In just about every stage of my education, I've studied atrocity. In college, I lined up several political science classes that, ultimately, led to what I called my "month of hell."
In one month, I studied:
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Genocide in Chile
- The UN Convention against Torture
- The death penalty
It was a depressing month filled with hours of reading, hours spent studying in the law library, and more photos of horror than I like to remember. I can't remember a darker time in my educational career. Except, perhaps, studying WW2 in high school.
Our assignment seemed, at first, fairly superficial. We were assigned a fiction novel that covered the life of a poet from his exodus from Nazi Germany through establishing a career in poetry later in life. After reading the book, we were tasked with creating our own work of art that reflected on the time period.
I wanted to understand at a deeper level something I'd never considered before. I wanted to write a poem from the point of view of the soldiers who perpetrated the atrocities in Germany. My goal was to compare and contrast the way those men thought about events with the way we see them today. I thought it would be a challenge.
My poem earned me an A, and was ultimately presented to the entire school. A few students requested separate copies, and my teacher had a copy printed in high-resolution and framed for the school. I had managed to capture a line of logic leading from a commonly-accepted truth (both then and now) leading its way to the conclusion made by some then that is so horrific to the rest of us.
How I was able to do so was tricky. I had to put myself in the mind and shoes of a German soldier and attempt to justify their actions. This is ... impossible for many, so I turned to a book for help.
I went to the public library to check out the single copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf from their collection. As I went to the library to check out, she had some heavy warnings for me.
You know what this book is about, don't you? You realize your name will likely be put on a watch list just because you've checked this out. Are you absolutely sure you want to take this book home?
The idea of a government (or any other organization) looking over my shoulder because I checked out a book seemed silly. I took the book out of the library, read it, wrote my poem, got my A, and never looked back.
Until the next time I went to the library and found they'd cancelled my card. I had to apply for a new one - supplying three references in the process.
There has been a lot of talk these days about "net neutrality." It's the idea that Internet service providers need to provide access to online resources in a neutral fashion - without eavesdropping or interfering or tracking or judging what it is you've accessed or why.
Unfortunately, corporate and political forces are moving us away from a future of net neutrality.
Internet service providers (Comcast and the like) want to throttle access to high-bandwidth services like Netflix and Hulu. Governments want to keep an eye on what kind of information is being exchanged by and about their citizens (and residents).
The idea of neutral access - or even anonymous access - runs contrary to their goals. There is no incentive beyond doing "right" for either ISPs or governments to embrace and protect net neutrality.
Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day.[ref]Comcast Declares War on Tor?[/ref]
Censorship isn't merely the act of preventing the dissemination of information - keeping someone from saying, writing, or publishing what they want. It's also the act of preventing the consumption of information.
A world where the information to which we have access is tightly controlled is a world in which democracy, free thought, and liberty dies.