Archive for January 4th, 2004

The Law of Unintended Consequences

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Despite his generally cavalier attitude towards such
journalistic conventions as imagined objectivity and exhaustive fact-checking,
increasing
exposure
and a growing readership has made the Dowbrigade aware the mere fact
of publishing in a public place carries with it certain inescapable risks
and responsibilities.

On a number of occasions readers have written in with sidelights to
stories of which we were previously unaware. In addition, the Law of
Unintended Consequences dictates that words written with ironic, humorous
or even loving intent can cause incredible hurt, damage lives, and even
kill people. Just because the consequences are unintended does not abjure
the author of responsibility, as they can often be anticipated and avoided.

Two stories related to blogging in this morning’s Boston Globe illustrate
some of the horrific possibilities inherent in the Law of Unintended Consequences,
a corollary of the ubiquitous Murphy’s Law. The first concerns a blogger
at Microsoft who was fired after blogging a photo of maintenance workers
unloading a shipment of Macintosh computers at Microsoft headquarters.

The focus of the article is the danger of blogging about your job, workplace
or co-workers. This is a danger the Dowbrigade is familiar with, as our
postings concerning the recent Presidential Search Snafu at Boston University
were somewhat critical, to say the least.  But we are personally less
concerned with our current employer reading our blog than with its influence
on our future employment prospects.

In this day and age, the first thing any competent personnel manager will
do with a potential employees resume is to Google the individual involved.  Thanks
to the qualified success of the Dowbrigade News and Google’s blog-friendly
logarithm, four of the top ten search results for our name lead directly
to our Blog.  Thanks to the unparalleled efficiency of the Blog format
as an on-line information storage and access system, this means virtually
everything we have written since founding our Blog (can it only have been
six months ago?) is there for a prospective employers leisurely perusal.

In our case this is a more than theoretical concern as the Dowbrigade
is in the initial phases of a job hunt himself.  Whether the Dowbrigade
News will be a help or a hindrance in that search remains to be seen.

The second article is even scarier. The Globe, in an article called
"Rumors of Rape" tells the story a California sex therapist who wrote and
posted an article called "The Rape of Iraq". Obviously a metaphor.  But
whole sectors of the Muslim press picked up the story and presented it as
holding that a prestigeous American academic had revealed that a massive wave of rapes had begun with the American invasion
and was ongoing.

In the most alarming manifestation of possible deadly Unintended Consequences,
Turkish suicide bomber Ilyas Kuncak was reportedly driven to kill himself
and 12 other innocents as revenge for these rapes which never took place.

It’s an increasingly and deceptively dangerous world in which we blog,
my friends.

Microsoft Fires Blogger for Mac Photo

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There are lots of reasons to be careful about using the Internet. Here’s
one more – the stuff you publish on your personal website could cost
you your job. Michael Hanscom learned the hard way. Hanscom worked
at a printing shop in the Redmond, Wash., headquarters of Microsoft
Corp.

Last October, Hanscom published
in his blog a photo of a pallet of Apple Macintosh computers being
delivered to Microsoft headquarters. The following week Hanscom was
fired for allegedly violating a confidentiality agreement he’d signed
when Microsoft hired him.

Even as Microsoft fires a blogger like Hanscom for going too far, it
tolerates others like Robert Scoble, treating their hobby as a way
to build a more personal relationship with its customers. The two cases
show
how the rise of blogging has created new opportunities and perils for
workers and employers alike.

A Microsoft spokesman confirmed Hanscom’s firing but declined to
provide further details. The company said it does not have a blog
policy.

from
the Boston Globe

Rape Rumors Lead to Suicide Bombing

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ISTANBUL — The allegations can
be heard almost everywhere in Turkey now, from farmers’ wives eating
in humble kebab shops, in influential journals,
and from erudite political leaders: American troops have raped thousands
of Iraqi women and young girls since ousting dictator Saddam Hussein.

urullah Kuncak says his father, Ilyas Kuncak, was boiling about the
rumored rapes just before he killed himself delivering the huge car bomb
that devasted the Turkish headquarters of HSBC bank last month, killing
a dozen people and wounding scores more.

"Didn’t you see, the American soldiers raped Iraqi women," Nurullah
said in a recent interview. "My father talked to me about it. .
. . Thousands of rapes are in the records. Can you imagine how many are
still secret?"

The US Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, has strongly denounced
the reports, calling them "outrageous allegations . . . based
on a US `source’ best known for her pornographic websites and erotic
television program. We believe it is irresponsible for a serious newspaper
to present such false claims from a clearly unreliable source on its
front page as if they were fact. We view this article as a deliberate
attempt to mislead Turkish readers and to damage the strong ties between
the Turkish and American people."

"I am a sex therapist and I use sexual terminology for political commentary," Block
said. "I did not say American troops are literally raping Iraqi
women. . . . I don’t know if Americans are raping Iraqi women. I do know
they are killing them. I don’t know if that’s much better." She
said it is clear that she was using "rape" as a metaphor for "invasion."

from
the Boston Globe