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Don't "think of the children" me

Lately, I've seen a disturbing trend of increasing governmental control with a "think of the children" type justification. By "type", I mean any justification that appeals to irrational (though justified) that we may have, like fear for our children's safety.

The British government is planning a nation-wide "porn firewall" that will restrict its citizens from accessing a number of websites, all in the noble cause of protecting children from the horrors of pornography. An admirable move, but think about the consequences. A number of companies selling porn filters will benefit via huge contracts, and citizens who are granted the right to freedom will have the right subtly snatched away from them.

Now, you may think that I'm exaggerating when I say that citizens will lose freedom under such a censor-wall, after all, it's just pornography that they seek to block, right? No! If a government gets power to block websites, it can seek to suppress freedom of expression on the internet, by measures such as accidentally blocking certain blogs or websites that don't toe the government line. Because of the distributed nature of the internet, websites located in San-Serriffe advocating freedom may be blocked in the UK, and may not know about the block at all. Whereas people inside the censor-wall may be living in an Orwellian 1984esq world.

In another incident, a father who was walking on the street with his daughter was detained by the police because someone reported him as a suspected kidnapper. The officer told him that he should be thankful that someone was looking out for his daughter more than he was. I really don't mind the police responding to a call for a suspected kidnapping, but I do mind if they start detaining fathers with little kids on the street. That crosses the thin blue line between freedom and a police state. (Incidentally, we Indians have a healthy mistrust of police. I don't think people in India will call the police if they suspect a kidnapping. I think we'd me more likely to confront the person, and then determine whether the police need to be involved.)

Yet another incident has a teenager arrested and put in jail, where he is regularly beaten up; all for a retarded comment he posted on a message board (which was followed by a LOL; JK (laugh out loud; just kidding)) where he responded to someone calling him "messed up in the head". The teenager is charged with "terrorism" (I am not a lawyer, and not a legal expert. I don't think that "terrorism" is a charge, but reading blogs and news articles about the story, I gather that the charges against him are similar to charges against a terrorist), because "think of the god-damn imaginary children he would have shot up in his god-damn satirical world, all when laughing out loud and saying that he was just 'kidding' (pun?)".

A similar irrational argument is "war on terror". Honestly, I feel more terrorised by the TSA agents every time I walk through a scanner that puts me at more risk of dying of cancer than the theoretical terrorist attack it might have prevented. I don't think they've foiled any attacks yet. If they did, it would be on national news that the TSA finally did some good in the world. In Singapore's Changi airport, I instinctively removed my pen, belt, keys, wallet before the security officer told me that I just had to walk through the scanner. That was the most pleasant experience I had at airport security; possibly after Mumbai's CSIA, where an officer basically checks you with a metal detector wand. (I hope I don't get put on a no-fly list for this [:)])

To conclude, I think that "think of the children" is a terrible justification for excessive policing. What we really need is better gun control laws, better training of personnel involved in security activities, and much less paranoia. Most of all, we need to protect our freedoms for what they're worth, because, to quote Orwell:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.

Independent thought and well reasoned debate are the ways to decide on laws, not "think of the children" or "save the software companies who are being attacked by Korean counterparts, but outsource all their production to China".

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