• “Sir Humphrey Appleby on the internet filter”

    Apr 9 2010, 1:52

    Delimiter has a fun opinion piece today written by Darryl Adams, “Sir Humphrey Appleby on the internet filter.” It begins like this:

    To understand the situation that we find ourselves in regarding the internet filter, we need to refer to the great political textbook of our age: Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister.

    That great icon of the public service, Sir Humphrey Appleby GCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon), once described what he called ‘the Politicians’ Syllogism’.

    - Step One: We must do something.

    - Step Two: This is something.

    - Step Three: Therefore we must do this.

    Logically, this akin to other equally famous syllogisms, such as:

    - Step One: All cats have four legs.

    - Step Two: My dog has four legs.

    - Step Three: Therefore my dog is a cat.

    “The Politicians’ Syllogism has been responsible for many of the disasters that befell the United Kingdom in the twentieth century, including the Munich Agreement and the Suez Adventure,” said Appleby (Yes Prime Minister II, pp. 130-1).

    In the realm of internet filtering, we can see the Politician’s Syllogism quite plainly: Internet is full of naughty. A filter can stop naughty. Therefore we must filter the internet.

    Now the issue here is that people who know the internet know that a filter is unworkable. However, this is based on the assumption that knowledgeable internet people are the target audience. This is of course incorrect. The audience is made up of a group of people who

    1. Are afraid of the internet and/or

    2. are afraid of the porn and other nasties on the internet and/or

    3. believe the government should do something about porn and other nasties.

    So the filter is a brilliant policy in that regard. It is low cost to the government, it shows people that the government is doing something, and allows a loud segment of the community (the “somebody think of the kiddies” lobby) to cheer loudly for the government. So how do we the internet community change policy?

    Read the rest of Darryl’s excellent piece here.