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Baffled by the Internet (and How It Really Works)

May 18th, 2007 · 1 Comment · Comedy, Culture, Education, Internet, Law, News, Politics, Tech

Blue judge in a wigI’ve been disturbed for a couple of days now by this story about a judge in the UK who was baffled by the concept of a Web site.

A British judge admitted on Wednesday he was struggling to cope with basic terms like “Web site” in the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.

Judge Peter Openshaw broke into the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.

“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a Web site is,” he told a London court during the trial of three men charged under anti-terrorism laws.

This is a serious problem: Around the world we have people in positions of authority who fundamentally don’t understand how the Internet works, from Ted “Series of Tubes” Stevens to anchorpeople on MSNBC to trial judges.

At least this judge is willing to ask questions and admit what he doesn’t know instead of nodding along and acting like he knows something he doesn’t, a la Senator Stevens. But still … it’s scary to think of the ramifications of stuff like this, and I suspect that this kind of ignorance played a part in the absurd conviction of Julie Amero.

At any rate, I’m pleased to announce that Ocelopotamus has acquired an EXCLUSIVE TRANSCRIPT!!! of the court proceedings, in which a couple of lawyers try to explain the concept of the Internet to the judge.

Full OCELOPOTAMUS EXCLUSIVE!!!!! transcript is after the jump …


FIRST LAWYER: … so you see, my lord, apparently the entire conversation took place inside a computer.
JUDGE: A computer? What the devil kind of thing is that?
FIRST LAWYER: A sort of electronic box, your honor —
JUDGE: Ah, a box! Most ingenious! With holes drilled in the top and sides, I imagine, for air to enter and reach the people inside?
SECOND LAWYER: My lord, the people themselves weren’t inside the box — only the conversation took place inside the box.
FIRST LAWYER: And not just one box my lord, but a great many boxes — a network of boxes that can speak to each other across great distances.
JUDGE: AIEEEEE! Boxes that speak?! But surely this is a bewitchment, signaling the end of days! What kind of demons inhabit these boxes?
FIRST LAWYER: No, not demons, my lord, the boxes are powered by … by lightning.
SECOND LAWYER: Like that chap from the colonies, your honor. Flying his kite in the rain.
JUDGE: Ah! So there was a great storm. And the boxes all had kites attached to them?
SECOND LAWYER: Yes, my lord. That’s how it works.
JUDGE: Remarkable! The times we live in!
FIRST LAWYER: Yes, my lord. These are truly days of wonder.

JUDGE: But where do the spiders come into it?
SECOND LAWYER: Spiders, my lord?
JUDGE: Yes! I’m told this is all part of something called the World Wide Web.
FIRST LAWYER: Ahh … er, the spiders connect the boxes together, my lord.
JUDGE: But of course! By spinning out long silken strands of their gossamer webs!
SECOND LAWYER: Yes, you’ve got it!
JUDGE: Do they attach the kites to the spiders?
FIRST LAWYER: Beg pardon?
JUDGE: I was thinking perhaps the kite could be attached to the spider’s web, and then the spider could sort of spin it out, and fly the kite that way.
FIRST LAWYER: Very good, my lord!
SECOND LAWYER: There might be a patent in that.

JUDGE: Now then, what exactly do people use these kite-flying spider-boxes to talk about?
FIRST LAWYER: Well, my lord, imagine if you will, a sort of — town square, with a bulletin board where people can post notices.
JUDGE: Ah, yes! Great curling sheets of parchment, with bills and advertisements and the like?
FIRST LAWYER: Yes, my lord, in a manner of speaking. And people use them to, you know, talk about the news of the day, and exchange pictures of cats asking for cheeseburgers, and —

JUDGE: Cheeseburgers? What manner of thing is this?
SECOND LAWYER: A cheeseburger is a sort of sandw — an invention of the Earl of Sandwich, my lord.
FIRST LAWYER: Something tidy for gentlemen to eat while they play at cards.
SECOND LAWYER: Imagine a patty of meat on a … a scone …
FIRST LAWYER: With — a sauce — made from tomatoes …
JUDGE: Tomatoes?
SECOND LAWYER: A vegetable, my lord. From the new world. Sweet and red and fleshy.
JUDGE: Ah! You mean an Indian love apple! I tasted such a thing one time — it came all the way from New Amsterdam on a great sailing vessel.
FIRST LAWYER: Also cheese, my lord. There is cheese on the patty of meat. That’s why it gets called a cheeseburger.
JUDGE: Yes, I see! But tell me, why the deuce would a pussins want to eat such a thing?
FIRST LAWYER: Perhaps the pussins gets hungry inside the box.
JUDGE: Naturally it would!
SECOND LAWYER: Yes, my lord.

JUDGE: So, let us review. The Internet consists of a great many kites attached to special boxes, and inside the boxes there are pussinses playing at cards, presumably smoking and drinking brandy whilst eating meat patties with scones and a sauce made from Indian love apples, all during a great electrical storm. At the same time, spiders are feverishly knitting all the boxes together with great shining threads of silk, and in this way they help to create a vast, freewheeling discussion amongst the many nations of the world.
FIRST LAWYER: Well, yes sir. In a nutshell, that’s it.
JUDGE: But that’s extraordinary! No wonder it’s all the rage!
SECOND LAWYER: And no wonder that terrorists would try to target it, sir.
JUDGE: It has been my considerable experience that terrorists are always possessed by a hatred of cats.
FIRST LAWYER: Most perceptive, my lord.
JUDGE: Well, I’ve heard enough. Prisoners guilty as charged! And court adjourned for lunch. Now, who wants to buy me one of these love-apple meat patties?

[Laughter all round. Exeunt judge and lawyers, chatting merrily.]


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