The Truth is a Casualty in One Teacher's Battle For Our Digital Future

The lecture above elaborates on ideas that (first?) appeared in a Feb. 19th, 2015 blogpost by Prof. Jon Taplin of USC.

While I agree with several of Prof. Taplin's goals (e.g., copyright laws and revenue models must be adapted to the new reality of internet sharing and there are huge challenges to privacy and fundamental notions of liberty in centralized control of the web...), I am troubled by the way Prof. Taplin arrives at his conclusions.

For example, in his Feb. 19th, 2015 blogpost, Prof. Taplin relied on a spurious quotation - suggesting that President Abraham Lincoln authored the phrase "The Constitution Is Note a Suicide Pact."

And this isn't the first time in recent months that Prof. Taplin has relied on a suspicious alleged quotation from an historical figure to support his arguments.


If his ideas are sound (and, in large part, I think they are) why would an esteemed professor rely on concocted quotations from Abraham Lincoln and Cicero

Apparently, Prof. Taplin feels that dead heroes make influential allies.

Here's an example from the Feb. 19th, 2015 blogpost:

"When I was in Paris a month ago, it was clear that the Charlie Hebdo assassins entrance point to the Anwar Al Awlaki network was through his You Tube channel of more than 7000 videos. If the First Amendment fundamentalists feel we must give ISIS complete access to You Tube and Twitter, then we are living out Lincoln’s prophecy [emphasis added]. I find it fairly ironic that Anonymous can easily take down Al Awlaki’s websites, but the U.S. Government wants to bring a knife to a gunfight."

As I've already explained, I don't disagree with many of Prof. Taplin's larger points. Fighting terrorists is a good idea. And, in many cases, censoring terrorist videos makes sense. But I worry that Prof. Taplin's willingness to contrive and re-formulate what historical figures actually said is unnecessary and unseemly.

Here's how I responded (in part) in my comment to the Prof.'s blog on February 21, 2015:

"In his confusion about whether the U.S. Constitution is shackling our government’s response to ISIS, Prof. Taplin suggests that Abraham Lincoln would have sided with him – suggesting that President Lincoln might have actually said the words “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” In fact, there is no evidence that Lincoln said that. On October 1st, 1863 here is what President Lincoln wrote to one of his Generals who had arrested the editor of a Missouri newspaper: “I regret to learn of the arrest of the Democratic editor… You will only arrest individuals and suppress assemblies or newspapers when they may be working palpable injury to the military in your charge, and in no other case will you interfere with the expression of opinion in any form or allow it to be interfered with violently by others.” In other words, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln was OK with arresting those working to harm the military. But the historical evidence shows that Prof. Taplin is just wrong when he claims that President Lincoln prophesied a time when American citizens must give up access to their Constitutionally guaranteed rights concerning freedom of expression."

No comments:

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.