Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saturday, September 17: Slutwalk Baltimore and Constitution Day

Saturday, September 17, I brought my sign (only slightly the worse for being rained on) to Slutwalk Baltimore.

It finally got autumnal here (right on schedule), so that probably influenced the apparel.  Not nearly as large a crowd as at Slutwalk DC, but not embarrassingly small, either.  After briefly gathering at West Shore Park, we marched up to City Hall via Baltimore Street, where there were speeches.

It's too bad the march wasn't in the reverse order: if the speeches had been in the Inner Harbor, passers-by might have heard them.

Slutwalk Baltimore ended about an hour and a half before scheduled, so we stopped by Red Emma's and looked over our climate paper before heading up to MICA's Constitution Day celebration, a panel discussion on "Free Speech and the Digital Age".  Given who was hosting the panel, it makes sense that the panel included an ACLU policy analyst (Jay Stanley) and an artist (Trevor Paglen), and given the subject matter, it makes sense that the panel included a blogger (Andrew Sullivan), but I still think that if the University of Chicago had been hosting this panel, it would have included a sociologist, a historian, and a professor of constitutional law.

I spent most of the panel getting more and more annoyed with Mr. Sullivan.  He began his remarks by announcing not just that he disagreed (which is fine) with the two previous panelists' opinion that the digital age brings perils to free speech as well as opportunities for it, but furthermore that he was astonished that there existed people who disagreed with him.  Possibly because he gets all of his news from blogs, so encountering someone who disagrees with him or perceives the world differently than he does is astonishing?  He also seemed completely unfamiliar the FISA law and especially with its 2008 amendment, which is what I had thought the panel was going to be about.  (So if I anticipated that the FISA law would come up in the discussion, and if the artist anticipated that and looked it up even though it's outside his area of expertise, then why couldn't the blogger anticipate that, too?  Possibly because he gets all his news from blogs.)

My favorite exchange from the panel, which I think encapsulated the entire discussion:

Mr. Stanley: Private companies have other interests than the public interest.
Mr. Sullivan:  Like what?!

In other words, Mr. Sullivan likes that he gets targeted advertising, but lacks the imagination to envision any dystopia in which the information that is now taken from him without his permission could be used in a way that he might not like in the future.  Maybe he just needs to read more science fiction.

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