If I were starting my academic career over again – “7 years of college education, wasted!” – I might write my thesis on the tension between “civilization” and “freedom.” Here’s perfect example of what I mean:
Accustomed to a certain deference from citizens and the news media, members of France’s political elite have been caught off guard by the cruder sensibilities and tabloid flavor of the online world. They have mounted a broad counteroffensive.
Politicians here have filed lawsuits,… organized in-house Internet surveillance teams — Mr. Sarkozy receives a nightly report detailing the day’s online chatter — and roundly denounced the Web as a breeding ground for disinformation.
“The Internet is a danger for democracy,” said Jean-François Copé, parliamentary chief for the governing party, the Union for a Popular Movement, in a recent radio interview. – NYTimes
If nothing else, can we agree that the French are civilized? As well as civil? At least to each other. Tourists in Paris might not agree, but then again, if you want to experience rudeness from counter people and waiters, you don’t need to stray too far from Miami-Dade County.
But consider that statement: “The internet is a danger to democracy.” That strikes this blogging fool as bullshit on fluted crystal. Even if you grant him his premise: that the lies, slanders, and vicious spin one encounters daily on teh internets undermine respect for facts, truth, and of course, authority – which is really where his complaint resides — and jeopardize the democratic institutions on which depend an enlightened citizenry, how do you wind up with that anti-democratic and frankly uncivilized conclusion?
The French have a lot of German in them. For their own reasons, they tend toward dangerous authoritarianism. When they sense danger to the underlying sensibilities that define their francophilia, they lash back with rules and regs. They grumble about corruptions of the language, and pass laws prohibiting Anglicizing words. They make burqas illegal in schools and the workplace. They condemn the appearance of anorexic behavior in advertisements and entertainment venues. All for the general good, you see.
It might not be evident from my posts over the years, but I admire the French. I speak the language, I’m friendly with French people, and I enjoy their art. (I don’t like the food, but I’m a peasant when it comes to cuisine.) But this particular aspect of their culture disgusts me on a very fundamental level.
Authority of any kind needs to be derided constantly. Authority loves itself too much. Authority left uncriticized, let alone unbridled, leads to oppression and the very worst kind of abuse against the individual and the majority. Free expression, a free press, and a free internet are precious tools, weapons against the suppression of freedom.
Eat me, Jean-François Copé. Mangez moi. Hanh hanh hanh.