A couple of libertarian bloggers have been noting the straw man arguments raised by Clive Hamilton in his articles on internet censorship and on climate skeptics. eg/ the Mangled Thoughts blog post here and Catallaxy’s post here.
I’m not going to waste too much of my time reading all of Clive’s opinion pieces. However upon seeing Clive’s article “Web doesn’t belong to libertarians” I was floored by the intellectual laziness (or stupidity) right from the word go. Even the title itself contains false implications.
Libertarians would never claim to “own” the web. Individuals own servers that host websites. Those who support freedom advocate the protection of property rights.
Further down Clive continues with his collectivism: (emphasis added)
“The question we as a society must ask is this: Do we believe easy access to these sorts of images causes harm to some or all of the boys and girls who view them?”
Clive, there’s no such thing as “we”. My question would be does Clive believe it is proper to let individuals engage in voluntary trade and have their property rights protected?
Clive’s focus on the collective, right down to the bizarre title of the piece shows he is ignorant of or doesn’t care for the political idea of individual rights.
In the above sentence we also see the first strawman. ie: The question of whether or not porn harms the minds of children. If the answer is yes, this does not justify mandatory government censorship.
Clive is attacking a straw man here by using minors in his argument. Full individual rights should properly be granted to adults not children. eg/ Children should be properly prevented from driving cars, from owning firearms, from drinking alcohol. Humans develop their body and brain over time and while all humans have the right to life, it is the task of legal science to determine the proper restrictions for minors. Porn should rightly be restricted to adults, but not at the expense of violating the individual rights of all people – this would be an injustice and would see the government abdicating on its duty to protect its citizens from initiary force.
Clive states that:
“Others take an extreme libertarian view that people (including children) should be able to view whatever they like”
Of course, no libertarian I have ever hear from believes children should be looking at porn. Clive doesn’t provide evidence for this straw man argument. He’s trying to hoodwink his readers. He not only doesn’t provide an example or source for this claim, but he clearly doesn’t even have the decency or intelligence to understand the arguments against mandatory government censorship.
Clive’s implication that mandatory government censorship would even prevent all children looking at porn is also highly questionable.
I think Clive’s biggest problem is his collectivism. If individuals are engaged in hosting illegal content, the government should stop this. And they already have more than enough power to do so. eg/ Manufacturers of paedophilia films should be shut down and dealt with harshly.
It’s worth mentioning that free speech isn’t an absolute. And the majority of freedom supporters know this. eg/ Death threats should rightly be illegal. Yelling “fire” in a crowded place when there is no fire should be illegal because this amounts to an act of physical force. The people in the theatre will have to evacuate due to your fradulent claim. If I own a shop on a busy street, I shouldn’t be allowed to post a picture in the window of two girls one cup or something else disgusting like that. Because I am in effect forcing this onto innocent people.
But it is a total non-sequitor to then assert that Australia should have mandatory ISP filtering, to penalise every internet user and to drop the presumption of innocence as Clive wants. The idea that a government should decide what information is available to its citizens is horrifying if we use history as a guide to what could go wrong.
Clive, parents are responsible for their children. They can and should use freely available filters on their computers to ensure their children are not exposed to porn. Why young children would be looking up porn is beyond me anyway. I had no interest in girls until I was about 13 years old.
Incidentally I must say that I think the fact that Clive is getting rubbish such as this article printed in the Australian is quite disturbing. A demonstration of the anti-intellectual nature of the main stream media and of our society at large. Ironically censorship reducing people’s responsibility, independence and ability to use their brains certainly won’t help remedy that problem!
Further down Clive states:
“……. there is a common belief in the internet community that any restriction means the imposition of one set of moral values on others who don’t hold them. Any sexual practice, no matter how bizarre, is just a matter of personal choice.”
I think Clive is trying to suggest that bizarre sexual acts are incorrectly assessed as being ammoral. He’s attempting to set up a false alternative. Censorship does mean the imposition of a set of moral values but many bizarre sexual practises are indeed harmful to those that engage in them and are immoral eg/ extreme sado-masochism.
The irony here is that Clive is himself being un-principled when it comes to political theory. He is the one promoting immoral legislation.
Clive seems to be implying that proper legislation should be based on morality. This is untrue. It is true that properly illegal acts such as violent crimes are also immoral acts. But this doesn’t mean that all immoral acts should be illegal or that it is the task of government to enforce moral behaviour. This impossible task has often puzzled me considering moral action requires volition – how can people be acting morally if they are forced? Consider the logical consequences of enforcing morality per eg/It would be immoral for me to eat chocolate all day long, or stay up all night playing video games, or drink too much alchohol, or for me to waste my life and negatively impact my self esteem by making pornography. A totalitarian nightmare. I should have the legal right to do all of these immoral things. If the government attempts to control the huge amount of moral choices I make every day, then they will necessarily violatie my right to exercise my own judgment, achieve my goals, and engage in voluntary uncoerced activity. Acting out one’s choices based on conceptual thought is how human beings operate for their very survival. Humans are not dogs operating on instinct and shouldn’t be treated as such. If the government restricts voluntary acts that do not initiate physical force, their legislation will be necessarily contradictory. Contradictions indicate false theories and in this case indicate morality per se is not the base principle for proper legal theory.
Governments should properly protect the conditions for moral action. Moral action requires the ability to act on one’s choices.
The proper standard for legislation is the non-initiation of force principle. The government should properly protect individuals from physical force. However mandatory internet censorship would see the government initiating force against all people and thereby abdicating on their proper duty to protect our rights and freedom.
A few great political minds through history have helped derive the proper protections governments should grant their citizens eg/ the founding fathers of the USA who sought to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Ignorant people like Clive want to wipe out the hard fought efforts of these heros.
The path to ever increasing government facism by further eroding individual rights protections will ultimately have negative and unjust results – just look at history.