Conor Friedersdorf
Conor Friedersdorf
Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.
  • Should the Careless Be Punished for Getting Hacked? Cont'd

    A couple weeks ago, ahead of her appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Josephine Wolff, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, wondered when it might be appropriate to punish careless computer users for their unwitting role in enabling hackers and their attacks on cybersecurity. “Very rarely do we grapple with the question of whether, perhaps, the only way to get individuals to take this seriously and actually change their behavior––to be more attentive to issues of security––is if there are concrete penalties and consequences associated with participating in bots, falling for phishing attacks, failing to install security updates, and other basics of computer hygiene,” Wolff wrote.

    Many readers begged to differ. Vincent Williams has moral and practical objections to the proposal:

    If you punish people for getting hacked, sure, over time you may force botnets to shrink on average or see positive results by whatever the selected metric is, but almost assuredly you will first see a contraction in the number of Internet users in the world. People use the Internet because it is convenient. People own Internet connected devices because they are the most convenient method of harnessing the convenience of the Internet. When you fine people because they have been deemed negligent in their use of something they use because it is convenient, it loses its value. Once it has lost its value, people will abandon those devices and the Internet itself in many ways.

    If the Internet is intended to connect people, how are we aiding in the fulfillment of that goal when we take actions that have a high likelihood of leading to people disconnecting? How is that good for businesses that generate large percentages of their revenue via the Internet?

    Beyond the economic and philosophical reasons this is a terrible idea, there are ethical reasons this is untenable. To punish people for getting hacked is just plain unethical.

  • Is Reason Losing Out to Instinct and Emotion? Cont'd

    A couple weeks ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Evan Thomas, the journalist and author of Being Nixon, wondered if reason is dead. “So much of the structure and animating ideals of Western democracy are based on the idea of reason and rationality––the enlightenment ideal that man is rational and thus capable of self-governance,” he observed. “But increasingly, scientists and psychologists question the premise that reason rules. Indeed, it sometimes seems that reason is a thin veneer over our baser instincts.”

    Artist Amar Bakshi had related thoughts: “Is emotion the enemy of reason? Can emotion be reason’s handmaiden? Are some emotions more conducive to reason than others?”

    A number of readers were provoked to respond.

  • John Sommers II / Reuters

    Arguments for Denying Donald Trump the Nomination

    Readers weigh in on the “dump Trump” movement and the thorny questions it raises about legitimacy in the American political system.  

  • Gary Cameron / Reuters

    Arguments for Awarding Donald Trump the Nomination

    Readers weigh in on the “dump Trump” movement and the thorny questions it raises about legitimacy in the American political system.  

  • Eric Miller / Reuters

    End Needless Interactions With Police Officers During Traffic Stops

    A broken taillight does not require armed agents of the state to approach a motorist’s window.

  • Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

    How to Force Donald Trump to Release His Tax Returns

    What if a convention rule change allowed delegates to reject any candidate on the first ballot who hasn’t made them public?

  • Joshua Roberts / Reuters

    Would It Be Legitimate to Deny Donald Trump the Nomination?

    The debate illuminates different theories of government.

  • Michaela Rehle / Reuters

    Is Reason Losing Out to Instinct and Emotion?

    A journalist and an artist reflect on our relationship with Enlightenment ideals.

  • Steve Dipaola / Reuters

    A Chancellor at Rutgers on Admissions and the Meritocracy

    The growing diversity of today’s educational cohort prompts the question, “Whose talents do we as a nation need to cultivate?”

  • Zoran Milich/Reuters

    Can Existing Institutions Produce the Leaders That the World Needs?

    A inquiry into the skills required to address the coming century’s problems

  • Jim Young / Reuters

    Should Journalism Be Subject to Anti-Trust Laws?

    Nina Totenberg’s thought-experiment about the future of the press

  • Paul Hackett / Reuters

    The Typical College Student Is Not Who You Think It Is

    What percentage graduated from high school and enrolled within a year at a four year institution where they live on campus?

  • Jim Young / Reuters

    What About Convicts of Violent Crimes?

    An incarceration-reform advocate and former inmate makes the case for broader rehabilitation efforts.

  • Adrees Latif / Reuters

    Should Any Ideas Be 'Off the Table' in Campus Debates?

    University leaders and observers discuss the intersection of student protests, free speech and academic freedom.

  • Reuters (handout)

    Three Threats to Civic Health in America

    Former Senator Tom Daschle, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, and political scientist Lynn Vavreck articulate related concerns about U.S. politics.

  • Noah Berger / Reuters

    Generational Differences in Black Activism

    The contrasting approaches of DeRay McKesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, and Marc Morial of the National Urban League.

  • Mike Blake / Reuters

    Mitt Romney: My Conscience Won't Allow Me to Vote for Trump or Clinton

    The 2012 GOP nominee says that he may write in his wife’s name, or may vote for a third party candidate.

  • Jim Bourg / Reuters

    A Tragic Moment for the Supreme Court

    Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter laments the recent string of divided decisions and urges a return to efforts to reach consensus, or near consensus, about the Constitution.

  • Stringer Shanghai / Reuters

    A Christian Challenges His Coreligionists: 'Act More Christian Than White'

    Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, regards whiteness as a myth and white supremacy as idolatry.

  • Dominick Reuter / Reuters

    The Law Is Inherently Violent: A Debate

    Readers converse about the wisdom of refraining from passing some laws and regulations in order to avoid the violence that will accompany their enforcement.