Friday, November 21, 2003

One of the things that intrigues me about the weBlog format is it's virtual "message in a bottle" aspect. I toss a thought-scrap out into the High Seas of Data, and I don't necessarily wait for a response. Anyway, today's randomness:

Freenet is an interesting file-sharing program/network. It's supposed to be completely anonymous, accomplished through a decentralized architecture and encrypted transmissions. It's an exercise in pure freedom of speech, and all the dangers that come with that. Once you are node on the network, for all you know people are using a portion of your harddrive/bandwidth to trade kiddie porn or bomb-making materials. The creators of Freenet believe that the risk of such activities in inherent to true free speech, and any attempt to censor is unacceptable.

A few years ago I would have agreed whole-heartedly, but lately I've been uncomfortable with such rigid idealisms. For example, take my post of a few days ago on whether same-sex couples should have the right to adopt. Later, the co-worker with whom I had the discussion pointed out to me that I supported affirmative action, and wasn't this a form of discrimination against whites? How could I rectify this apparent logical contradiction in my argument (that discrimination is OK in the case of affirmative action, but bad in the case of same-sex couples)? Without going into details about how I feel about affirmative action (in short, I believe it should be tempered with a goals and a timeline towards it's discontinuation), I believe it's a mistake to take the concept of "discrimination" as an absolute. "Discrimination" is not static, rather it requires a specific situational context for you to talk about any moral/ethical implications of it's use. Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a single good reason to disallow same-sex adoptions - but there seem to be plenty of reasons to attempt to redress several hundred years of institutionalized racial suppression through affirmative action. (Aside: How can one rectify a bias in one direction without a corresponding bias in the opposite direction?)

Yet still, the thought of a white student being denied admission to a university because of the color of his skin leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And the thought of pedophiles operating freely so we can all enjoy unrestricted free speech bothers me more....

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