Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


The Guardian reports on a legal settlement, where a Pennsylvania family whose water supply was contaminated by gas drilling, received a payout for their now useless farm, and a gag order banning anyone in the family — expressly including the children, aged 7 and 10, from “ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale”.

During the proceedings, the attorney representing Range Resources, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream and MarkWest Energy, reaffirmed the gag order on the children. “I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it,” he told the court.

The parents in this case did warn of the limited reach of the court:

We can tell them, they can not say this, they can not say that, but if on the playground…..

I know I have enough trouble getting my own children to stop talking about oil and gas exploration on the playground. It’s hard to imagine any court being willing to enforce an order penalising people for discussing certain topics because of an agreement their parents entered into, but the mere threat (and legal expenses) might intimidate them from ever challenging it.

Imagine the potential: Fundamentalist parents could enter into gag orders with their church, forbidding the children from ever speaking about Darwin or evolution. Many parents would happily sign a gag order blocking their four-year-olds from discussing poopy pants or boogers.

And why stop at one generation? Just imagine if, instead of fighting for the loyalty of consumers, generation after generation, a company like Coca Cola could simply pay current consumers to commit themselves and all their descendants to never mention the name of Pepsi, or any other cola drink. And while we’re selling off the rights of our descendants, we might as well replace the whole problematic student loan market with selling off our firstborn children into slavery. (Perhaps they can be chained to desks in the university admissions office, forced to read through 80 thousand personal essays.)

The whole idea of gag orders disgusts me. Paying someone not to talk about a subject… Why does that remind me of something absurd?…

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