Editorial: "You Were A Good Man, Charles Schulz"
One of my favorite Peanuts exchanges is when Linus observes, "I guess it’s wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today." And Charlie Brown answers, "No, that’s giving up. I’m still hoping that yesterday will get better."
Just a few weeks ago, an American artist died. And with his passing went a little piece of innocence. Born in 1922, Charles M. Schulz died of a heart attack in his home at the age of 77, after battling Parkinson’s disease and colon cancer. He was a pioneer to whom many attribute their inspiration. For over 50 years, Mr. Schulz’ comic strip provided social commentary in its simplest form, making his characters recognizable icons to all ages, from 1 to 100. And what tools did this giant among his peers use? A simple pen, some ink and a few sheets of paper. With these instruments and basic ideals he taught us lessons, gave us hope and, of course, made us laugh. For those simple efforts, we thank you, Mr. Schulz.
So how many household icons has our industry, or any industry, for that matter, produced? Bill Gates? Maybe. But what’s he known for? Making a lot of money. I suppose there are worse things one could be known for. After all, I’m sure Mr. Schulz reaped the rewards of his work; Peanuts currently is a $1 billion-a-year industry. But, it was his work, every day. Perhaps, Linus Torvalds? Well, he’s definitely a popular industry name; and although their eyes light up with recognition when they read "Linus," (pronounced Linus), I doubt my nieces and nephews could pick a Linux kernel out of a lineup.
Ironically, Mr. Schulz’s passing, as it marks the closing of era, an era of simple entertainment and lessons, occurs at the threshold of a more complicated and confusing age. The age of information. And, with this information age comes the information assault.
According to the National Infrastructure Protection Center: "Our society is increasingly relying on new information technologies and the Internet to conduct business, manage industrial activities, engage in personal communications and perform scientific research. While these technologies allow for enormous gains in efficiency, productivity and communications, they also create new vulnerabilities to those who would do us harm. The same interconnectivity that allows us to transmit information around the globe at the click of a mouse or push of a button also creates unprecedented opportunities for criminals, terrorists and hostile foreign nation-states who might seek to steal money or proprietary data, invade private records, conduct industrial espionage, cause a vital infrastructure to cease operations, or engage in Information Warfare."
Wow. But that’s an overstatement, right? Actually … The week of February 7, saw leading independent Web portal, Yahoo!, "attacked" and made inaccessible; Buy.com, Amazon.com, eBay, CNN.com, ZDNet and online trading site E*TRADE suffered subsequent attacks.
All the assaults were "denial-of-service" attacks, which involves bombarding a site with mock traffic. It’s genius in its simplicity. What results is an information superhighway traffic jam that blocks out user access.
I’m not sure what is worse: the fact that this could have been an intentional, sophisticated act of sabotage from some evil enemy of the free world; or that it could have been "a bunch of 14-year-olds" doing it for the thrill of it. One thing we all agree on: These won’t be the last sites hit.
The information age has helped grow our businesses and develop global relationships. But, as with any transition, there is bound to be an end to the innocence. Perhaps, that is the worst part of this information age – the loss of or a redefining of innocence. For, despite his often-bitter humor, Schulz dealt in innocence. But, as Charlie Brown reminds us as we continue to try to kick that football: "Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia."