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Information Wants to Be Free - a Fugue collab

2001-08-02

feeling kinda how a girl feels

birthday countdown: 17 days.

project 17 for Fugue: truth, beauty, freedom and love - on the Internet.

Information Wants to Be Free

i truly believe information wants to be free. and i have an inordinate love of reference materials. there's an entire bookshelf in my house devoted to reference materials. if i have a question? look it up. (thanks, dad.) the Internet is an amazing way to get information out there. but it's not all black and white. there are so many grey areas. information, yes. first amendment and all that... but what if the information hurts people?

i'm not talking about insulting people with blond jokes or ethnic slurs. that's all stupid, but people do have a right to speak their minds. we can also choose not to listen. the back button is an amazing tool.

syllogism: a is b, b is c. ergo, a is c.

no, what i've been thinking about recently are the myriad number of sites devoted to anorexia. not how to deal with it and how to break the cycle, mind you. these are sites devoted to helping you be a better anorexic. tips on how to purge, ideas about how to narrow down your diet one food at a time until you're down to water and celery, suggestions on how to keep your privacy (read: hide your illness more effectively from those who care about you). this is no joke. these sites have forums and discussion boards, so fellow anorexics can report their 'progress' and offer their support as you chase the same deadly goal.

i support the First Amendment. free speech is powerful, and the cornerstone of democracy. but. but how do you balance that with disseminating information that will help people kill themselves?

it's not an easy question. how is that any different from, say, allowing white supremacist groups to publish their opinions? isn't that as hurtful, if not more so? yes and no, i think. there are clearly organized factions that try to educate and inform, who stand against the vitriol of white supremacists. and they do it in public. anorexia is a private battle. in some ways, i think sites like Ana, My Goddess (and no, i will most certainly not publish the link here) do more damage because they convince young women that their goal of being skeletally thin is good and achievable. these women - and men as well, in smaller numbers - do not hear the dissenting opinion. these sites feed into our cultural bias towards unnaturally skinny women. thin is better. very thin is even better. it doesn't matter if you die in the process.

there is a small light of hope. Yahoo recently pulled sponsored sites that advocated anorexia, citing the 'no harm' rule for hosting. bravo, Yahoo! they will get flak for their choice, i'm sure. i, for one, support them. not all information needs to be free, and beauty should not cost you your life.

canyon v. gorge: a canyon is wider than it is tall. a gorge is deeper than it is wide.

i heard another story recently about freedom of information on NPR. hackers, in the true sense of the word, are banding together to make sites available to people in closed countries - notably in Eastern Europe, where security measures block out sites that the powers that be deem inappropriate.

we assume that the mere presence of information will free us, and take it for granted here in the US that the information is in fact out there to be had. what if you lived in Eastern Europe, or Africa, where access is limited, if available at all? what if you didn't know how much you were missing, simply because you didn't see it? what if you tried to track down some facts about American elections and couldn't find it? would you be frustrated? angry? upset? what could you do? where would you turn next? perhaps, without knowing it, you would turn to these hackers. or, they would turn to you. and they would do their best to liberate the information, so it would be there for the taking.

bight: a shallow bend or curve in a river or harbor. esp., long enough for a square rigger to sail out without having to tack.

most interesting to me on the 'Net are journal sites. it seems that journals are about truth. we all define it as we go along, truth. journals are partly about telling the truth, and partly about finding it. the fact that people put their discoveries and their searching out there every day just blows me away. how is it that we decide not only to journal (a highly introspective task), but to put it out there for one and all to see? we risk our selves each and every time we post an entry. we take the chance of offending someone, or contradicting someone else's truth.

but. but we also gamble that someone will nod and hmmmm when they read our words. we hope that one of our readers will recognize some piece of their self in our journey, and at least be a kindred soul. more than that, we wait to hear. a note, an entry in the guestbook - confirmation that what we say makes sense, clicks for you. and occasionally, we get very lucky. once in a great while, that connection leads us to a friendship. i love that that can happen. and i'm grateful that it has been true in my journey.

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