This is the lede, verbatim, from a story that appeared in The Hill yesterday: “The Internet allowed extremists to contact, recruit, train and equip the suspect responsible for the attempted Flight 253 bombing on Christmas Day ‘within weeks,’ a top Pentagon official told lawmakers Wednesday.” What’s the implication, that because someone used the Internet to plan something, something bad, we should get rid of it? Fine by me, believe me.
You’ll recall that, last Christmas, some guy had attempted to detonate a bomb aboard a U.S.-bound international flight. He wasn’t successful, but the botched attempt sparked a new round of fear in the country; full-body scanners now dot the landscape. The Pentagon, speaking before Congress, pointed out how the Internet greatly sped up the planning and execution of the attack. In a period of only a few weeks, the bad man was contacted by other bad men, trained, supplied, and sent on his way. Compare that to the 9/11 attacks, which were first authorized in April, 1999: the Internet wasn’t as mature then (so we’re told: no, there was no Twitter or Facebook in 1999, but there certainly was e-mail and IRC and message boards and instant messaging and so on), so it took al-Qaeda a quite a bit longer to organize everything.
But that’s the thing: the Internet is merely a tool. Blaming it for terrorism would be like blaming Home Depot because one of their hammers was used in a robbery. For example, up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know how to use a french press. A couple clicks later and I’m basically a barista—maybe I should move to Seattle! I used the Internet for Good, not Evil: I educated myself.
Other Good things I’ve used the Internet for:
• Learn the Russian alphabet
• Learn how to tie a tie
• Download, legally, a CM Punk vs. Samoe Joe match
• Kept myself sane by playing World of Warcraft a lot
See? It’s a tool. It is what you make of it. That’s why seeing the Pentagon basically allude to it being a Very Bad Thing is sorta frightening.