What We Honor is Who We Are

This week is Days of Remembrance. Remember? Perhaps not, if not, I’m about to remind you. You surely remember this: “We are known by the company we keep.” It’s the same with our culture. Our holidays, observances, all add up to identify our identity as a society, and the days we make special as individuals signal who we are as individuals. If you wish think about it this way; it’s about branding. Who and what we associate ourselves with personally and publicly matters. Take a holiday like Martin Luther King Day, mandated by Congress in 1983. Some Senators opposed it. It passed 338 to 90. It is still working to take hold. There are a number of reasons for this, some bearing on the face we put on as a nation. The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust (DRVH) is an annual 8-day period designated by Congress for civic commemorations and special educational programs that help citizens remember and draw lessons from the Holocaust. The period begins on the Sunday before the Jewish observance of Yom HaShoah. It is still working to take hold. A Facebook post from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about the observance includes a reference to #DOR2015. The last time I checked there were but five posts associated with this hashtag, three of those from USHMM. Today is the first day of DRVH. Hardly trending. I’ll state it again: who and what we associate ourselves with personally and publicly matters. As a reminder, here’s a list of events. Here’s one reminder of mine, from my first visit to USHMM. It’s the Identification Card I was given as I entered. It is card #6706. The name on the card is that of Max Krakauer, born April 1, 1901,  the same month the Days of Remembrance commemorate to the victims. At 41, Max died either in the forced-labor camp at Rejowiec or in an extermination camp in Poland. This, I will always remember. USHMM ID CARD croppedUSHMM ID CARD 2 cropped  Note: On April 15, the start of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, On Being will present my essay “The Poetry of Bearing Witness” and from my Holocaust poetry series: “Terezin: Trilogy Of Names” — please share to help keep truth and memory alive.

Update — My latest in the Holocaust poetry series, “Pictures Of The Lodz Ghetto” reading:

 

In case of emergency, who controls the Internet?

S. 773, The Cybersecurity Act of 2009, presently being redacted by the Senate Commerce Committee, is a piece of pending legislation that bears watching. On April 1, 2009, Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced legislation designed to promote cybersecurity, a reasonable cause per se. 

President Obama, in a public statement delivered from the East Room of the White House on May 29, 2009 emphasized the need for “securing our nation’s cyber infrastructure”. While considering this essential, he emphasized his commitment to an open Internet:

Let me also be clear about what we will not do. Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be open and free.

Now those in the know, including The Center for Democracy and Technology,  have expressed concerns about components of the proposed legislation. CDT, defines itself as “a non-profit public interest organization working to keep the Internet open, innovative, and free.” Its mission is to build “consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.”

Now those who claim to be in the know,  in a variety of recent articles over the past several days,  in the blogosphere and elsewhere,  have made statements about this issue which are more prone to incite than inform. Some of the rhetoric being used is akin to that being employed in the health care debate. Both issues are too important to be reduced to epithets.

On August 20, Commerce Committee staff circulated for comment a draft Committee Amendment to S. 773.

In an effort to render a reasoned interpretation of where this proposed legislation now stands, C&C contacted Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Director of its Project on Freedom, Security & Technology. He provided  the following statement:

“The draft Committee Amendment to the Cybersecurity Act marks a substantial improvement over the original version, but ambiguous language in the draft Committee Amendment also raises new concerns and questions about its scope.”

Previously this blog referenced the attempt by the government of Iran to impose an information blackout during the  protest by its citizens of a suspect election. “Internet access has been successfully curtailed to strangle the flow of information in and out of the country.” (http://bit.ly/2N4UUg). Of course the citizenry turned to their cellphones and through tweets on Twitter and video on YouTube circumvented the Internet shut down. 

Throughout history, to the present day, totalitarian regimes  use access to information to subjugate. In this country, civil liberties are protected. The balancing of  these rights with legitimate national security concerns in an Internet driven world is what is at stake in this case.

While there are a number of elements in S. 733 in need of scrutiny,  the section which deals with Presidential  authority to address a cybersecurity emergency is certainly and rightly a “hot button” issue, no pun intended (“kill switch” was a term previously employed in connection with this provision).

Beyond the Commerce Committee, there are other proposed pieces of related legislation circulating. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is supposed to issue its own bill sometime this fall.

 It is expected that The Center for Democracy & Technology, in consort with other responsible organizations, will continue to voice concerns and work with Commerce Committee staff regarding this bill. In the meantime, stay calm and vigilant.

To read the full text of President Obama’s statement on securing our cyber infrastructure go to: http://bit.ly/f8hI8

To learn more about The Center for Democracy & Technology and its work go to: http://www.cdt.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/08/31/in-case-of-emergency-who-controls-the-internet/

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Town hall protesters communicate effectively, not?

It is time to examine – in a dispassionate and calm manner – the effectiveness of the communications strategy enlisted by those protesting at  town hall meetings being held around the country, in particular those protesters  raising their voices – quite literally – when the ideas being proposed by the Obama administration and in Congress related to the issue of health care reform are the focus of attention.

With the Congress summer recess,  legislators are heading back to home territory and to their constituents, employing the opportunity to try to connect with those who put them in office through, among other means, a communications vehicle that has been used for some time albeit with much sparser audiences than during this “summer of discontent”, the so-called “town hall” format; a forum in which, ideally, the elected official speaks to the issues and garners feedback in the form of questions and comments from those “regular folks” who attend. The idea theoretically is to provide give and take between voters and the politicians who represent them; the town hall concept is intended to provide a sounding board to take the measure of those at the local level.

Well, this summer the “measure” seems like it should be taken with a decibel meter! Relatively large groups of people are fomenting considerable discord  seeming to treat these occasions much like a sporting event and as a stage upon which to showcase their approach to disagreement, and it is their modus operandi that is our interest here.

Dr. P.M. Forni is an award winning professor at John Hopkins University,  founder of the Civility Initiative, and author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct. His work has been featured in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the London Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, and he has appeared on national media including National Public Radio (NPR) and The Oprah Show.  

What has been taking place is available to be seen on YouTube videos and cable and network TV. Suffice it to say that the protesters have just about smashed the tablets of Dr. Forni’s “Twenty Five Rules” including especially Rule 10 – Respect Others’ Opinions; Rule 13 – Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence); Rule 14 – Respect Other People’s Time; Rule 15 – Respect Other People’s Space; Rule 23 – Give Constructive Criticism. To find out more about “Choosing Civility” go to:
http://krieger.jhu.edu/civility/choosingcivility.html

John Stuart Mill, the 19th century philosopher and political theorist, author of On Liberty, and influential advocate of freedom of speech, is quoted in Forni’s Choosing Civility: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” But it seems apparent a main thrust of the protesters’ efforts is in fact to “silence” the speaker.

We will resist the temptation to address whether these protesters are coming together in an organized or spontaneous fashion, whether truly grassroots or “astoturf”, non-local “mercenaries”, sponsored by major interests – stakeholders in the outcome of the health care reform debate – or whether one believes the rabble have been roused by the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et.al.  and on the “other side”  whether Dems. have brought in “union goons” to intimidate the protesters. You can see from the terminology alone, the temperature is definitely rising .

This blog is committed to discussion and analysis of what constitutes effective communication. I have in previous posts addressed a number of the principal considerations in this regard, and I particularly draw attention in this instance to the post “President Obama’s scorecard as communicator-in-chief”:

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/08/president-obamas-scorecard-as-communicator-in-chief/, not because it refers to President Obama at that early time in his administration when his communication team was attempting  to kick start renewed confidence by the general public in our faltering economy, but because the post gives some basis for assessing  the effectiveness of  communication efforts in general. I wrote: “How do you determine whether you’re communicating effectively? By evaluating results. You set objectives…for your effort…and then you use some appropriate means to measure effect.” Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Let’s see if we can apply this standard to the protesters at the  town hall meetings.

Of course all this has to remain speculative, but if you are trying to demonstrate anger for a proposition, it probably makes sense to find a video camera and a microphone and start shouting “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” (famous line delivered by Peter Finch as the ex-TV anchor Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network” ).

So, while it may not be according to Hoyle, or in this case Forni, the point of all of this may just be making an impression, but with whom? John Q. Public?, the rank and file of the Republican Party?

This gets us to the matter, also previously broached on this blog, of “truthiness”; I referenced the book True Enough by Farhad Manjoo in a previous post https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/16/a-jurassic-park-kind-of-world/ ; there I quoted from the Publishers Weekly review of the book that Manjoo analyzes, “…the status of truth in the digital age, critiquing a Rashomon-like world in which competing versions of truth vie for our attention.”

So do the tactics employed by the town hall protesters have traction? It depends on who you ask and poll.  For now though, without any doubt,  they are generating less light than heat!

Addendum: In response to a particular comment received related to this post, I want to state that any appearance of prejudice – positive or negative – for any group in this present health care debate is unintended. The health care issue gravitates around larger issues – one in particular being the perspective  different people have of the very nature of our society. My only bias is in favor of effective communication.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/08/11/town-hall-protesters-communicate-effectively-not/

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Boy do we need a Chief Technology Officer!

I have been absorbing the news for the past few days. It’s really true. President Obama, in his weekly radio and internet address on Saturday, April 18, announced that Aneesh Chopra will be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. Chopra currently holds the CTO position in the state of Virginia. Why is this appointment meaningful?

First, a little background. The Obama administration’s agenda as regards technology is summarized this way: “President Obama and Vice President Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America’s competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation’s most pressing problems — ” http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

This nation has a lot of work to do to bring technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT) into balance with societal needs. Yes we’re tweeting away, and faithfully updating our Facebook profiles, but we have no where near harnessed existing technology to make a difference in the lives of many in meaningful ways, or organized our public functions, governmental and otherwise to take optimal advantage of what technology can do.

This is only part of the task ahead. The nation’s first Chief  Technology Officer will need to be forward thinking about what the future demands. This is an important part of the job description.

There are many parts to this puzzle. The Obama technology agenda document identifies a number of  areas of interest, I will note just a few: “preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.” – “Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.” -” Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.” – “America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access.”  For the complete document detail go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

The CTO position will officially be that of associate director for technology under the administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy office. Hardly a cabinet level position. But it’s a step in the right direction. A step into the future.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/23/boy-do-we-need-a-chief-technology-officer/

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Quick Takes: Earth Day is coming

(This is a Quick Takes post; very brief posts on very timely topics with more detailed discussion to follow as warranted.)

April 22nd. Earth Day. What’s it all about? Time to visit: http://ww2.earthday.net/ and while you’re at it now’s a good time to read the Earth Hour post on this blog devoted to considering the event as an example of nonverbal communication: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/29/earth-hour-nonverbal-and-symbolic-communication/ Be sure to cast your vote while there regarding the event’s effectiveness. I’ll be reporting my observations about Earth Day’s impact after the event in a follow up post from a C&C perspective.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/20/quick-takes-earth-day-is-coming/

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The Google “Street View” controversy

Nothing like a good controversy to help “clear the air” or in this case “the view”. Controversy, by definition involves a difference of opinion; in this case, most immediately, between Privacy International and Google, as regards Google’s quite remarkable – strictly technically speaking – imaging of the streets of, the United States, the United Kingdom…soon coming to a location near you. Google has stated that its ultimate goal is to provide street views of the entire world.

My purpose in this post is to heighten awareness of the issue in question, not to take a fixed position on the matter as at this point in the debate, I have lots of ambivalence.

To say this is a significant issue is to say very little. It is mega-significant as it revolves around some of the same public/private communication issues I have addressed in a previous post: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/31/sexting-is-it-public-or-private-communication/

In a world which has the capacity through technology to “expose” just about anything to the light of day,  is it valid to do so; in other words just because it can be done, should it be done?

Google refers to its “Street View” imagery as “the product” . That’s the way they “view” it; as simply another “can of peas” in their voluminous online supermarket which apparently has garnered huge interest for a variety of reasons. What those reasons may be depend on the user – whether a realtor or a would be burgler.

Google has been responsive to a number of concerns raised over time. The United States Department of Homeland Security requested Google delay the release of some of its street views of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area because some of the images might be of security sensitive areas. Google complied. The Pentagon has banned Google from publishing “Street View” content of U.S. Military bases and asked Google to remove  existing content of bases. Google complied.

More recently, residents of Broughton, in Buckinghamshire, England have balked at what to them is felt to be an invasion of privacy and threat to their security. As has been reported in newspapers around the world, they forced a “Google car” equipped with the sophisticated camera necessary for the purpose, to leave the neighborhood under – dare we say, surveillance.

I urge the readers of this blog to acquaint themselves with the varying perspectives attending this “global” issue. For starters visit these pertinent sites of the protagonists: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/faq.html http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-564075

For a British Commonwealth point of view on the recent “Broughton” affair try: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/villagers-block-google-street-view-20090405-9soi.html

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/05/the-google-street-view-controversy/

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“Sexting”: Is it public or private communication?

This will be a short post. I am not a legal expert, my field is communications. But the recent legal action being taken against some teenage girls, and the legal process which is moving forward in connection with the cases in question, may ultimately have an impact on the matter of what constitutes public vs. private communication in this new communications age. The facts  are these: In New Jersey, a 14 year old girl has been accused of child pornography after posting explicit nude pictures of herself on MySpace.com; the girl supposedly posted the photos because she wanted her boyfriend to see them. In northeastern Pennsylvania, a prosecutor recently threatened to file child pornography charges against three teenage girls who are said to have taken sexually suggestive cellphone pictures of themselves which showed up on their classmates’ cellphones.  “Sexting” by the way is the term used for such activity when done by cellphone.

Technology has in some ways made the “wall” between what is public and what is private much more porous, it’s more like a curtain now, waving in the breeze. But technology isn’t the culprit here, perhaps it’s more a facilitator. Years ago, long before my time, when the telephone was really still in its infancy, there were party lines, shared by a number of subscribers, such that one’s conversation could be overheard by others, who “inadvertently” might listen in. There is some comparability between today and yesterday in this.

The cases noted probably don’t hinge at all on the public/private issue, but rather matters pertaining to legal definitions of “knowingly” committing a crime, and the minor status of the “perpetrators”.

On Monday, a federal judge blocked the prosecutor in the Pennsylvania case I have cited from filing charges against the girls involved. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the temporary restraining order on behalf of the girls. The prosecutor said he would consider seeking an appeal. This case and others like it should be followed closely; these  legal uncharted waters may have ramifications, including first amendment ramifications,  for us all.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/31/sexting-is-it-public-or-private-communication/

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