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Cyber Stupidity
November 10, 2002

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

We live in an age of technological innovation. It's obvious when you see some of the products that are on display at your nearby, low-priced, discount, cut-rate, "we can't be beat" warehouse superstore. You know ­ the one that's facing bankruptcy and has the welcome placard bearing smiling photos of indicted executives.

It's the place where you may be lucky enough to find one of those must-have electronic devices ­ the all-in-one pager, cell phone, daily organizer, language translator, anniversary reminder, world clock and nose hair clipper.

But not everyone is happy with the new cyber age. One source of aggravation that seems to plague a lot of folks comes in the form of the dial-up modem.

A 39-year-old man in Wisconsin apparently reached the end of his telephonic tolerance. According to WISC-TV, police in Janesville were called to investigate some unusual smoke that was wafting through the neighborhood. What the cops discovered upon arrival was a man carefully barbecuing his modem.

The guy told police that the modem was too sluggish, so he was cooking it in order to speed it up a bit. His wife said that in the past her mate had merely tossed equipment out the door. Evidently, this was the first time he had chosen to create modem flambé. Thankfully, no one was injured, but police said the modem was a total loss.

Let's hope that freedom of speech in Europe won't be a total loss too. The Council of Europe has just adopted a new measure that is so ludicrous, only those elite, out-of-touch European dimwits wouldn't want to toss it out the door. Or maybe fling it on the grill.

The measure would make it a criminal offense to publish, or link to, hate speech on the Internet. So reports Wired News. Amazingly enough, the U.S. still has some judges who are familiar with the First Amendment and recognize its importance. Like the one who recently determined that U.S. Web sites are subject only to American law.

Reps from 44 European countries on the Council are set to adopt or reject the proposed measure during the Parliamentary Assembly session this January. If the same anti-free-speech garbage is adopted in Council members' home legislatures, U.S. Web sites deemed "intolerant" are sure to be blocked.

It could be that authors of the measure consulted with James F. Welles. Welles is one of the foremost experts on stupidity. In fact, he's written two books on the subject and has put together a Web site. It just so happens he hails from Florida.

It may have been an effort to prove his mastery of all things stupid, but Welles got himself arrested. He was allegedly trying to set up a sexual encounter over the Internet with a 15-year-old girl. The Associated Press reports that the "girl" was really an undercover male detective.

In addition to writing "The Story of Stupidity" and "Understanding Stupidity," Welles has maintained a Web site called On the site, he has commented on the war on terror in this way: "Marshal Dillon Bush of Texas has the hangman's rope and noose across his saddle and is aching to string up the bad guy to the nearest apple tree. The basic problem for the world is that these two are fighting past each other. "

His ideas on how to deal with the Taliban were equally nonsensical: "Quite frankly, I have a great deal of difficulty believing we would bomb Afghanistan rather than present the Taliban leaders with the alleged evidence, but maybe our military is just pushing to strut its stuff."

You have to hand it to him. The guy really knows his stupidity. But the police got lucky. If Welles had barbecued his modem, they'd never have been able to conduct the sting. Maybe he ought to consider joining the Council of Europe.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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