Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Internet Is A Bad Influence

I'm nitpicking another news story - this one about how terrorists are starting to work alone, rather than in small infiltration-prone groups. From the article (emphasis added):

A newly declassified Canadian intelligence report is warning about the emerging threat posed by "lone wolf" Islamist terrorists who operate completely on their own.


A lone wolf is inspired by a terrorist cause but takes action independently. Lone wolves are difficult to identify because they do not join terrorist groups or associate with other known extremists.

The phenomenon is being linked to the Internet.

Yes, that's right. Before the Internet came along, people were far less likely to become troubled loners and all Muslims really were peaceful.

Why, if not for chat rooms and Grand Theft Auto, Muslims probably wouldn't blow up much of anything. I imagine a dialogue between a Muslim parent and teenager a century or so ago: "What's wrong, Mohammad-Al-Mohammud-Bin-Mohammed? You're so sociable and nonviolent lately. Your mother and I are starting to worry." "Well, Dad, I just don't know how to get motivated to hate these days. If only someone would invent a global computer network to tell me how to make IEDs. Oh, and invent computers, of course. And the term 'IED.' Hey - you said my mother was starting to worry. Who allowed the woman to express an opinion?"

This reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a nice older lady who was sincerely worried about the Internet. She had never been online, and all of her information came from scary sound bite teases for the local news. "Can syphilis be transmitted by e-mail? Find out if your kids are at risk, tonight at eleven on Action News!"

She expressed concern over people being able to find "all sorts of bad stuff" (presumably bomb plans, civil disobedience strategies, etc. - her concept of the Internet seemed to be The Anarchist Cookbook in HTML) on the Web. Finally, she said (perhaps not verbatim, but very close), "The Internet doesn't do anything except give people bad ideas."

I replied, "You do realize, don't you, that the same was fairly recently said about literacy?"

One other point: who could have predicted that a newspaper (remember those? They used to be relevant.) might want to make people fearful of getting information online?

OK, you can put your hand down now. It doesn't make you Nostradamus.

(And, yes, I get the actual intent of that sentence in the article: that the Net allows those who are so inclined to easily and anonymously find reading material to feed their prejudices and hatred, and to get info that they would have needed to join a group to access in days past. Like I said, I'm nitpicking. I'm annoyed at how people who understand as much about the Internet as Barack Obama does about actual terrorism - i.e., nothing - will read that passage, then walk away saying, "See, Myrtle? I told 'ya them thar Intarwebs was fulla fore-un ter'rists.")

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

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