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Subject: IP: more on Too much surveillance means too little freedom

  • From: David Farber <>
  • Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 18:11:01 -0500

>From: "Bob Frankston" <>
>To: <>

>I remember arriving at SFO (San Francisco Airport) unsure of which plane
>to take-did I want to fly to Seattle or Boston that night. It was about
>9PM so I needed to decide soon and I had open tickets I could use for
>either one so I didn't have to decide till I walked up to the gate.
>These days that would mark me as very suspicious or worse. Imagine my
>having to explain to a security guard as I entered the airport that I
>didn't know which coast I was flying to and didn't see why it was his
>business and I did have at least half an hour to decide which coast.
>I'm still mulling a longer set of 9/11 comments. I do remember the "duck
>and cover" 1950's in New York. We assumed that the missile would be
>aimed at Columbus Circle (59th and Broadway). 10 Megatons you might
>survive, 100 don't bother. It was a time when we saw terrorists
>everywhere and knew that they did in deed have weapons of mass
>destruction and the means to deploy them and wouldn't limit themselves
>to symbolic targets. While many did accept Joe McCarthy's claims
>(slightly before my awareness), imagine if we had put all our energy
>into bomb shelters and protection and didn't allow for any risk taking
>and uncertainty?
>As an aside, I remember Khrushchev's (USSR leader in the 1950's) son
>(now a US citizen) talking on C-Span about his father's first visit to
>the US. As basically a hick from the boondocks (to loosely translate
>into American metaphors) he was surprised and shocked at the hostile
>reception he got and the clear message was that he had better prepare to
>defend himself.
>The reason I haven't yet written my longer comments is that there are a
>set of complex issues. The simple point is that it dangerous to try to
>avoid risk either by fearing engagement with the world outside the US
>(and thus letting problems fester) or the other extreme, by banning
>uncertainty and tolerating free speech only as long as it isn't abused.
>Alas, in email, I have to be explicit and point out that this is meant
>to be read sarcastically.
>Note that when I write on the Web I try very hard to avoid accidentally
>using words like "foreign" and other implicitly US-centric language. The
>concept of "free speech" is a subtle example since it is very much a US
>term embodied in the (US) Constitution. In fact, it was added only as an
>amendment. I personally consider it to be an early form of the Internet
>in the sense that it shifted the onus of "dealing with it" from the
>speaker to the listener. Innovation is almost by its nature disruptive
>and thus likely to fail if permission is required (AKA prior restraint).
>It's the danger that Larry Lessig points out as people try to make the
>Internet "safe".
>Bob Frankston

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