Tag Archives: Stephen Conroy

Conroy and the perils of unfettered legal power

29 Sep

 

I was distracted from my current pre-occupations yesterday by Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy’s comment that he has “unfettered legal power” in his portfolio, and that if he told telcos to wear red underpants on their heads at spectrum auctions they’d have to do it.

There is a very good reason why no single individual in government should have “unfettered legal power” over anything: absolute power corrupts absolutely. When one has unfettered power there is no longer any need to engage and consult with others, one can simply, as Conroy’s boast exemplifies, force one’s will on everybody else. It is the antithesis of democracy and democratic process. That a Labor politician should hold this belief about himself and feel confident enough to trumpet it for the world press whilst in the US, makes me wonder yet again what the hell the ALP is about these days.

The following is a quote from a piece by Dr Robert Aziz in his Huffington Post blog on the subject of power and corruption:

So why does power corrupt? It corrupts because it gives license to unconsciousness and neglect. It corrupts because it licenses individuals to unilaterally, unreflectively and thus arbitrarily impose their will on others. It licenses individuals to impose their will without having properly engaged and processed through the Reality at hand. Power inflates the ego and through it the ego is erroneously led to believe it has the power to make people, ideas and even Reality itself disappear without due process. In the big picture nothing is further from the truth. Power corrupts because it gives license to unconsciousness, and in so doing it not only destroys the growth opportunity of the victim of such imposition, but no less the growth opportunity of the victimizer. Failure to engage another in consciousness, not only does the other individual harm, but it no less does serious harm to oneself, for in both cases the precious opportunity to extend consciousness by way of self-organizing nature is altogether lost, corrupted.

While I don’t take Conroy’s example of forcing others to wear red underpants on their heads literally (though who knows with this man?) his delight in his own raw power is revealed in his unpleasant desire to humiliate and demean others by forcing them to make themselves look ridiculous, just because he can. What does this say about Stephen Conroy?

To me it says we are likely dealing with a little man, one who lacks the wisdom and intelligence to hold high office, one who has already been seduced by the power bestowed on him by his portfolio, and one who will not hesitate to exercise that power for his own psychological benefit without any awareness at all of what he is doing. It sounds as if Stephen Conroy has lost sight of his purpose and instead has come to believe the unfettered exercise of power is his right and his priority. These are dangerous beliefs for anyone to hold, particularly if they are in charge of communications.

Conroy’s ongoing mission to control the internet takes on new dimensions after his latest megalomanic claims. He wants unfettered legal powers over the world-wide web as well. These ambitions are infantile, as is the example of red underpants as an exercise of power over others.

Conroy was out to crassly impress his audience, not with what he has or might achieve in his position, but with the raw power he believes he has. Power in itself means nothing. It’s how it’s exercised that is the measure of the man.

 

No clean feed. Try education instead

25 Sep

Steven Conroy’s determination to press on with his plans for an internet filter early next year is ostensibly founded on his desire to “think of the children.” To what degree that emotive appeal is a cover for more sinister intent such as total government control of the internet in Australia is difficult to discern, but it doesn’t pay to assume that what you see is what you get with politicians. It’s in their nature to be duplicitous and power-hungry. I’m not a fan of the slippery slope fallacy but give governments an inch and they take a mile when it comes to curtailing personal freedoms and an internet filter “to protect the children” can only be the thin edge of the wedge.

Moving on, after getting the clichés out of my system:

The very fact that Conroy remains committed to his filter indicates a much broader intent than the protection of children. ISPs already voluntarily block child pornography sites for example, and there’s considerable debate as to whether or not a filter would add anything to those measures already in place. What it will do is block an unknown number of sites of an unknown type, because Conroy’s List of Undesirable  Websites is secret. As Leslie Cannold points out here, the list of to-be-banned sites is banned from public scrutiny, and this in itself should ring the alarm bells.

I have a great deal of sympathy for parents raising children in the digital age. The challenges they face are more numerous and complex than ever before in terms of the types of material  kids can access on the Internet, and the undesirability of much of that content.

However. Governments should not be attempting to control kids’ viewing habits by preventing site access to the entire population. Governments should be supporting parents by developing and supplying low-cost software parents can use to control what their kids see on the home computer. They should be educating parents and children, starting with some decent sex education in schools.

The bottom line is, as always, that parents are responsible for what their children get to see. Clever kids will find their way round parental controls, that’s a given. So keep the computer in a public area, monitor use, heck, it’s not rocket science and we all had to learn it for television.

Personally, I’m squeamish about the existence of violent sexual content on the net. It’s not something I can watch. The thought of young kids learning about sexuality from such images is distressing to me. I’d like it if that wasn’t a risk we had to take.

But the risks of government censorship are greater, IMO, particularly a government such as this one that refuses to disclose what it intends to censor in the first place. The government certainly has a role to play in the protection of children and support of their parents, and it isn’t censorship. If they can fund a very dodgy chaplaincy program in schools, why can’t they fund some serious sex education, and protective software?

As I’ve said many times before, as a society we need to be teaching our young to value themselves and others. Conroy’s filter won’t achieve any of that. Conroy’s filter is all about government control, not government contribution to the well-being of children. We need a paradigm shift on this issue to one in which children really are the central concern and are not cynically employed by those with vested interests to further their own controlling concerns, be they political power, religious tyranny, or moral dictatorship.

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