First, let me extend my condolances to the family of the woman who was killed after answering a Craigslist Ad in Minnesota. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it is much harder losing someone so young and so unexpectedly.
I heard about this story on CNN this morning. Unfortunately, murders happen every day and most are not covered on the national news media, so why was this one different? Well, the CNN coverage did everything it could to imply that this was somehow the fault of the Internet. Even the article that I linked earlier implied something to that effect. Here’s a quote:
They also say Katherine often found the internet, and Craig’s List, in particular to be a helpful tool to meet people and find opportunities.
This week, police say a man used the internet to lure Katherine to her death.
Let me be clear in refuting this: the Internet is no more a tool of murder than the plaster cast. The Internet is a tool. What it does do is foster communication amongst humans. It does this extremely well, but it does this for anyone who has access. You are reading this post because we both have access to the Internet. Craigslist is essentially a giant classified ads page for some geographic region.
This same sort of murder could have taken place decades before the Internet via another tool: the newspaper. People have used the classifieds for all sorts of illegal things including prostitution and murder. This is not a failure of technology; it is a failure of humanity. Some people do evil things and they use all the tools available. On net the tools that we have created have improved our quality of life. This hasn’t changed with the coming of the Internet. I just wish the news media would wake up to that.
If you haven’t been to The Onion recently, why not? It is the quintessential time-waster site for those times when you have a spare five minutes where you can’t possibly get anything done.
I remember when The Onion launched their website and people were trying to make the mental leap for what it means to have a well produced satirical news website that was just as well presented (if not better) as any of the major news media sites. It wasn’t uncommon to get an email from a friend who had taken one of their stories seriously and thought it was real news. This has even happened to various major news media outlets.
Really though, they have been around in some form since the 80′s. Their website was were they really took off. And now they are taking off in the fake newscast video form. Last April they launched their online videos section, which is a satire version of those found on other news sites such as CNN and FoxNews. Amusingly, The Onion still has better web design than the big boys, IMHO. For example, it is easy to embed news clips from The Onion News Network:
The Onion videos have been hit or miss for me. Some of them have been utterly hilarious, while others have failed to make the grade. This one was absolutely excellent. All good humor has some (and in this case quite a bit) of truth to it.
There have been two truly excellent television shows that I have been lucky enough to catch while they were / are at their very best. The first was The West Wing, which is arguably the best television series of all time and certainly gets my vote as the best ever. The second is Battlestar Galactica, which will begin it’s fourth and final season in 2008. If you are interested, there’s an interesting preview up on YouTube.
For those who might not know about either series, I should provide some background. Battlestar Galactica has not won nearly as many awards as The West Wing and appeals to a smaller audience, but I think they both tackle societal issues in a provocative way. The writing in both shows is excellent.
After Aaron Sorkin, the creator and lead writer on The West Wing, left the show, the quality of the scripts dropped off and the show went from being the best around to canceled in a few short years. This was my only real complaint with The West Wing. It always sucks to see a TV show or athletic team you love slowly get run into the ground by contract or ego disputes.
Ronald D. Moore, the vision behind the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, will be able to see Battlestar Galactica from start to finish. Plus, Battlestar Galactica will only be four seasons long plus a few smaller spin-off stories such as the introductory miniseries and the Battlestar Galactica: Razor movie. All of this means that it will probably avoid the inevitable slump that The West Wing and all longer running shows have. Also, there’s only three seasons of shows to try and catch up on so that you can enjoy the last season as it airs in 2008.
I watched the Google Video version, and I have to say that it was one of the most inspiring talks I have heard in a long time. I am usually quite skeptical when someone comes out with the latest “Here’s how to succeed” story, but when genuinely articulate, intelligent people talk about how they achieved all they ever wanted I am more than willing to listen. The lecture is simultaneously hilarious, uplifting and bittersweet. I highly encourage you to take 90 minutes to watch it.
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for October, 2007.