It's More Fun to Compute

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Fed up with crying "Why, o why do they hate us?" into their Mohammed cartoon coffee mugs, the Homeland Security department is funding a multi-university effort to track opinion on U.S. policy in other nations. (Wow, tracking what appears in the media? Who's going to tell them about Lexis-Nexis?)

Such a "sentiment analysis" is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said.

Researchers at institutions including Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah intend to test the system on hundreds of articles published in 2001 and 2002 on topics like President Bush's use of the term "axis of evil," the handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the debate over global warming and the coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

The Times' article is stuffed with negative opinions on the program, like one lawyer's charactization of the tracking as "creepy and Orwellian." I bow to no one in my cut-and-run wimpery about the war on terror, but… I don't see it. No one's proposing shutting down anti-US newspapers or even funding pro-US ones. No one's spying on average citizens. It sounds like a bigger, better version of MEMRI, without that organization's selective Two Minutes Hate-style editing and transcribing.

(Many thanks to commenter Neu Mejican and his ability to break through the Mark FoleyFog to reach actual news.)

NEXT: Understatement of the Year Award and Acronym Contest

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  1. The Times’ article is stuffed with negative opinions on the program, like one lawyer’s charactization of the tracking as “creepy and Orwellian.” I bow to no one in my cut-and-run wimpery about the war on terror, but… I don’t see it.

    Me either. The program would be “Orwellian” if they started changing what the papers said. Scanning world media for potential threats seems like a rational thing to do (I am surprised they aren’t doing this already), but the problem is that we have no reason to believe that the current administration will come to conclusions regarding these “threats” in any rational way.

  2. To the NYT, “Bush administration” = “creepy and Orwellian.”

    When President Hilary’s staff start doing this in a couple years, it will be lauded as showing sensitivity to the opinions of others.

  3. Nice Kraftwerk reference. That is all.

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