Newspaper Opinion Piece Requires Rebuttal - ASAP!

Internet Infidel Activists - your help is needed!

The following amateur writer writes in my local paper. He is a home-schooled Christian fundamentalist. He gets a mention of Christianity or Jesus and a gratuitous insult at atheists and/or humanists into every column he writes. He "hates" the phrase "Happy Holidays", and does an annual "Christ in Christmas" piece. He is about 17-20 years old.

I need the help of atheists to flood my local paper with criticisms of his attitude, his bigotry, and his commentary. Data is provided below to contact his paper, and himself.

If you only want to make a brief comment, every bit helps.
If you only want to tell the editor that the writer is a bigot, let her know.
This is time sensitive - a paper will only publish letters that closely follow current topics or articles.

If this helps, Muslims routinely ban websites, like Turkey recently banning the Richard Dawkins site. So I guess we know what the Muslim down the street thinks. In Bountiful, British Columbia this week two polygamist patriarchs were finally charged by courts, so I guess we know what the Christian down the street thinks. I’m sure the secular humanist agrees with neither on internet censorship. Burnham’s plan sounds in keeping with what the religious want, not secular humanists - but isn’t it nice of Walker Morrow to make clear that he feels he has more in common with Muslim sensibilities on this issue than humanist ones? The author railed at business that chose to say "Happy Holidays" just a month ago, yet this month he thinks that businesses should have the freedom to set up and keep their own policies. Which is it?

Cowichan Valley Citizen
Duncan, British Columbia
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

editor: Andrea Rondeau
Walker Morrow address:

Opinion, page 9
Young Minds With Walker Morrow


I have a dangerous addiction - it’s called the Internet. Admittedly, I think the addiction has its benefits, such as access to an incredible amount of information at my fingertips, not to mention the panoply of obscure musicians whose music can be joyously pirated on wonderful media-sharing websites such as Youtube.
I’m also a fairly radical free-speechist, which, combined with my previously mentioned addiction, led this little piece of news from the British press to drive me to briefly foam at the mouth (not literally, they’ve got shots for such things these days).
Apparently, according to the UK Telegraph, British Cultural Secretary Andy Burnham wants to child-proof the Internet, limiting what content is available to children, so they aren’t exposed to whatever is deemed offensive or unsavoury (whatever that might be, I don’t know. I would presume that a secular humanist might have a different definition than the Christian or the Muslim down the street). And apparently, Andy wants the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to do the heavy lifting for him.
Among the measures under consideration are forcing the ISPs to provide certain Internet packages which only contain family-friendly websites, and even content ratings for individual websites, similar to movie ratings, although again, it’s unclear by what specific standards - interestingly enough, a lack of standards that is shared with the movie-style ratings system.
Another option would be to force certain websites, like Youtube or Facebook, to remove certain content in a given amount of time, if that content is deemed unacceptable.
As to why they applies to Canada in any way (in other words, why am I talking about this?), Mr. Burnham says that he has plans for talks with the upcoming Obama administration to see if they can’t apply his proposed restrictions, or similar ones, internationally to all English speaking websites.
Sigh . . .
Where to begin? Let’s start with what I believe is referred to as "having your cake and eating it too," on Burnham’s part. He said, and I quote: "There is content which should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people."
I’m afraid that constitutes a breach of free speech, Mr. Burnham. Whenever you are limiting the content that can be viewed by public eyes, that is a breach of free speech, no matter the reason you might wish to supply for it. And while I can sympathise with Burnham’s aims to make the Internet a safer place for children (he has three children himself), what exactly does he hope to accomplish? What "harm" is caused by exercising your choice to view certain websites, that needs to be responded to by government? (aside from the obvious taboo perversions.) Indeed, I would think that more harm would be caused by telling your children that not only they, but all other citizens as well, are incapable of making their own choices, than by exposing them to the threat of potentially viewing objectionable content.
And leaning on the various companies that supply such content, the ISPs, not only constitutes a breach of freedom of speech by the government, but also shows a slight disdain for the freedom of businesses to set up and keep to their own policies. What sort of disregard does this man have for the sensibilities of other people? One would think that he would see the distinction between his own children and everyone else’s - unless he sees the rest of us as children as well.
Although I guess you can’t depend on child labour, because Burnham’s not ruling out the possibility that laws will have to be written to enforce his little idea, should the ISPs not do their job.
So let me recap. Burnham’s proposal is to restrict online content, effectively childproofing the web. Sure, certain websites could continue to provide their content, but Burnham’s new measures would make sure that nobody would see them, especially if he is successful in making sure that the various ISPs have certain packages available which exclude the offending websites. And even if the ISPs aren’t dependable enough censors [sic], laws will be written, in order that both the content providers and the businesses that host them have no say in the matter whatsoever.
What a delightful plan. I certainly hope it doesn’t go forward. And if it does, then I could certainly see the advent of an onlin "black market", which allows people to circumvent the restrictions anyway. What Mr. Burnham doesn’t seem to realise is that technology is infinitely inventive, and increasingly evolved over time - much more so than can be suppressed by any law. Technology can evade legality at the best of times - just think what it could be like in the worst. It’s a fool’s errand to try and restrict such a thing.
I’ll close with more of Burnham’s words: "The Internet has been empowering and democratising in many ways but we haven’t yet got the stakes in the ground to help people navigate their way safely around . . . "
I never knew I was in so much danger, so I suppose I should thank Mr. Burnham.
It must be a very difficult job to make sure that I’m safe as I’m clicking a button.
For those who want a bit more background on this story, you can go to the Telegraph’swebsite

Any comments, hatemail, or dare I say it, lovenotes? Drop me a line or four at

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Comment by Drew on January 9, 2009 at 11:03am
Thanks Matthew - every bit helps!
Comment by It's just Matt on January 8, 2009 at 8:23pm
Sorry I couldn't do more but I sent this:

It would serve your paper well for Mr.Morrow to read, understand, and use The Elements of Style,by Shrunk and White.

Thank you for your time.
Comment by Drew on January 8, 2009 at 3:12pm
Here is what I have submitted. Morrow's email address does not work, but the one for the editor does. If you make a sup

Walker Morrow's weekly column may need to be retitled "Opinions", rather than "Opinion", because it is inconsistent on the topic of individual liberty and personal freedom. Two weeks ago Mr Morrow "couldn't abide" the words "Happy Holidays" (in 2007 he "hated" this phrase). This phrase is used by businesses, organisations, and individuals which want to include all people, not just some, in their good wishes. This week in his (well-merited) criticism of proposed internet censorship he champions the "freedom of businesses to set up and keep to their own policies". Which is it, Mr Morrow - should people have censorship on your terms, or freedom on theirs? To qualify as an ethical opinion, the answer cannot vary based upon whether or not you like or dislike the choices others make with their freedom.
In the more recent opinion piece, Morrow "would presume that a secular humanist might have a different definition than the Christian or the Muslim down the street" regarding what is deemed offensive of unsavoury. Replacing past bigotry directed at rival religions with bigotry against the non-religious doesn't change the fact that it is still bigotry. Rather than presuming, Mr Morrow could actually research his writing by asking such a person their opinion - this is, after all, the least religious part of Canada, so Mr Morrow has non-religious neighbours. Secular humanist opinions of what is offensive of unsavoury will, in some cases, differ with people down the street (and sometimes that will be a good thing), because that is how all societies collectively debate ethical standards; but secular humanist support for freedom, and opposition to censorship, isn't conditional upon how that freedom is exercised.



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