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More regulation of the Internet would be wrong

Re: Let's regulate offensiveness on the Internet, June 16.

The writer of this letter expressed his discontent and disgust with the Internet, then expressed his desire to regulate the 'Net, saying, "It doesn't make sense for people to be able to do things on-line that are illegal on the street." I couldn't agree more; however, just as things that are illegal on the street happen, things that are illegal on-line will also happen. Overregulation is not the answer.

First, the writer should take a good look at his own attitude before criticizing the attitudes of those on the 'Net. He wrote, "If you liketo argue with idiots, it's a fun place." Anyone who enters into a discussion with this attitude _ whether the discussion is on-line or at City Hall _ deserves whatever returned insults he or she receives.

Second, the writer complained about obscene e-mail his daughter received through his on-line service. I would remind him and all those who share his desire for further regulation that this could have been easily prevented. How many people do you know who freely give out their phone numbers or home addresses to strangers? While this incident was unfortunate, it was also entirely preventable _ the writer's naivete is as much to blame for it as is the sender's perversity.

Finally, the writer vocalized his desire for further regulation. But no amount of regulation that is not already in the law books will be of any help, and may only do harm. If the writer has a problem with those who frequent the 'Net, then it is his responsibility to avoid them _ it is not the government's job to protect the ego of one man at the cost of the freedom of millions.

As for the incident the writer described, distribution of pornography is already illegal _ what else would the writer have the government do? The Internet is an international organization that knows no boundaries; how would any government _ be it state, local or national _ enforce any regulation directed specifically at the 'Net?

I apologize for the writer's negative experiences on behalf of all those who use any part of "cyberspace," be it the Internet, on-line services or local bulletin board systems. However, he is at best a small minority _ for every one person who does not enjoy the experience of the Internet, there are countless others who do. Additionally, he is on the entirely wrong track by supporting further regulation, which would not be just unnecessary and unenforceable, but even downright dangerous.

Don Branum, Pinellas Park

Cyberspace responsibility

There seems to be a tendency in our society to blame the Internet for all the ills currently befalling our society. A recent letter writer argued for regulation of the Internet.

I am a system operator (sysop) of an Internet-based business (BBS) here in Pinellas County, and feel qualified to comment on this.

The writer correctly pointed out that there are some people on the Internet who will, if given the opportunity, insult you or argue with you. This is a minority of people, just as it is in society as a whole. The writer is guilty of a gross generalization by characterizing "cyberspace to be populated mostly by intellectual cowards."

In fact, the USENET newsgroups cover over 11,000 topics and have many interesting and intelligent message postings.

I also find it odd that the writer found the Internet to be so foul that he quit using it, but allowed his 14 year old daughter to continue accessing the Internet. The real problem is that we are living in a society where nobody wishes to take responsibility and wants someone else to solve their problems.

At infoNet BBS, we provide full access to the Internet, but we also alert people to the fact that the Internet is global in nature and completely unregulated. We specifically request that parents supervise the use of the Internet by children and monitor the quality of the various services they access.

The fact is that the Internet cannot be regulated. It is up to each individual to participate in what they feel comfortable with, and avoid that which they do not like. It is also up to the parents to insure that their children are accessing the thousands of quality sites on the Internet, and not accessing the sleaze that exists on the Internet, just as we should do in society.

The Internet represents unregulated and free speech. It's really scary to know that this concept is frightening to some Americans.

Michael Murray, Pinellas Park

Censorship's promoter

The recent senatorial pontificating prior to passing a "communications decency act," not to mention the blathering of Bob Dole, brought to mind the concerns of a world-famous moral leader of the past:

Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political and cultural idea.

The leader's name? Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf.

The struggle against censorship is everyone's business. Only a society dedicated to the unrestricted expression and exchange of ideas _ no matter how distasteful they are to some _ can truly be a free society. I'd love to see Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy and similar hate-mongers disappear from the air, but only because the public became educated enough to reject their specious reasoning.

Brent Yaciw, Seminole

A culture cleanup needed

Have we entered the millennium? Is it possible that President Clinton and Sen. Bob Dole actually agree on something? Is it true that something is rotten, not in Denmark, but in Hollywood? Why has it taken so long to find it and speak against it?

A stream of pollution and violence has been emanating, not only from Hollywood, but from the pens of modern writers of many stripes for years.

Vile language and violence have gotten so bad in film and print that finally a Democratic president and a Republican senator agree that something needs to be done. But what? How far have we gone in promoting vile language and violence? To answer a question with a question: Would this newspaper dare to print the lyrics or language of the music and films that Sen. Dole is talking about? Is the language that bad that the local radio stations could not play them? As questionable as some tabloids are as to the veracity of their content, would they dare print the trash in question?

What would happen if Hollywood writers, lyricists, novelists and tabloid writers followed just one admonition of the Apostle Paul: "Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Right thinking will lead to right writing and living.

Not only would "true, honest, just, pure, lovely" thinking improve the view at the supermarket checkout line, but it could very well change the heart and lifestyle of many viewers of films and readers of literature.

Think about it _ a Democratic president and a Republican senator might have finally gotten it right! Leave them alone. Something good might come out of Washington after all.

Wayne E. Smith, New Port Richey

A dangerous intolerance

A recent letter (Dismayed with Disney, June 17) urges "every family" to boycott Disney on account of the annual Gay Day at Disney World. Besides ignoring the obvious fact that gay people have families, too, the kind of selfish intolerance reflected in this misguided exhortation poses a grave danger to civil society. There is, moreover, a moral dimension to it that merits closer attention.

The writer cites the usual litany of misconceptions about Gay Day. For the record, the event is not "held" or sponsored by Disney, though it is welcomed there the same as other privately organized group gatherings. Nor do gay people utilize such occasions to "flaunt" or "promote," since we really have no need to convince others that our lives are "acceptable" (any more than one needs to prove to others that being a Baptist, left-handed or musically inclined is "acceptable").

But because the writer thinks Gay Day "disgusts" others like herself, she apparently expects Disney World to affirmatively and selectively shun homosexuals; otherwise, she says, Disney is catering to us and "turn(ing) its back on families."

Sadly, it does not occur to people like the writer that a massive public theme park _ or, indeed, society as a whole _ might have room simultaneously and equally to accommodate, even embrace, people of all sorts. Much less can such folks seem to conceive that exposure to a broader range of human experience might actually prove enjoyable and edifying.

And therein lies the danger that the writer's brand of willful intolerance represents. The notion that to accommodate one, Disney (or society) must utterly reject the other, threatens the core values on which this great social experiment called America is based: the celebration of individual autonomy and mutual respect for our benign human differences.

As the national conversation _ sometimes debate _ engendered by increased gay/lesbian visibility continues, it is vitally important for the media, politicians and the public to recognize a further, routinely overlooked point: Only one of the "sides" in this debate is seeking to marginalize, dehumanize and exclude the other. The writer and her allies, like David Caton, Pat Robertson et al., urge repudiation and rejection, not just of an idea, but of fellow human beings. Yet as much as I despise and am frightened by these folks' attitudes and beliefs, never would I suggest that because of who they are, what they believe or how they conduct their personal lives, Disney World _ or an employer, or a county commission _ should declare them unfit as people, patrons or citizens, and turn them away. This is a crucial, moral difference between the writer's position and mine. It bears repeating, and remembering, as the voices of intolerance rage around us.

Keith F. Roberts, Human Rights

Task Force of Florida, Tampa

True family values

Re: Dismayed with Disney, letter to the editor, June 17.

It disgusts us to think that people would encourage others to boycott the Disney Corp. for "Gay Day," an event that only occurs once a year.

Disney has not turned its back on families to cater to homosexuals. If anything, Disney has demonstrated true family values of love and support for all _ regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation _ in its goal of family entertainment. We applaud the Disney Corp. for allowing at least one day when gays and lesbians can enjoy Walt Disney World without the ignorance, fear and bigotry that most homosexuals are forced to tolerate daily.

Boycotting solves nothing. Understanding and education answer everything, including the eliminating of discrimination against individuals who simply want one day to enjoy _ not flaunt _ the festivities Walt Disney World has to offer, just as much as traditional families do.

Dave Garrett, Clearwater,

and Roberto C. Ferrari, St. Petersburg

Gays are families, too

Re: Dismayed with Disney, letter, June 17

The writer's admonishing Disney for turning its back on families in favor of homosexuals is just the sort of narrow-minded rhetoric intended to keep gays and lesbians as the villains of the day in America.

The writer's revulsion that so many gay and lesbian people would be "out in number" at Disney, "hugging up to one another" and "promoting their lifestyle" is infuriating. We're out in number every day! Yes we do hug (and even kiss!). We also go to work, grocery shop, attend church, have dinner with friends, mow our lawns, take classes, spend time with our families, and generally do all the same things that everyone else does. If there is something wrong with that lifestyle, then the whole country is steeped in evil.

The writer wants a boycott of Disney. Does she also plan to boycott all grocery stores for letting us shop there? Or the malls? Or restaurants for letting us eat there? Disney has not turned its back on families. It is just acknowledging what the letter writer and others will eventually have to realize: That we, the gays and lesbians of this country, are families, too.

Our show of numbers in the Magic Kingdom one day a year seems to have more impact than almost any other thing we do. Perhaps it's time to expand that. Converging on a mall one night a week, for example, just to let people know we're here and, yes, we're just like you.

You might even get used to us. Imagine that.

Mark R. Hafen, St. Petersburg

All kinds of people

This letter writer demonstrates homophobia at its height, saying that people should boycott Disney for having a "Gay and Lesbian Day." Heaven forbid, the good folks of America should have to witness the gay community enjoying a day at Disney like anyone else.

I think it would be a good idea to take my children on that particular day so that they can see that gays and lesbians are human beings who aren't out to harm anyone, and therefore learn early on that there are all kinds of people in this world. I am much more frightened of my children learning bigotry from people like this letter writer, than I am of them observing gays/lesbians being themselves and having a little innocent fun at Disney World.

Jacqueline DeBeer, Tampa

STOP's benefits

Re: Chiles allows STOP bill to become law, by Bill Moss, June 15.

Congratulations to Kathleen Finnegan and Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells for championing the STOP bill. Perhaps those worried about paying for the prisons should look at the cost savings that will be realized by keeping these criminals off our streets.

Schools and businesses may not need added security officers, insurance companies will not have to pay off on theft claims and victims of violent crime will not be collecting health benefits. The survivors of murder victims will not need to collect Social Security benefits.

Will this add up to $2-billion over the next five years? I think so, and if not, the feeling of safety we will all enjoy will definitely be worth it.

D. J. Lindsay, St. Petersburg

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