Monday, February 11, 2008

Remembering Tom Lantos

Since I am currently recovering from a disk crash, I have only just had an opportunity to read the obituary for Tom Lantos on The Huffington Post. Lantos played a major role last year in the philosophical stance of this blog concerning a generally negligent attitude towards consequences that arise towards actions we take, often for objective reasons, which disregard factors in the social world. Lantos' part had to do with a Congressional investigation of how Yahoo! handled a request from the Chinese government to provide information about one of their subscribers, Shi Tao, who happened to be using the Internet (accessed through a Yahoo! portal) for pro-democracy activities considered criminal by the Chinese government. Yahoo! provided the information, Shi Tao was sentenced to ten years in prison, and Lantos was mightily offended. His reaction was included in the Huffington Post obituary: he declared to Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan of Yahoo!, "morally you are pygmies." As a Holocaust survivor, Lantos had first-hand knowledge of how the ugliest of consequences can hide behind the most objective of decisions. Close as he was to Silicon Valley, I doubt that even the strongest language he could muster had much of a lasting impact; but he deserves to be remembered for raising his voice for a moral priority that continues to be disregarded more often than not.

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