Sunday, January 11, 2009

Whose right? Who's Right?

"Mafia Fans Hounded Off Facebook" --For one nasty moment, I thought Facebook had cracked down on our Mob It’s actually a very interesting case of how anti-crime advocates harassed supporters of two jailed Italian mafia bosses...
ROME, Italy -- Fans of Mafia supremos Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano have been hounded off of Facebook after Italy's anti-Mafia movement spurred thousands of people to infiltrate their pages.
The appearance of Facebook pages glorifying the two jailed former godfathers late last month sparked outrage among the victims of Mafia crimes and politicians.
Some have decided to fight fire with fire.

I peeked into “ gruppo creato per la santificazione di BERNARDO PROVENZANO.” Initially thought it could have been tongue in cheek -- a case of lost in translation -- but Agence France Presse seemed to treat it seriously.
At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I must say ambivalence is what the article arouses here.
Sure, the fact that the various anti-mafia groups have several thousand members each is gratifying, a sign of the growing resistance to the Mob. In contrast, the fans of the Mafia bosses are in the low hundreds. It the above page was any gauge, they do seem to be rather fringe folk.
But as much as I’d support the anti-Mob activists’ right to rail and rant and post screeds or oratory videos. I do not think their noble intentions excuse issuing threats.
Stormy statements, yes; threatening, no. A big no-no. Shortcuts are the way of the Mob, not of the righteous.
The Italian mafia buckled only partly due to the hunt of the Carabiniere. More decisive was the bravery of judges, many of them martyred, and of citizens who bravely stepped up to testify against the crime lords. Not all the witnesses were Mob insiders turned informants.
AFP quoted an anti-Mob leader (sister of a slain judge) saying the offensive was an alternative to banning the groups, which “would have given them more publicity and they would probably complain of censorship"
What happened, she said, showed that, "This kind of self-policing and internal dialogue is the most effective method. "Civil society has shown itself capable of reacting to those who sing the praises of the godfathers." Who was it who said that, if you start using the enemies’ weapons, you could wind up like them?
Who was it who said that, if you start using the enemies’ weapons, you could wind up like them?

Censorship takes many forms. As the victims of the Mafia know only too well, force often guarantees success of the censorship campaign – the most extreme case being the silence of the dead. But it’s not just government or organized groups like the Mob than can enforce censorship. Social networks in the past have often acted to muzzle outsiders and stifle legitimate dissent. The majority is itself a natural threat and the wielding of its power, however indirectly, always has repercussions for better or worse.
I may sound a bit like a free speech anarchist. Perhaps. Several years back, at a Bangkok conference on child abuse, I got into a tangle with some Amnesty International folk who said no newspaper had any business printing a letter from a self-confessed paedophile that obviously was defending his, er, mentoring of young people. As far as I was concerned, his acts deserved imprisonment; but I wasn’t going to put a gag on him.
Someone said, thoughts are the origins of actions. Hell, how many of us read or watch porn, including simulated force, and feel aroused without in the least being tempted to act this out? The fact that a few do does not make a crackdown legitimate. It’s just another version of blaming the media.
It’s a little bit like what I feel when asked why journalist groups defend even the “dirty” colleagues gunned down by irate subjects of their attacks.
Truth is, it is easy to defend the clean, the brilliant, the righteous. It is when we are called to defend our more problematic brethren that our commitment to a free press, free speech and free expression are most tested.

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