free speech and the government

Stephan Mohr stephan.mohr at
Sun Feb 4 13:59:33 PST 1996

At 16:02 03.02.1996 -0800, you wrote:
>Stephan Mohr writes:
>> Well, I feel that I agree with the people on the right of free speech for
>> i.e. the neo-nazi stuff or other political, ideological and/or religious
>> ideas. But there is still something that leaves me uneasy: imagine there
>> would be a way to easily make a powerful poison, easily applicated to
>> your town's water-reservoir, or a very easy way to build some strong
>> explosive device. etc. Actually, I think that stuff like this does exist
>> already.
>> But the idea that one day I just put 'easy made deadly poison for millions'
>> into my webcrawler and whoop there it is on my screen or on the screen of any
>> other fool, doesn't sound to right to me. I would like things like this
>> to be better put aside and locked up.
>You can't put the genie back into the bottle.
>Once something is invented or described, the knowledge
>is out there.  Someone who wants to use that knowledge
>for "wrong" purposes can find it.
>Maybe a lot of people around the world could agree that
>the knowledge to make something really dangerous (say Sarin nerve gas) 
>should be suppressed.  But where do we draw the line?  If
>we, or rather our government acting obstensibly in our interest, decides
>to supress the information on how to make Sarin, not too many people
>will complain.  But the tendency of governments is to regulate and
>restrict and tax more.   What happens when governments suppress
>knowledge on how to make gunpowder?  Or printing presses?  Or
Actually, I am glad that the whole story started over some neo-nazi stuff
and not a recipe to easily make a very potent poison. I wonder if there
would have been as many 'poison-sites' as there are zundel-sites. And what
'poison-site'-maintainers would think after some fool would have used the
poison to kill a bunch of kindergarten-kids by putting it into their food.
And how some governments would react and what type of restriction on the net
would not only be accepted, but even demanded by the people. Yeah, I know,
the guy could have gotten the idea elsewhere as well, but you know how
people think and how governments like to link unrelated stuff to gain power.

And it is nice to see how much publicity you can give to something by
prohibiting it.

>Many people argue (rightly IHMO) that once started on the slippery slope
>of suppressing knowledge there's no stopping until we're all
>under the boot heel of the police state.

I think that you are right in saying that you can't put the genie back into
the bottle. But I think it makes a big difference if you make it widely
available to everyone and maybe even to people who do not want to have it. 

It would be nice to have some type of obstacle in the way to this type of
information. It is like putting drugs, alcohol and other dangerous stuff out
of the reach of children. Or putting a fence at some dangerous cliff to
prevent people from falling over. The dangerous stuff will still be there
and you just can't flatten every hill. But there is a responsibility that
comes with information as well as with any other thing. 

So I do not want to outlaw some type of information, I agree that this is
not feasible (I hope) nor desirable. But I think that there should be some
possibility of control on a public medium. Not to control the content but to
control the access. The idea is to give control to those in need of control
without interfering with the free exchange of information of others. This
could be done, for example, by giving them a choice of providers or browser
software (jewish, catholic, anarchist, terrorist, gay, straight ...
flavoured provider/browser). So you can say whatever you want, but everyone
can decide whether he or she wants to listen to you or not (in a more
sophisticated way, of course). And it is not just 'don't click on my page than'.

Here encryption may play an important role: not only to protect your
privacy, but also to protect others from having to read your stuff.

Most or the governments will not accept the idea of free speech like this.
And I am afraid, but I guess they could still tear down the whole net if
they want to. So, wouldn't it be better that, if there should be some type
of control technology, that it is conceived by the netizen and not by, say
the german, chinese, or french government.


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