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Kottu is being weird this morning.

There are a couple of similar posts from different blogs scolding Sanjana, also giving him a lesson in anatomy. Either there is something wrong with the Kottu feed, or there is an angry person with multiple blogs or there is someone mucking around.

Clicking on any of these links lead you to nothing really. Just a notice that says “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”

Weird stuff.

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We used to have a ton of fun some time back on Facebook when certain politicians and personalities were impersonated on the site. It was hilarious, and the interactions between these  fake personalities would throw us into fits of laughter. These guys are not the only ones to get that idea though. A Moroccan impersonated Prince Moulay Rachid (of Morocco), and when authorities found out what he had done, they promptly slapped him in prison for 3 years and has to pay a fine of $1,000. It doesn’t matter that his impersonation was not for monetary gain, he still had to suffer the consequences.

If this were to take place in Sri Lanka of course, you would either be staring at a white van or your car would suddenly ‘skid’ and crash and kill all witnesses passengers.

Join the campaign for the blogger here.

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,”

Says Tom Lantos, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to Yahoo!.

Information Yahoo! released to Chinese authorities in 2004 on Si Tao’s (a journalist) online activities led to Tao being jailed for ten years. Si Tao was engaged in pro-democracy efforts which were labeled subversive by the Chinese authorities. China has been restricting online activity for the past couple of years, closing down blogs, requesting the registration of blogs, and restricting the results of search engines with regards to any ‘subversive’ topics.

Yahoo! has been involved with legal battles of similar nature for some time now, with a French court requesting that Yahoo! ban access to websites containing Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo! is not alone in its efforts to please China, with Google and Microsoft unzipping their pants as well in their greed to grab China.

Online freedom is something we treasure, a way to break free from restrictive governments or society.  Once companies like Yahoo! start bending over for governments like the Chinese, we are going to be in trouble. Am I glad Sri Lanka is not a huge internet market.

Read the articles here:

New York Times

PCWorld

 CNN

We have all come across them, sometime or another, these exclusive little groups and clubs. Little bands of intellectuals and high class prudes who tend to look at you down the length of their respective noses. You might as well have them stick signs around stating: “No Dogs and No Normal People Allowed”.

Certain people and certain places seem to have this little thing going on. There are banks that don’t give you their full service because your balance may not be in 7 digits. There are certain boutiques where the sales people (who are probably poorer than you anyway) look at you askance. I don’t even need to mention the clubs. It can be a right pain in the arse having to deal with places like this. I don’t dress to impress, nor do I flaunt, so I usually have to settle for a few firm words in English to get things done, and a very pointed ‘thank you’ at the end. As my uncle once said, “Its all about money in this bloody country!” and I have to agree with him. There is not much you can do about it really. You can either create a big fuss and try to make a difference, like for example, wearing sarongs to where ever you please. Or you could make tons of money, and THEN ask everyone to stick it where the sun don’t shine. For now, I simply ignore it all.

But there is another form of this exclusive attitude that has nothing to do with money. Rather it is a form of intellectual grouping that excludes anyone whose IQ is below a certain level, or whose debating skills are not up to par. It is exceedingly evident on the internet, where google and the existence of a time gap between statement and repartee, allows debates to go on ad nauseum. Blogs seem to be custom built for this sort of activity. Just take a look around the blogs in Kottu. You will find a ton of debates going on, with the key feature being the trampling of one side of the argument, and the humiliation of its proponent. What some of the debaters really want, is not to prove the validity of their point, but rather to prove the strength of their intellectuality, or the power of their argument. It may be a fine line to draw, but it is a line nonetheless. These type of people are at times unable to comprehend any other point of view besides their own. In their minds, what their view is right and everyone else can go to hell.

As a teenager I used to love debates. I was relatively good at debating and would spend hours on a subject and at times follow it for days, persistently like a dog worrying a bone. I would debate with my Muslim friends, Atheist acquaintances, Christian colleagues, and Hindu room mates. Then once during an online free-for-all with a friend, I was called a retard. Now I have been called many things, and profanity being leveled at me was not a new thing, but the venom imbued in that one word surprised me. For a moment, I wondered why that was an insult, though at the time I preferred the politically correct term: mentally challenged. It was then that I realized that, to this chap, the greatest insult was an insult to the intellect. He was a chap so obsessed with his own intellect that nothing else mattered as much.

I have grown up since then, and no longer find it imperative to prove to others that I am smart. I know that I am intelligent, and it doesn’t matter to me what others think about that fact. But there are a lot of people who are yet to discover that little tit-bit of wisdom. They argue, being either openly profane or sprinkling their comments with sarcastic smilies. There are bloggers whose writings and comments I used to admire, but now they are simply content with winning an argument, or putting the other person down. It’s sad really. They don’t realize that they are simply going around in circles.

As Edward De Bono said:

For example, a highly intelligent person may take up a view on a subject and then defend that view (through choice of premises and perception) very ably. The better someone is able to defend a view, the less inclined is that person actually to explore the subject. So the highly intelligent person can get trapped by intelligence, together with our usual sense of logic that you cannot be more right than right, into one point of view.

I try to keep an open mind myself. You have to listen to another point of view if you want to learn. It does not matter if you do not agree with it, you just have to listen to it and dampen the impulse to fire a volley back. Else:

So we sometimes find that the intelligent person is trapped into one point of view by his or her ability to defend that view.

This is the intelligence trap that we fall in so easily. I say to you, stop with the petty attacks. If you are intelligent, good for you. Just try not to shove it down another’s throat. There is nothing better than a good constructive debate, so Ladies and Gentlebloggers, please leave your egos at the door and join the party.

Millions and millions of exuberant monkeys … are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity

And that is us! according to Andrew Keen in his book titled The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture. You can read an article about it here.

In a way, Keen does make some sense. It is all to easy to copy and paste any bit of some one else’s work and make your self seem smarter than you are. Bloggers and web tabloids would probably be the main target of this tirade. And being a blogger myself, I am not really happy being referred to as a monkey, but yes, there is a lot of cut n’ paste going on. We have intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals all debating against each other through their blogs, and rarely, if ever is there a winner. And that is all because of Google. If you cannot answer a question or accusation, hell, google it. Surely someone has an answer. I for one, would love to see some bloggers face to face, and see how they stand up to a debate without their beloved search engines.

But no matter how much Keen complains, this ‘pajama army’ is here to stay. The internet is the ultimate virtual democracy.  It is where everyone can be what they are. can be what they make themselves out to be. It may not be perfect, but it’s here to stay. And it’s also the only way some of us can have our voices heard.

The pajamas are here to stay!

Reading the repartee between Sittingnut and Sanjana awhile ago, I came to wonder about my decision to blog under a moniker.

Let me assure you that with a monicker such as yours, augmented by the incessant drivel that you push, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, into the blogosphere, augmented by your anonymity, prevent us from taking you seriously.

Do my thoughts and writings carry less weight because i do not use my real name? Does the type of ‘moniker’ I use affect how I am perceived, and does the relative ‘anonymity’ that it brings make my posts less relevant?

I wonder.

The reason I chose to blog was because i wanted to express myself. Initially I used to simply comment on other people’s blogs, but that eventually became messy. I didn’t want to clutter up other people’s blogs too much, so i decided to start my own. I started on Blogger, as an experiment and finally decided to get a bit more serious and move to wordpress. I could do my blogging under my real name, or i could use an alias. To blog under my real name would mean that i would be restricting myself to a certain extent. Any views that i express could be held against me in my career, against me personally or against my family.  Not that I am an anarchist or anything so dramatic. In this world, where diplomacy  and ass-kissing is so important, I am at a disadvantage. I am a horrible ass-kisser, and I have to really focus on diplomacy, so i don’t want anything to weigh down my already sad chance at a peaceful life.

Granted, there are successful bloggers who go under their real names. Indi.ca for example. But he has a price to pay for revealing his identity online. He suffers flaming and very many personal attacks on his family. Though the Oscar for Receiving the Most Personal Attacks would go to Sanjana. Now I don’t have the patience nor the temper to deal with any attack to my family if I were to post something that goes against the grain of any psychotic individual out there. Therefore I blog under an alias.

The advantage of anonymity is that I am free from the shackles of societal expectations, and can write the way I want to write. As long as I do not debase myself by trolling, there is nothing wrong with the anonymity I have.  But also, to prevent confusion and to have some sort of online accountability I stick with the name ‘Janus’ or my wordpress account name ‘Janusis’. That way, all my blog interaction will be ascribed to my online identity which eventually will develop with other bloggers ascribing certain writing styles and mannerisms to it, while my real identity sits happily on this end of the keyboard, expressing his self, and not having personal insults thrown his way.

And so I stick to Janus for Janusis I.

There has been a bit of a furore over moderation in our little Kottu Community recently. An itty bitty troll has been bugging Groundviews, and Groundviews hit back by displaying the troll’s details to the public. Now Land Like No Other and Lanka Libertarian got upset about that and had their own posts up about it, which reached the top hits list of Kottu. But that is a whole different story. The fact is that a whole bunch of people are upset that Groundviews censors some of the comments that don’t adhere to their rules. I can understand Groundviews’ ground view. After what happened to Moju (which I enjoyed along with my Kottu), no one would want that repeated to any other blog. Incidentally, Groundviews has the right to do whatever it feels like in its own blog. Indi published an interesting post on the ethics of comment moderation too. All in all, an interesting state of affairs.

What I am wondering is, if such a relatively minor thing as comment moderation on a privately owned blog caused such a ruckus, what would happen to overall blog moderation as opposed to comment moderation. Currently we have the freedom to say whatever the heck we want, and at whom we want.

El Presidente is sometimes described as a strong-man in the lines of Premadasa. A put-up-with-nothing type who will not be pushed around and does whatever he wants. He signed an MOU with the opposition party, and then effectively nullified it by accepting (or engineering) a large number of cross-overs. Three of his ministers bugged him and he summarily kicked them out. What will happen if he suddenly realizes that there are bloggers out there who don’t like him? Maybe he might think bloggers can be a threat to national security. I am simply theorizing. What would all us free-speech-fanatics do when our mode of expression is restricted.

Before you scoff that this might never happen, I point out some examples where it has happened.

During 2005 in China, bloggers who host their content independently on their own server space have to register, and those bloggers that host their content through blog hosting companies are to be policed to the extent that they cannot display ‘questionable content’ including politically sensitive content (read the interview with Isaac Mao). Ouch. Imagine if we weren’t allowed to display politically sensitive content. Rebecca Mackinnon has this to say about Microsoft’s policing of Chinese Language blogs.

Some Pakistani Bloggers are upset over incidents in their country.

And Brazil’s blogosphere was upset during its election time do to this incident. And again some one stirred the blog nest by making a decision to prohibit the participating athletes from maintaining blogs, flogs, video logs or personal websites during the 2007 PanAm games in Rio.

What would we do, I wonder, if our freedom was curtailed. Yell and fight back? Join the FMM (now now, Don’t curse)? Quietly grumble and leave the country?

One of the beauties of the Internet is how it has democratized information, making it easily available to anyone with a computer and a connection, and allowing anyone with an idea, crazy or not, to distribute it to a worldwide audience.

says

Either ways, I believe no matter what comes up to block our freedom of expression, we will always come up with something new. They block blogs, hell we’ll use hieroglyphics. They block expression, we will simply change our form of expression, capoeira style. Freedom always finds ways to win out. And you will always find helpful people with tips on improving your dissident style: Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissident.

Happy blogging!