Shut Your Mouth Dept.

This post at Slashdot comes with the following summary.

A 2006 paper by Matthew Salganik, Peter Dodds and Duncan Watts, about the patterns that users follow in choosing and recommending songs to each other on a music download site, may be the key to understanding the most effective form of "censorship" that still exists in mostly-free countries like the US It also explains why your great ideas haven't made you famous, while lower-wattage bulbs always seem to find a platform to spout off their ideas (and you can keep your smart remarks to yourself).

Read on for the rest of Bennett's take on why the effects of peer ratings on a music download site go a long way towards explaining how good ideas can effectively be "censored" even in a country with no formal political censorship.

Those scare quotes around "censored" and "censorship" provide a strong tipoff as to just how idiotic it is to take a word and denature its true meaning for the sake of a little inflammatory comparison. I am especially disgusted with the way the word censorship has been battered so far out of shape that it can now be fit into any hole that will receive a peg. In this case, it's comparing having your voice drowned out in a crowd with censorship, and I insist that the two are not remotely comparable in any real way.

Censorship — the real, odious variety — is when a government or authority expressly prohibits the dissemination or discussion of certain materials or topics, typically on the grounds that it will be injurious to public morals. Censorship is Naked Lunch or Ulysses or Fanny Hill — or The Salt of the Earth, for that matter — coming under fire for simply existing. Censorship is books being burned, typewriters smashed, journalists thrown in prison and people put to death for speaking out against immediate and terrible injustices. Censorship is not taking place when you are allowed to speak but others simply ignore you, maybe because you have nothing of value to say or because you are a lousy publicist.

The notion that a good idea will somehow automatically propagate itself to "the right people" on its own merit is a pernicious fiction. It takes hard work to make any good idea reach even sympathetic ears. Conflating this issue with censorship is like blaming oil dependency on a lack of bicycles.

Tags: dharma

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2008/12/01 13:55.

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