Dorothy of Ruritania

While looking at a Scientific American report on “Technology’s Toll On Privacy And Security“, I saw an article by Dorothy Denning, noted apologist for the view that the government can only keep us safe if they have the keys to our underwear drawer.

Her contribution is short, and fairly gentle, as FUD goes:

The Web Ushers In New Weapons of War and Terrorism

Protesters, terrorists and warmongers have found the Internet to be a useful tool to achieve their goals. Who will bring law and order to cyberspace?

I wasn’t certain the picture was her at first, but that last line in the teaser had the familiar tone of panicked hand-wringing.

(There are strict laws about brewing and distilling, too… But if she’d said, “Home Brewers have found the Internet to be a useful tool to achieve their goals”, too many people would have caught on)

Professor Denning is smart. And I’m sure she means well.

If she was a History professor, however, she might better recall that our country wasn’t founded on the principle that law and order would make us safe. It was founded on the principle that, fed up with oppressive law, and some faraway parliament’s idea of order, We the People had to strike out on our own, if we were to have the freedom that is every person’s natural right.

Perry Metzger is also smart. And a good bit more amusing. While seeing what Professor Denning had been up to of late, I rediscovered this bit of whimsey, from back during the Crypto Wars. Light, short, and just enough clues for you to fill in the background, without having to relieve the whole angst-ridden period.

A Parable by Perry E. Metzger

There was once a far away land called Ruritania, and in Ruritania there was a strange phenomenon — all the trees that grew in Ruritainia were transparent. Now, in the days when people had lived in mud huts, this had not been a problem, but now high-tech wood technology had been developed, and in the new age of wood, everyone in Ruritania found that their homes were all 100% see through. Now, until this point, no one ever thought of allowing the police to spy on someone’s home, but the new technology made this tempting. This being a civilized country, however, warrants were required to use binoculars and watch someone in their home. The police, taking advantage of this, would get warrants to use binoculars and peer in to see what was going on. Occasionally, they would use binoculars without a warrant, but everyone pretended that this didn’t happen.

One day, a smart man invented paint…

Read the rest of Ruritania

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