My oldthink radar went off when I read this passage from Seth Tupper's interview with sponsor Rep. Noel Hamiel (excerpted by DWC):
…I’m just trying to bring some accountability to that process that other media have had to adhere to for decades.”
Those other media include television, print and radio, said Hamiel, who was formerly the publisher of The Daily Republic and held various other positions in the newspaper industry before becoming a legislator.
“This is borne out of my experience in the media and what I consider to be a need for fair play and accountability in all media forms,” Hamiel said. “Why should the Internet be excluded from those standards?”
It sounds like former newspaper publisher Hamiel thinks the Web is just like a newspaper, or ought to be. That's how a lot of newspaper people (like Jon Hunter) treat the Web. That's how a lot of newspaper people wish the Web worked... because then they wouldn't have to compete with a faster, cheaper, more participatory medium that's driving down their profits.
Of course, for wanting to treat the Internet just like newspapers, Hamiel certainly doesn't want to share certain newspaper privileges with Web publishers. A week before he filed HB 1277 and 1278, Hamiel voted to kill HB 1143, a measure that would have allowed school districts to post notices, minutes, bids, and other documents online to satisfy legal publication requirements. School districts loved the idea—it would save them (i.e., us taxpayers) money. The only opponent to the bill: the South Dakota Newspaper Association. Hamiel and 10 other reps chose the needs of the one over the needs of the many.
Hamiel apparently doesn't want school districts or bloggers or commenters to be able to make the most of the Web. Apparently it's just too disturbing to newspaper diehards that the Web allows everyone to publish their own information. Hamiel apparently wants to keep publishing hard, and expensive, and legally burdensome, so that only a few well-moneyed interests can control (and make money on) the public discourse.
I don't think the 21st century is going to let you do that, Noel. The printing press is back in everyone's hands, as it should be. The public sphere is being rewired. It is louder, with more voices. It is harder to control. Control and accountability won't come from government rules written in oldthink. Any control and accountability in our new public sphere will have to come from the same source as that sphere's strength: its participants. Bloggers and commenters and readers will continue to investigate and argue and link with the B.S. filters set high. They'll check their sources and learn to treat anonymous comments with suspicion, if not disdain. They'll show the do-it-yourself ethos of blogging works better for accountability than any legislation.
Don't forget: Hamiel, Turbak Berry, et al. have yet to demonstrate how their legislative schemes will make it possible to reliably identify even a single anonymous commenter. An IP address is not a speaker. And when commenters send all their messages through proxies, HB 1277 and 1278 become useless burdens on online speech. Useless, that is, unless you're trying to use government regulation to impose artificial costs on bloggers to help newspapers compete.