I happened to be listening to WHYY‘s Fresh Air with Terry Gross last night in the kitchen as she interviewed Emily Bazelon, senior editor of Slate, who wrote a book entitled, Sticks and Stones. (Yes, I was totally ignoring Beau in his attempts to play while I was listening. Guilty as charged!) In the book, Ms. Bazelon explores bullying, and how the rise of social media has moved the bloody sport into cyber-space. Hence, the much dreaded and I would say, pestilential phenomenon parents far and wide dread: Cyber-bullying. This has caused many a tear-filled agonizing night, dreaded school attendances, and even the further descent of victimized adolescents into the depressive abyss, not to mention some significant suicides.
Then, this morning, I listened to Forum, hosted by Rachel Myrow, the well-paneled conversation was about how government-backed Chinese hackers have successfully broken into not just major US industries and banks to steal proprietary information, but now, into our most vital infrastructure such as our power grids, train systems, and water works, to name a few. The cold war has gone from nuclear one-upmanship to cyber-espionage. Really dangerous stuff. It’s no longer posturing and peacock-strutting during summits, on the airwaves or print. It’s like pests entering your house through the crevices of your walls, along your pipes, above your ceiling or into your crawl space. Creepy!
How does the US respond? Tit for tat? That’s a delicate question and one that can be fraught with dire consequences if the US acts irrationally or impulsively. However, the US can’t be sitting on its hands forever about this either. And it’s not as though the hackers are easy to find and shut down. They normally hide behind three or four hops before you can even find them. And most of these dummy landings can even be traced to IP addresses within US soil. What legislation can one enact that will not unfairly restrict such organizations like Anonymous or WikiLeaks, thereby severely trampling on our civil liberties?
What about the Cyber-bullying? Do you bully back on Facebook? Like the high school student who posted that a fellow student had a Herpes infection. She admitted that this was a purely manufactured inflammatory accusation on social media, for the public to view and comment on. How does the victim respond? How does the victim’s parents treat this? Child-play? What does the school do? Shake their heads dismissively and look away?
A lot of pundits, naysayers, and paranoids have been flooding chats and blogs with conspiracy assertions of the government’s designs at furthering its control over its citizens, painting an Orwellian conspiracy to justify a Big Brother mass surveillance and control. Then there are the pathetic cries from the self-absorbed for preserving first amendment rights to its fullest and even most extended extent.
I am all for the freedom of speech that I can express myself and my opinions, even in this blog. And you don’t have to read it if you don’t agree. That’s okay. But when you tell me that falsely accusing someone of being herpes-infected (a sexually transmitted disease with all its salacious and banal implications) is an expression of freedom of speech, I indefatigably disagree! When you tell me that a hacker is only expressing his/her freedom of expression to have a livelihood by hacking (it’s a job, nothing else, ya?) into our most vital infrastructure and thereby endangering the entire nation, I will stand before you with my most indignant stare!
Just like the NRA and its loyal members have stubbornly held on to their age-old beliefs and cling to their second amendment rights to bear arms no matter what, I find this all too ridiculous for words. What? So you can sit on your front porch and watch the sun set while you fondly run your hand through your rifle? The second amendment was written when the cumbersome muskets and canons were de rigueur. There were no semi-automatic weapons back then with multi-round clips, similar to those that have been used in the recent tragic incidents all over the country (Think Newtown, Tucson, Webster, Aurora, to name a few). (Do you really need these sophisticated semis to hunt in the woods?)
We need to come to our senses about all this. No one is preventing people from expressing their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To express opinions freely. To bear arms. To have a livelihood that pays the bills. But the edicts that clearly a loud minority cling so literally and desperately to need to be brought to relevance in the 21st century.
- Cyber-Bulling Law Shields Teachers From Student Tormentors (npr.org)
- Stephen Colbert, Emily Bazelon Discuss Bullying Epidemic (lezgetreal.com)
- Cyberwar: culture of silence (stuff.co.nz)
- John Pavley: Not Worried About Big Brother or Big Government (huffingtonpost.com)
- Cyber Warfare: US & Chinese Gov Use Hackers To Attack Digital Infrastructure (occupycorporatism.com)
- Anonymous Helps Researchers Link Hackers To Chinese Army (huffingtonpost.com)
- I hack, reflection on the role of hacker (techdistro.wordpress.com)