That little thing called morality
A couple of years ago I was talking to a lawyer for an article I was writing. I am not sure what I asked him at one point, but it must have been something along the lines of ‘how do you decide who is wrong or right?’ His answer, surprisingly, was that he first looked at what felt right. No legal filter, but a moral one.
Since then, when approaching a legal subject, I have caught myself several times trying to see if I could figure out what felt right for me. It is so easy to rationalize towards one’s dogmas and doctrines, that trying to find out what feels right is not as natural and straight-forward as it seems.
I was walking across a second hand book market today, and several of the national news papers had their stands there. It was the first time I saw them there. An employee of one of the papers offered me a copy. I declined, realizing that I had wanted a paper to read the football articles, but also realizing I would read it on the internet.
Now this is our national ‘Hicksville Bugle’, and of course it also requires registration. However, with Bugmenot, it has become very easy to circumvent that whole requirement. I do not begrudge the news papers whatever it is they are harvesting when they let you register, be it cash or user data or both or something else. I even feel that it is somewhat immoral to circumvent the entire registration process. And although I don’t like it, I cannot blame them for piggybacking their VPN onto the web. After all, everybody has a web browser. Not everybody is willing to install custom software for every newspaper they want to read.
However, as I noted a few days ago, I hate it that Google links to articles in these dailies. Google sabotages itself, and in doing so, it sabotages the web (that’s how important Google has become!). And somehow for me, these totally unrelated things cancel each other out. I project the immorality of Google onto the newspapers that require registration, I see these papers as accomplices, and as if by magic I don’t feel guilty about reading a paper that I was not meant to read.
(By contrast, I felt incredibly guilty for downloading and reading the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy off the web, even though I own a copy of that book, but have it in storage somewhere, even though I gave numerous copies away to friends for birthdays, and even though Dutch law explicitely allows me to download books and films and music for private use.)