For a few days now, revelation after revelation has been breaking about the NSA’s secret internet snooping system, Prism, primarily via Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.
Reactions have ranged from “It’s a misunderstanding” to “Obama should be impeached“.
My own is one of betrayal; these last few years, I’ve become something of a Google fanboy – I use most of their major online services and quite a few of their applications. I own an Android phone. I switched from using POP3 mail to Gmail. And now, I find they’ve granted free reign to the NSA to rifle through the email of unsuspecting users. It truly is Orwellian – Big Brother is watching me.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin;
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”
In the ongoing tussle of competing ideas, be they on the axes of conservative/liberal, theist/atheist, secular/theocratic, capitalist/socialist, the word respect, or commentary on the pronounced lack of it, is bandied about a lot in this internet age.
I’ve not minced my words on this blog – an oft-used quote, attributed to Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire, sums up my position.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
A frequent reflex defence of, say, Christian apologists, is that criticism of their position is an attempt to silence them. This is of course nonsense – free speech in the secular West guarantees both their right to public opinions just as it guarantees the right to criticise them. To curb the former is totalitarianism, to curb the latter is enforcement of blasphemy.
Similarly, apologists will claim a lack of respect in criticism. Sometimes this is true, but if the discussion can remain civil, I would counter that the critic is paying them the highest form of respect i.e.
I can think of no higher compliment, than to care about someone’s opinion enough to want to change it if you think it wrong.