Thursday, June 17, 2010

Internet giveth, gummint seeks to take away

More Internetty Goodness from the great Iowahawk.
It's the middle of the day on a deserted Washington street. You're on your way to a reelection fund raising brunch. Suddenly a gang of crazed camera-wielding teabaggers jump out from the alley and lunge at you with their razor-sharp switchblade questions!

Would YOU know WHAT TO DO?
Oh, Internet, you treat me so nice.  Let's not ever fight.
Uhm, wait - WHAT?
The federal government would have “absolute power” to shut down the Internet under the terms of a new US Senate bill being pushed by Joe Lieberman, legislation which would hand President Obama a figurative “kill switch” to seize control of the world wide web in response to a Homeland Security directive.
Honestly, I don't think that's Lieberman's intent; it's probably similar to the old "Emergency Broadcast System" where a central authority pops onto all TVs everywhere to tell you the Russkies have thrown the button down.  Or at least that's what he is thinking of.

And yet... it's a different world.  The Internet, as corporate as some corners have gotten, is still quite wide-open.  Anyone can grab a little free server space and hang up a cyber-shingle.  Getting even moderately known usually means ads or paying for bandwidth or fancy online publishing, but that comes later, and compared to something like running a radio/TV station or newspaper, it's shockingly cheap.  It's the most democratic medium in the world today, on a reach-per-dollar basis it gives incredible power to the common citizen.

Well, lately some elected sorts are quite down on the idea that common citizens have the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and redress their governement for wrongs - as Etheridge has demonstrated.  How dare the little people exercise their rights!  How dare video footage of my bad behavior be made public!

And that's the worry here.  Even five years ago the only way for this to be widely-seen would be to submit the footage to the local network affiliate and hope it got picked up.  No more.  Now everyone on the street potentially has a flip-camera or a 5-megapixel cameraphone... I can take something the size of a pack of cards out of my pocket, capture the moment in full-HD and sound, and before the cops have even arrived, the clip is on a public forum where anyone can see it for themselves.  And those people increasingly have the affordable means to see that clip anywhere they are - not stuck in their house on a desk-based PC, but while out for coffee or waiting for a train or eating lunch.  And if they happen not to be online, that's ok, because some of them have set it up so their favorite websites buzz their phones when something new goes up.  They don't have to stumble across it, they get told.  They are their own big-paper editors, with the city desk buzzing in hot scoops they can run with.  Stop the presses! Life is a forties noir cliche.

All the faux grassroots activism the left was talking about when they were centrally-organizing busloads of protestors to hassle the President, get out the vote, agitate for something-or-other.... it was mostly a flop, wasn't it?  This is different, though.  This is a game-changer: not imposed from above or without, but true independent action rising from within, taking shape, and people are using it to rally themselves to the ideas they like, and to reject those they are ordered to believe by their self-appointed betters.

Lieberman may well not realize it, but others do.  They're desperate for a way to stuff the information toothpaste back into pre-approved tubes, rationed out at their pleasure.  They already regard tax-cutting protests, fiscal conservatives, pro-lifers, and small-government movements as more or a terrorist threat than actual blow-you-to-bits terrorists; they say so out loud. It's plain that all that "dissent is patriotic" and "question authority" stuff they love is a lie - they only like it when they're the questioning dissenters.  They have no real interest in advancing the debate, in freedom of speech (which is really freedom of thought), in the marketplace of ideas, or in a free people making their own choices.

They used the RICO statutes against pro-lifers, they use shakedown and blackmail techniques against private enterprise, they cry racism at every attempt to enforce the borders or control entitlement spending programs.  They assume the authority to intrude into ever-more-trivial aspects of our everyday lives.  If something like Lieberman's bill ever passes, they will use it on the rest of us.

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