Clive Hamilton has generously agreed to let me publish his reply in full on my blog. I would like to thank him for that for several reasons. First, it gives me an opportunity to apologise for the cheap shot I made about him confusing a statement by Hackett, for one by Malone. More importantly, though, it allows the debate to continue in a public forum. I will be responding to most of the points raised here separately.
Clive's reply in full.
From: "Clive Hamilton"
To: "'Jon Seymour'" Subject: RE: With public intellectuals like this, who needs barbarian? Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 11:58:23 +1100
Increasingly I find it difficult to distinguish between "left-libertarians" and right-wing libertarians. In practical terms I can see virtually no difference.
I'd make three specific points about your article and one general one.
1. I did mistakenly attribute the quote to Michael Malone when it should have been attributed to Simon Hackett. I misread the quote as being from the person who was being quoted just beforehand, thinking it was running on and missing the reference to Hackett. I should have been more careful. Yet this simple error is the basis for you to accuse me of "contempt for principled, honest and logical intellectual debate". What an extraordinary over-reaction. Why on earth could it strengthen my argument to attribute the quote to the head of one ISP rather than another?
As for the accusation that I quoted "selectively", the words selected are not out of context. The rest of the quote only reinforces the point about unthinking moral relativism.
2. On the logic and morals question, logic is not just a disembodied cognitove process, like a computer whirring away. Every logic text will ask you first to set out your premises. So an argument always depends on the assumptions underpinning it, including the moral assumptions. Tech geeks are like neoclassical economists -- they think what they say is somehow "value free". This is a delusion entertained by people who lack an explicit philosophical perspective, and therefore remain captive to an implicit one. My replies to my critics have been an attempt to get them to be clear about their ethical positions. Because most are unaccustomed to thinking about morality and the role of the social they have great difficulty doing this.
3. On the accusation that I have attempted to constrain the debate in way that suits my argument, I only point out that your "one other choice" is precisely that one I offered second in my list of three.
I wonder whether you ever reflect one why you become so enraged about proposals to regulate the internet? Look at the words you have used to attack me -- "desperate", "wild claim", "contempt for principled, honest and logical intellectual debate", "intellectually dishonest", "an intellectual disgrace of the highest order, "intellectually shoddy", "dishonest and disgraceful", "should be ashamed of himself", "barbarian".
Really, Jon, one has to ask what on earth is going on with net liberatarians such as yourself.