entire barrel, and a failure on the part of some does not imply a predilection on the part of many.
        I can also recognize that it is the failure of people rather than ideals.

        The same holds for the U.S.. I'm not afraid to face the fact that bad things have been done on behalf of or even by my country, and even if I think some of its leaders are incompetant or even corrupt that it doesn't invalidate the ideals upon which the U.S. is founded. I am concerned at the plasticity that has been imparted on the Constitution since the latter half of the 20th century, but I believe that things will work out correctly in the long run.

        We need to remind educators that they need to teach _how_ to think, not _what_ to think. Education without values is hollow and not very useful, however dogmatic indoctrination that flies in the face of facts is even worse. Ultimately, the unbiased truth will serve people the best.

    • Take a look at the US for example, arguably the most tech-savvy nation of sophisticated media viewers on the planet.

      According to who, Americans?

    • I've been thinking about how we are hating each other more virulently recently, and I think it comes down to the fact that we are tribal.

      What I mean by that is that human beings simply don't have all the mental capability to keep up personal relationships with more than a tribe-sized group of people... my idea is somewhere between ten to twelve persons. What I mean is this... it is very natural for you to be tight with ten to twelve people and then the rest you just don't heve the time for. I think it is in human nature, and it leads to the "screw the rest of those guys" attitude in general. That general trend *really* manifests itself if something appears as a threat.

      Anyway, it feels right to me. I am not a social scientist.

      Now teaching to hate is a totally different matter. That is really complex. Does anyone feel like the cold war was better? When you didn't have an open border, and you were in a struggle with a non-aggressive nuke, non-integrated group into your society? I mean, at least the Soviets actually sat down with us to talk. They sure as hell weren't going to attempt an attack on a Tuesday morning and risk the whole world.

      It appears that the whole Arab-Israeli mess will boil over in a guaranted less than ten years into world war. They are making too much of an effort towards it by teaching their children to hate. Both sides are trying to drag their friends into it, egging each of their bigger brothers for weapons and someone to back them up. Both sides believe they are a superior race, and we know what happens when you start thinking that.

      I personally don't like what the Israelis are doing right now, I think that using tanks against people throwing rocks is insane and terrorist in nature. However, the fact that the Palestinians are attacking elderly people on holidays in restaurants is by its very definition terrorism. Sitting back on a helicopter and gunning down innocents is about as cheap as you can get. But so is trying to steal ambulances to make them into "after bombing" weapons to attack emergency workers.

      I honestly believe if every wingnut and every whacko religious group goes after all (meaning general populace) of us, then they (meaning the Israelis, too, by their hatred and humanistic negligence) are setting us up for WWIII, big time.

      How does this deal with communication? Well, the more worldwide your viewpoint, the more you can get offended by... and the more likely you will attack, as I guess we have all recently learned.

      Good luck, humans (please note I didn't say nationality or race). We're all going to need it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It used to be that print and t.v. journalists were the filters that stood between the information and the people, so we only saw the world through their biases, not our own. Now, for better or worse, we get to create our own worlds from the unfiltered info stream.

    Friedman is simply lamenting his own obsolescence.



  • "the Internet, at its ugliest, is just an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered information."

    That's a correct assessment not just of the Internet, but of the the ideas communicated before the advent of the Internet.

    Nothing special there: porn, intolerance and deception have been around quite some time. The Internet only intensifies the speed of communication.

    It's incumbent upon every individual to become their own filtration plant amid the sewage of information.

    Parents and culture (school, church, TV) are supposed to help in developing this ability in young people, but there have certainly been instances where cultures have contributed and reinforced septic messages.

  • by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:23AM (#3509570) Homepage Journal
    The world has always been a very nasty place. Even before the Internet, people were finding new reasons to butcher each other. Anyone remember Rwanda? Somalia? The Iran-Iraq war? Gassing of the Kurds? These events happened just before the Internet really came into widespread use.

    Internet is just a new tool on the block, and it will cause new alliances to be formed, and old alliances to break. After the dust settles down, the butchery will continue unabated.

    In the end, it is the family that counts. It is upto the parents of young children to bring them up not to hate others based on the flimsiest of differences (skin color, shape of eyes, language, etc.). If you have been following recent events in Pakistan, you will see that kids over there are being trained to hate the west with a vengeance in 1000s of madrassas all over that country. It is as if the grown-ups have some unfinished business, and want the kids to grow up and finish it for them.

  • ... is intellectually dishonest.

    "Familiarity breeds contempt" is not a new concept. This shouldn't even surprise us. It is a fact for thinking beings (assuming that "imperfect thinking beings" is redundant, that there is no such thing as a perfect thinking being, and that no philosophy in the world will lead to complete tolerance). The important message has to be that we must all think critically and use our intelligence to realize that:

    1. an individual will learn more about other cultures through contact via History 101, Cultural Anthropology 101, the Internet, or other aspects of daily life
    2. there may be cultural trends that are repugnant to an individual
    3. it is quite possible to rationally and correctly take offence if there is such thing as "right and wrong"
    4. it is quite possible that the individual confronted with a new (repugnant or not) culture needs to keep an open mind and realize that #3 might be flawed if there is no absolute "right and wrong"
    5. sometimes it is necessary to agree to disagree
    6. sometimes agreeing to disagree still leads to hate or contempt
    ... but this is nothing new. The Internet is just another means of communication and learning, and although it makes it easier, we've always had access to a bucket-load of sources to fuel petty misundertanding and prejudice.
  • by Edmund Blackadder ( 559735 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:29AM (#3509596)
    Here is why Tom doesnt like the internet - because it makes his job irrelevant.

    See Tom has this really important job where he at the new york times tells people what to think and decides what information they should know.

    But now the internet is here and people do not need to go to the new york times and their free fuscking registration to get information. And people can gasp form opinions on their own. Well then Tom's job is kind of useless then aint it? Running a ministry of truth while you have free information exchange is very pointless, noone will listen to you.

    But the internet makes arabs angry and dangerous, because they see palestinians being beaten on cable!!! Now really, Tom dont you think that would be less of a problem if palestinians werent getting beaten by israelis soldiers all the time?

    But its out of context!!! Well and what is the alternative? The New york times will provide the context? Of course not. The new york times will just not report it.

    See thats the great think about the internet. People can provide their context. They dont need the official media to provide the context for them (ie tell them how to interpret the news).

    but with the internet bad people find other bad people with like views. Big fing deal. I will always choose freedom of information over propaganda even if freedom of information provides speech to some bad people. It is not suprising that almost every oppressive and racist regime tightly controls information exchange, between its people. Cults and extreme groups also have real trouble keeping their memberships up when they cant control what information their members can access. In fact the best way to stop islamic fanaticism is to give internet access to most muslims (isnt ironic that Tom complains about muslims who are in general are not very likely to be hooked up to the net?).

    Saying the internet spreads hate is stupid. Does he think that all this hate is due to the internet? Is it the gulf war with all its victims the internets fault? are the terrorist attacks and the bombing of afghanistan the internets fault? Were the israeli attacks on palestine the internets fault? How about terrorism?

    There is adifference between the internet and the new york times that tom has to grasp. The internet will usually reflect the real world.

    • by xyzzy ( 10685 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:49AM (#3509693) Homepage
      You really need to read more Tom Friedman before you go foaming off at the mouth, specifically "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" [], one of the best books ever written about globalization.

      Friedman completely realizes the power of the Internet, but that doesn't refute for ONE MINUTE the points he made. The Internet is, by and large, a refuse-ridden electronic drooling cup, and we haven't BEGUN to tap its power for good yet. There is no doubt in my mind (or Friedman's, if you read his book) that we can do so.
  • Communications 101 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dragoness Eclectic ( 244826 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:35AM (#3509619)
    Welcome to the real world, techno-idealists!

    The Internet is nothing more or less than a global medium of communication. There is nothing intrinisic to the Internet that dictates whether what is communicated is good or bad, truth or lie, hateful or loving. The same is true of speech, writing, radio, telephone, or any other mode of two-way communications.

    We are in a transition phase, where society around the world is still adjusting to this new, rapid communications medium. Obviously, there is a chunk of the world that has to re-learn the lesson of "don't believe everything you hear/read/etc--check the facts." Some will learn; some people will be perpetually gullible. That's life in the Real World.

    By way of illustration, one of the nastiest, most persistant bits of inflammatory propaganda in the last three centuries, one that is still circulating and accepted as fact in some circles, is the infamous Protocols of Zion. That text, originally created by the Russian Czar's secret police in the late 19th century, circulated as a printed work decades before radio or television, let alone the Internet. (I believe you find it on the Internet, however). It was the basis of much of the Nazi's anti-Semitic propaganda, and provides the themes and lies for the current, virulent anti-Semeticism of the Middle East.

    The point? The only thing new about the Internet is the rapidity of global communication; the same old evils are still here. On the flip side, the Internet gives everyone with access the chance formerly open only those who could afford global travel: the chance to talk to people in distant places, to read their local news, to hear their views and see their problems. However...

    At the end of the day, the Internet is still only a communications medium. It won't magically grant you understanding of those problems, nor will it give you compassion for or empathy with people who face the same basic problems common to all humanity. Neither will it magically force you to hate what you don't understand, or brainwash you into believing rumors without thought.

    The so-called "problems of the Internet" are the same problems people have always had with themselves and each other. That these two editorialists are shocked to discover this is rather like the French inspector being shocked to discover gambling in Rick's Cafe... one wonders what the ulterior motive is.

    I believe in the strengths of a free press, for the same reasons as the authors of the U.S. Constitution--among other things, a free society is not possible without free communications/free press. I am aware that a free press has its drawbacks, but like the founders of the United States, I believe that an educated citizenry is capable of telling the good from the bad, and that, to such a citizenry, the downsides of a free press are no more than an annoyance.

    I believe the Internet is potentially the most powerful free press in the world. I also know that there are governments and other interests that are terrified of the threat represented by a global free press, who would like to see it muzzled by any means possible. The excuse that an unfettered free press causes division and disturbs public order/encourages "agitators"/etc. has long been used by many governments to censor the printed press in their countries.

    Traditionally, even the press in most "free" countries has been limited by the high barrier to entry: TV broadcasters have to jump through hoops to get government licensing and permission to use the EM spectrum, expensive equipment has to be bought, highly-paid technicians and support staff have to be hired, etc. Printed press requires a printing press, highly-paid staff, extensive, expensive channels of distribution, etc. TV broadcasters can't offend the government too greatly, or they don't get the licenses and spectrum. Printed publications can't offend the majority tastes too greatly, or they can't get enough customers to pay the cost of entry. Thus, freedom of the press traditionally belonged (as was once said) only those who could afford a printing press. It limits "the press" to a small, select group, and a small, select group is easier to sway to one viewpoint/keep under control than "everyone in the world with enough literacy to string two sentences together".

    That's the threat and promise of the Internet as a free press: anyone who can get a website and the trivial technical skill to code a web page can put their views out for the entire to see, ignoring the even simpler methods of spreading news and rumors such as IRC/Usenet/web boards. It's still not a zero-difficulty barrier to entry, but it opens up the "free press" to an uncontrollable number of potential publishers.

    As such, the Internet is a grave threat to governments and other bodies who have reason to fear a free press--either because their political model depends on a gullible, uneducated citizenry that only hears what it is believed to be safe for them to hear, or because they really do have something to hide. It is also a threat to the traditional press, who don't seem to welcome competition in their hard-won positions of influencers of public perceptions from a huge bunch of brash upstarts. (God knows they don't want the public deciding for themselves what is worthwhile news and entertainment!)

    I ask again: what is the real agenda of these editorials? Keep an eye on whether or not this meme spreads, and what "solutions" are proposed and pushed to "solve" the "problem".

  • by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:36AM (#3509625) Homepage

    At least you have sites like /.

    Intolerance and extremism may run rampant no the rest of the internet but not here!

    Oh, wait...

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @09:36AM (#3509628) Homepage Journal
    And ultimately the Internet will be a weapon of tyranny.

    We watch we read we absorb like sponges. Uncritical, unreflective only having an emotional response to the next car ad or half naked chick. Burning buildings, quarter pounders, sports highlights, political arguments...we can't call them apart any more. Rage in the street, pick up a rock, loot burn kill. The kid with the Nike T-shirt and the gun could be Compton, Ramallah, Freetown, Kuala Kampur, Seattle, Buenos Aires.

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
  • Geesh - I'd love to get paid for writing down stuff that the majority of moderatly intelligent people in this world already know. Where can I sign up?

    Seriously, this isn't news, this is common-fucking-sense. Bad information with apparent credibility, whether from the 'net, religion, slanted news sources, revolutionary leaders, etc causes hate and misunderstanding. An objective and skeptical pursuit of truth and understanding (and aplication of your own intelligence, rather than trusting someone elses) erases same.

    This guy needs to stop writing editorials, take a few history courses, and realize that his views are nothing new, and nothing amazing.
  • Please put Katz articles under his byline. If I wanted to read worrywart handwringing digital divide why they all hate us crap, I'd read the Katz crap. As it is, I filter it out and find Slashdot mostly informative. Please keep Slashdot useful and usable.
  • Technology like the Internet is a neutral. Like a knife it can be used for good (surgery) or for evil (murder). The Internet allows information both true and false be spread fast and widely. This is good because we find out about others and their needs and emphathize with them and help them. Unfortunatately it also spreads falsehoods just as rapidly which bring division.

    The alternative is to censor the Internet so that a few will give us only what they want us to hear. They may do it with good motives but information is lost and only their view is given. And if done for selfish totalitarian motives people are controled. There will always be people who use the internet for evil purposes. Reality is people are not naturally good. Free spread of information (true and false) is best.

  • I know this is OT, but have any of you noticed the latest shit that the Guardians of Content are pulling: running space and paper-wasting graphical adverts down the side of the printer friendly versions of articles!

    I guess being able to track our identities isn't enough for the NY Times.

    And, seriously, a STARBUCKS ad to accompany THIS particular article? C'mon!

  • Someone with Net access who is fluent in Arabic needs to come up with some really good Internet hoaxes that will thoroughly and publically embarrass whoever falls for them. If enough such hoaxes are propagated, fallen for, and then publically exposed, more people in the Arabic-speaking world will learn not to trust everything they see on the Net.
  • All the inhabitants of the earth would be brought into one intellectual neighborhood.

    ... the instantaneous highway of thought between Old and New Worlds.

    "We are one!" said the nations, and hand met hand, in a thrill electric from land to land.

    The above quotes are of course referring to the worldwide deployment of the telegraph in the nineteenth century. (See The Victorian Internet by Thomas Standage). Many writers of the day viewed the telegraph, radio, television, and even the airplace (e.g. H. G. Wells) as technology that would usher in a utopian age. In many ways, the predictions echo those about the Internet, including many postings here on Slashdot. And they were all equally wrong. It's important to remember technology is a tool - just like a hammer. You can build a house with a hammer, or you can whack someone on the head with it. Technology cannot create a new utopia - that is up to the people of this planet. At the moment, the probability seems quite low ...
  • by ChenLing ( 20932 ) <slashdot@ilov e d a n> on Monday May 13, 2002 @10:48AM (#3510025) Homepage
    The problem with people is that we fear the unknown.
    What did Yoda say? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate....leads to suffering!
    How true that is.

    Global communications, and the Internet in particular, is creating an odd kind of de-segragation.
    However, it is desegration without real direct interation.
    It is kind of like desegragating the schools in Alabama, but ONLY Alabama -- how do you think the people in Mississippi would feel?
    They just hear about it, but don't actually interact with the "other side" -- and so will only breed distrust, fear, anger, and hate.

    Before, people distrusted others who were different, but they were separated -- either geographically or socially, and were not in their mental world.
    Now however, these "others" are forced down their throats, and can't ignore them.

    It is so easy to marginalize, make fun of, and distrust those that are different from ourselves, even in this "enlightened country".
    Why? Because putting others down makes us feel just a bit superior and better.
    Having something to hate also makes you feel you have a purpose...and in those countries with limited opportunities, freedoms, and low quality of life...having a bad purpose is better than trying anything else.

    As for people who believe everything on the Internet to be true? Well, I hate to sound like a troll, but half of the population IS below average in terms of intelligence.....
  • OK, listen up... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DerekTheRed ( 579180 )
    Listen up, people. We Americans are funny. The only reason we get along with one another at all is because we are too dumb to understand what everyone else is thinking and saying. We are all so certain that our neighbors are decent people, but we are not at all possessed of the necessary intellectual curiosity to investigate what the hell it is, exactly, that our neighbors stand for. And even if we did know what it is that our fellow Americans stood for, we'd be far too ignorant about how logic works and just plain too gutless to follow these facts through to their natural conclusions. We Americans prefer comfort far more than intellectual honesty. We dread the idea of confrontation so much that we don't have the balls to draw the line, even when there is no other real choice! And so the Internet forces you to come face to face with other people's real beliefs, with the personal facade removed, and everyone is so astonished at what they find: there are all kinds of people out there, really! What a bunch of dysfunctional pansies we've become. All the Internet is doing is forcing us to do things we should have been doing already: argue! Fucking ARGUE! What is wrong with that? Buck up, you fucking nerds. A little hostility isn't gonna kill you.
  • Seriously. Sure there is a ton of communicative trash on the internet. There's a bunch of lamers on the internet. There's plenty of illegal/immoral/inhuman things on the internet. Most people suck. Get used to it.

    One of the things I loved about IRC for example was that this was true. Sure it meant there was tons of human waste I had to deal with, but it also meant the good people where honestly good, since there was nothing beyond themselves to "make" them good.
  • Critical thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Fred Smoothie ( 302446 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @11:12AM (#3510171)
    The problem with "unfiltered" information is simply that most people are unable to think critically. I think that this is a pervasive problem in many parts of the world, not the least of which is parts of Western society. People just aren't generally encouraged to think for themselves, or to question auhority. Even in the US, our whole system of public education is geared toward rote memorization and conformance to ideals handed down from authorities.

    In fact, I think it's largely thanks to the canons of journalistic ethics (check & report sources, get confirmation, etc.) that we've managed to have as informed a public as we have in Western society as these practices at least impose some discipline on the "authority" that's providing information which people will inevitably swallow without a moment's reflection. So in a sense, we all owe The Western Press some small amount of gratitude.

    However, Mr Friedman should really be directing his rant at the way we brainwash people into taking anything stated by someone wearing a suit, or on TV, or on the internet at face value.

    I don't know how many times I've chastised my friends and family for forwarding inane spam about Congress on the verge of taxing email at 5 cents a message without even bothering to analize the claims for even the faintest patina of credibility (gee, according to, that sponsoring senator doesn't exist, the number of the "bill" cited doesn't follow the bill numbering conventions for either house of congress, etc).

    We need to find a way to teach people how to think. Of course, that's anathema to the power structure of our society (we can't have men between the ages of 15-24 realizing that drinking Mountain Dew won't cause silicone-enhanced sluts to fall from the sky and fawn over them, can we?) for that to ever happen.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.