Sunday, April 09, 2006

War Cries

As a rhetorician, I'd like to plug Lawrence Lessig's talk last year at the New York Public Library, which is now available on Google video, "Who Owns Culture?". It has a noteworthy section about how the rhetoric of war in corporate battles against digital "piracy" debases civic discourse and stifles the creation of new cultural artifacts. As Lessig points out, Jack Valenti, of the MPAA, has gone so far as to call this a "terrorist war."

Of course, as this fill-in-the-blank exercise points out, wartime rhetoric has a long presidential history before the "war on terror" (or now the "global struggle against violent extremism") began on September 11th. We had a "War on Drugs" during the Reagan Administration and a "War on Poverty" during the Johnson Administration.

What makes this particular war on piracy noteworthy is its capacity to silence not only oppositional rhetoric but rhetoric more generally, as forms of expression that use technology are outlawed.



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