Net Censorship

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Title: Net Censorship
Creator: Merlin Missy
Date(s): 1999 or before (probably 1997)
External Links: Net Censorship linked to Idylls of the Wizard
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Net Censorship is a late 1990s (likely 1997) essay by Merlin Missy. It has the subtitle: "Why this issue affects you here and now."

Some Topics Discussed

  • Fandom and the Internet
  • meeting fans in person
  • the anonymity of the internet
  • sharing stories
  • uses two words that did not become popular: "internauts" and "epals"


I'm not going to waste your time and mine with a long-winded speech about the First Amendment, or about the rights of parents versus the rights of children versus the rights of internauts. You can click onto the icons at the top of my homepage for that. Heck, if you're reading this, you probably already believe it anyway. That's the one problem with passing around emails flaming net.censorship. In general, one ends up preaching to the choir.
In cyberspace, everyone is blind. Christine will probably thwap me with a trout for this, but it is the truth. When I send you a parody of a Dr. Seuss poem, or you send me a flame for my page, we have no idea whatsoever as to the true identity on the other end. You could be female or male. I could be blue. We could both be hearing-impaired. You might be seven feet tall. I might be a lesbian. You don't know about me. I don't know about you. Who is to say if any of the preceeding statements apply to either or both of us, and who really is to care? A very close friend of mine whom I met over cyberspace can't see. She can write extraordinarily well (ask her fans). She has a mental list of dirty jokes longer than a football field. I knew the latter two things about her long before I learned the first. Had we met in real life, the first thing I would have seen about her would have been the guide dog. My stereotypes (though I've fought long and hard to rid myself of them all) would have been firmly in place long before she opened her mouth. Although it makes me feel awful to say this, I have a suspicion that our relationship would have been far different, and I would have been the loser.

The Net has no signs that say "Whites Only." It doesn't have separate bathrooms for men and women. It certainly doesn't have wheelchair accessible stairs. It has, and will hopefully always have, just people. You and me. Talking. Sharing. Making friends from places we've only read about in the newspapers, or seen in poorly done movies on television. And coming to love these people.

Even in real life, there are crooks, there are slimeballs, there are people who prey on unsuspecting innocents. Over the modem, yes it is much easier to hide, to pretend to be someone you're not and use that against someone else to hurt them. However, anyone who has been online for any length of time has learned some degree of sense in dealing with other people, just like in the outside world. Eventually, true personalities will show through, because you have only your personality to use here. That's right. No one cares if you're built like a football player, or like a dancer. No one can see if you've combed your hair differently today, or bought a new coat. You want to impress someone? Write a new line of code, or a poem, or a story. Don't bother with fashion here. Nobody sees your clothes; only your naked soul.

... there will come a day when you see a face step out of a car, or walk into a room, a face you've never seen, a voice you've never heard and yet ... familiar. Comforting. Beloved. Even if the body does not match your mental picture, the face not that of your dreams and fears of this day, one radiant smile, matched by your own, tells you that this is the same friend you have confided in, trusted, and yes, loved these past weeks or months or years. The outer shell may be of a form or shade or origen in which you never dreamed that you could find a friend, because of where you grew, what you learned, who you used to be. That doesn't matter now, and in fact, you may only notice for a moment, because the soul within is what you have seen, and what has brought you to this moment. That is the single greatest thing about this electric common ground: here, every person is beautiful.

It's a nice mental image, isn't it: friends meeting, stories sharing, information passed around at the speed of light regarding atmospheric particles or just idle daydreams of the future. This is what the Net has become. This is what the United States government has decreed to be intolerable, immoral, and dangerous: the first place ever where one cannot prejudge another on the basis of race, sex, disability, or any of a host of other things we use to define and separate ourselves.
Before you click out, I suppose I do have one small request to ask of you, something that my own leaders have appeared to have forgotten. However, if I do this one thing, and you do it as well, and our friends tell their own friends, we may yet have a chance to save the Net from the destruction about to be wrought upon it by those who can see far less than even you or me.