Copyright © 1996 by David Jones. All Rights Reserved. Friday, May 17, 1996


Kids, Mischief, and Bombs

'tis the season

[fireworks] TORONTO -- This Victoria Day weekend, at both Ontario Place and Canada's Wonderland, the evening sky will be lit up with colourful fireworks displays.

So it's little wonder that the curious minds of mischievous teenagers are working overtime, thinking about how they can get in on some of the excitement.

It's been this way since I was a wee lad. Since before the Internet.

But that isn't stopping the Alberta press from heaping all the blame for this perennial interest in `things that go boom' on the Internet.

[model rocket] Last week, after a 14-year-old Calgary boy injured his hand when he ignited some model-rocket propellant, the Calgary Sun may have exaggerated, just a little, when they wrote that he was ``lucky he didn't blow his family's northwest home to bits.'' Police say the boy got a bomb recipe off the 'net. ``Decent, sensible people,'' the Calgary Sun editorialized, ``demand controls on the Internet.''

[Fruitabomber] This week, just after school was out for the afternoon, a watermelon was ``detonated'' in an Edmonton bus shelter. According to the Edmonton Sun, police are now tracking the elusive ``Fruitabomber'' and asking merchants to be on the lookout ``for young men buying large pieces of fruit.'' It would be funny, if it weren't so sad. ``Police are now convinced the `melon felon' made the bombs using instructions found on the Internet,'' the article continued.

Neither the Calgary Sun nor the Calgary or Edmonton Police seem concerned, however, about a book available in the children's section of the Edmonton Public Library, entitled ``The Way Things Work: an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Technology'', which contains detailed information on making gunpowder, including a list of ingredients, their exact proportions, and detailed diagrams.

... or concern about ``The Anarchist's Cookbook'', distributed in Canada by Peterborough-based Marginal Press. Included in the book are instructions for making various kinds of home-made bombs. It's available at Audrey's Books in Edmonton and the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto for under $40. Both stores say it's a big seller.

And for some reason, reporters didn't manage to speak to anyone at the Calgary high school where principal Del Hack says model rockets are used as a demonstration in science class. It's easier to blame the Internet, even though, last time I checked, you can't actually download gunpowder using your computer.

Parents, this is the weekend we like to watch colourful explosions in the sky. It's fun. It's exciting. There's no denying that.

Pulling books about explosives off library shelves, or censoring the Internet will not protect our young children from their own curiosity.

People often say `a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. Since there's no hope of keeping fireworks a secret as they dazzle us overhead, perhaps now is the time to take a moment and explain to your sons and daughters why explosives are unpredictable, and dangerous.


David Jones is president of Electronic Frontier Canada, a non-profit organization protecting freedom of expression in cyberspace, http://www.efc.ca (watermelon image courtesy of eye weekly)

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