At the time of the American Revolution, there were two primary political parties in the Colonies. The Tories were loyalists, remaining loyal to England despite the injust taxes levied. The others were the Whigs, who were revolutionaries. The Whigs chafed under the harsh British rule, feeling that they were not properly represented in Parliament.
Conventional wisdom has it that a similar situation exists today. There are two political parties--the Democrats and the Republicans--and most people believe that their positions are as different as the Tories and Whigs were. However, a brief examination of history will demonstrate that both the Republicans and Democrats have their origins in the Democratic Republicans, a party mostly started in response to the Federalist Party, and was originally called the Anti-Federalist.
Members of the NeoWhig party reject this belief. We can see no functional difference between the Republican party and the Democratic party. Both parties generally have a reactive strategy to dealing with new issues. In general when something new comes along, whether it be a new technology, a new political situation in Europe, or simply a new political issue, they'll rush to make legislation to cover the new contingency. They spend all their time playing catch up, and so, they never have the time to stop and see if they're actually doing anything good or worthwhile.
We of the NeoWhig party have a new approach. Not only would we abandon this reactive approach to government, we'd also do what we could to undo some of the damage caused by the Republicans and Democrats. Taking our cue, not to mention our name, from the original Whigs, the NeoWhigs chafe under the current restrictive government. We feel unrepresented by our legislative body. It's time to take back our country. Fortunately, we have a plan.
On the other hand, a privately operated space program will by definition avoid those problems. No company is going to be forced into space exploration the way many congressmen probably feel they are. Private corporations will go into the space exploration business with their eyes open, knowing full well what the costs are likely to be, and how to minimize accidents while still maintaining a hope of profitability.
This is all irrelevant, though. The fact is that Prodigy is being sued by a brokerage firm, because somebody connected to Prodigy's bulletin board, and wrote an article that stated that, in his opinion, the president of the brokerage firm was a criminal. (It is interesting to note, that at the time, the SEC had filed a suit against the President, a suit that was still in litigation). Prodigy is being sued for libel and defamation of character by the president and the brokerage group.
Let's digress a moment, and talk about libel laws, and their history. In the mid-1800's when these laws were first written, they were useful. Newspaper men had a lot of pull back then. They were the only ones who could make their opinions known to hundreds, if not thousands of people at a time. Furthermore, it was harder to get information about anything back then. The resources just weren't available. So, public opinion was a valuable commodity.
These days, however, this is not the case. The computer revolution is making it easier and easier every day to get information. In addition to that, television and radio have made information more readily available, and widened the base of people who can make their opinions known to the public. When somebody gets bad-mouthed, they generally have a resource they can turn to, to set the facts straight to the general public. While public opinion is still a valuable commodity, it's a lot easier to get a hold of actual facts.
In addition, people are not so easily swayed by public opinion, precisely because it does change so readily. If something is really important, to somebody, he or she will go and research the topic. They may take public opinion into account, but that's not the only thing they'll take into account. So, looking at the case with Prodigy above. The brokerage firm is suing Prodigy for libel, a law which exists to prevent one loud mouth newspaper man from destroying a company or person's reputation, and therefore, his livelihood. In this day and age, however, one lone person speaking up, is not likely to destroy a company's reputation. Sure, if a few dozen others join in, it could. But here's the catch. If that many people believe that the firm is corrupt, at least one of them is likely to have evidence to prove it. In cases like that, the reputation of the firm probably ought to be tarnished. After all, it's not libel if you really are a criminal.
That is why the NeoWhig party is in favor of removing all the libel laws from the books. In this day and age of connectivity and reason, the outdated libel laws are worse than useless. We call this a bill to Legalize Flame Wars, because, worst case scenario, every flame war is a half-dozen libel suits waiting to happen. We know the stress release that comes from having a good flame war on some Usenet newsgroup or another. That's why we encourage groups like alt.flame, misc.misc, and other out of the way groups where these things can happen. However, we don't want lawyers and politicians to make these groups hotbeds of litigation. No thank you.
No, the Internet's greatest strength is the people. It is the people on the Internet who provide the up-to-the-minute, half-an-hour-is-old-news, raw data, that make the Internet so valuable. Back in 1989 when I first connected, I was amazed by the sheer size of it. The Net has gotten several times bigger since then. And the more people connected, the more likely the person you want to talk to is connected. Where else but on the Internet are you going to find scientists willing to discuss their latest theories with all comers? Where else are you going to be able to talk to the people who make your favorite television programs and movies?
Geesh! I'm starting to sound like a commercial for AT&T or something. Anyway, the point is, that getting everyone connected is a two-way street. It not only makes sure that everyone has access to the large information resource that is the Internet, it improves the Internet as an information resource. You could say that not only will everyone have access to the net, but that the net will have access to everyone.
The fact is, it's hard to take your beliefs and itemize them for public view. It's hard to write down everything about everything, not because you don't want everyone to see it, but because you just can't think of all the things you believe. Some of these things are just so ingrained you don't even think about them anymore. That's what I'm looking for in the mail. I'm looking for reminders to the things I already believe in, so that I can get them out there, and see if, like I suspect, others believe in them too.
Thank you. And remember, Vote GweepCo in '92.