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The Media-University Complex Backlash against Freedom of Speech

© Peter Zohrab 2006

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World-Wide Web, seems to have a plan, via the teaching of so-called Web Science at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, to combat what he calls "bad phenomena" on the Web. I have asked him to send me the full text of his speech, but I have had no reply so far. Here is one report of his views: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/bizfocus/archives/2006/11/05/2003334970 .

Here are the current or potential "bad phenomena" which he mentions, according to that news report:

  1. fraudsters

  2. liars and untruths

  3. cheats

  4. unfairness

  5. blogging (some aspects of it)

  6. inaccurate information

  7. defamatory information

  8. uncheckable information

  9. taking too much information on trust

  10. The inability of Internet users to establish the original source of the information they digest

    He also said, apparently:

"We're not going to be trying to make a Web that will be better for people who vote in a particular way, or better for people who think like we do," he said. "The really important thing about the Web, which will continue through any future technology, is that it is a universal space."

And he also said, apparently, that the next generation of the Internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.

However, there are some serious problems raised by this plan of his:

  1. There seems to me to be a self-contradiction here: either he wants the Web to remain a universal space, or he wants to create some in-built discrimination against all those "bad phenomena". He cannot really have it both ways.

  2. If there is going to be discrimination against all these "bad phenomena", who is going to decide what is an instance of fraud, lying, cheating, etc.? That is surely a very subjective matter.

  3. Not only are such matters subjective, but they are also (in part) wide-ranging, regional, national and international legal matters, and beyond the scope and competence (in all probability) of anyone involved in teaching or taking a Web Science course. Jurisdictions differ on all these issues.

  4. Legally, too, it is not clear that "defamatory information" is necessarily a bad thing. In some legal jurisdictions, at least, you are legally permitted to publish defamatory information, as long as you have one of the accepted defences to a charge of defamation -- such as a provable claim that the information is true. Why should we want the Web to be free of information that is defamatory but also true?

  5. He seems to want to impose higher standards on the Web than are imposed on universities or the mass media. Surely this is irrational of him? Why should the Web have these higher standards imposed on it? Universities famously enjoy so-called "academic freedom", which means that no outside body can impose any standards or controls on them (apart from budgetary controls) -- and this, also famously, has the result that universities are often strongholds of left-wing propaganda.

  6. His plan, in effect, constitutes political discrimination, because the education system and media in Western countries are generally biased, Feminist-dominated and anti-male, and the Internet is a God-send (where Berners-Lee is the God, as far as the Web is concerned), because it is the only way that anti-Feminist views can be widely disseminated.

  7. His plan is also a power-grab by the universities over one of its rivals: the Web. The Web is a place where you can learn, without being bullied by Feminist or Leftist lecturers into concentrating on sources that are slanted in a way that suits them. It is also a place where you can write what you want, without being implictly or explicitly threatened with a fail or a lower mark by a lecturer if you include material that she finds politically unacceptable. For example, I originally wrote the article The Comparative Power and Welfare of Men and Women in China, as implied by general historical works and works on women in China for a Chinese course at Massey University, New Zealand. The lecturer, Rosemary Haddon, saw a draft, and told me that I would get a low mark unless I cut out the section: Introduction: Parting the Feminist Veil. I refused to take it out, and duly got a low mark. This is typical of the authoritarian-feudal culture of universities, which are fond of criticising undemocratic behaviour in the outside world, but are anything but democratic themselves. People who succeed in the university system tell you to "play the game" or to "make compromises", but I never went to university in order to play games or make compromises.

  8. The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) homepage has an advertisement relating to a "Center for Women and Enterprise" on it. That is proof of CSAIL's political bias -- which I already knew was inevitable, anyway. The issue is not whether a "Center for Women and Enterprise" is a good thing or not (though it would be possible to argue that it is not a good thing) -- the point is that it demonstrates that CSAIL has bought into a particular agenda with respect to women and men. CSAIL can therefore not be trusted to design rules for the Web, because they are almost bound to end up as anti-male in some way. As regards the political corruption of universities, please see Chapter 13: Indoctucation by the Media-University Complex of my book Sex, Lies & Feminism and my article Female Academics' Power and Control over Male Academics .

  9. Not only are Western universities ideologically hostile territory for men (see the various articles at iseducat.html), and increasingly dominated numerically by females, but their academic freedom allows them to produce irrational teaching and research, as well as arrant nonsense, at times. No one could argue that religion is a rational phenomenon, but religious faith is and has often been taught at universities. Add to that all the discredited disciplines such as phrenology, and other branches of science or pseudo-science which are now discredited. I would add here the activist political fraud called "Women's Studies" -- see other writings on this website such as Feminist Jurisprudence Proves that a Woman's Place is in the Home.

  10. MIT itself was for many years where Noam Chomsky worked. His theory of (Transformational) Generative Grammar has been enormously influential, but not for any rational reason. I was a Linguistics-and-Languages undergraduate at York (UK) in the early 1970s, when I got the task of organising a questionnaire on Language Department student attitudes to the proportions of the course which should consist of Linguistics, as opposed to the study of particular languages. My questionnaire was neutral and unbiased in its questions, and returned a result which showed that the majority of students wanted no change. This did not please the emotional advocates of Generative Grammar, such as the then student Geoff Pullum, who wanted a slanted questionnaire which would produce a result favourable to the whole course consisting of Linguistics. He said or wrote to me something to the effect that I must be mad! He later apparently became a well-known Generative Linguist. Generative Grammar is based on a primitive attitude to the data on which it is built, and on a distinction (the Competence-Performance distinction) which is really a bundle of mutually-independent distinctions which do not support his simplistic approach, once analysed.

  11. It is not a big deal for the next generation of the Internet to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest. How far does that get them? For example, in this article, I am quoting from a page that claims to belong to the Taipei Times, and which claims to be a reprint from the Guardian. How far does that get me? If I were (as I used to be) one of the Leftist tribe known as "Guardian-Readers", who regard the Guardian as the symbol of all that is holy and good, then I might conclude that I can trust every word in the article as being a true record of Berners-Lee's speech. But that is no more rational than a similar faith in the accuracy of the reporting of a particular blogger. I have heard of two cases of reporters who were later discovered to have been inventing stories wholesale in newspapers such as the New York Times. There are bound (in my estimation) to have been many other such cases which were either not discovered, not publicised widely, or not publicised at all. Moreover, in the West, a lot of women have got jobs at the expense of men (e.g. on newspapers) because of affirmative action or equal employment opportunities, which means that they are not always competent. I once saw Polly Toynbee, of the Guardian, claiming on BBC World TV (on the Dateline London programme) that the War on Terror was not as serious as it had been made out to be, because between Septerber 2001 and 2006 there had been relatively few casualties from this war. This is a remarkably stupid thing to say, because the relative lack of casualties is more likely to be the result of governments preventing terrorist attacks than the result of terrorists not planning them!

For an example of media reactions to freedom of speech in the bloggosphere, see Democracy Frightens the Left.

The internet has liberated men and fathers to some extent from the oppression and censorship they suffer at the hands of the totalitarian-liberal (politically correct) media and education system. This has left the politically correct Establishment with the problem of how to counter this undesirable freedom of expression. One approach was to try to teach people that only certain websites (the politically correct ones) were "authoritative" or "reliable", but this approach does not seem to have had enough success. Now something that may be a new censorship tool has emerged.




Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

2 April 2017