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Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Internet Freedom": How Statists Corrupt Our Language
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So declared the Party in George Orwell's classic novel 1984. The corruption of language with a constant theme of Orwell's work, most notably his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language." So Orwell would not have been surprised to see the term "Internet Freedom" captured by those who advocate an increased role for government (i.e., Big Brother) online. Nor would Orwell had been surprised to see these advocates claim Orwell for themselves, insisting that opponents of government regulation are the ones corrupting language. There is perhaps no better example of this than MSNBC's Rachel Maddow's comments in an interview with Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin about the divisive issue of "Net Neutrality" regulations:
Rachel Maddow [dripping with sarcasm]: Sen. McCain's bill, as you mentioned, is actually called the "Internet Freedom Act of 2009," and he's deriding the government effort to keep telecoms from walling off the Internet as "government intrusion" and "trying to regulate the Internet." What that means is that he's picked better branding, he's picked better names. It doesn't really relate the facts of what he's doing. I'm wondering if it's too late for a rebranding of the other side here. We need to get better about talking about this, because the language seems sort of corrupt at this point.
What makes Maddow's comments so stunning is not her view that corporate America, rather than government, is the real enemy of freedom. That view is simply part of the long-regnant political orthodoxy. No, what's stunning is that she actually thinks that her side is losing the "war of words" just because Sen. McCain had the gall to use the term "Internet Freedom" as a rallying-cry for the outdated, bourgeois notion that "freedom" means the absence of coercion by the one entity that can enforce its commands at the point of a gun and call it "justice": that coldest of all cold monsters, the State. That's precisely what "liberalism" used to be about until people like Rachel appropriated that word and words like "liberty" and "freedom" as slogans for control. Xeni Jardin picks up where Rachel left off by appropriating the concept of rights, too:
Xeni Jardin: the Internet really is a basic right, it's a necessity,such a fundamental way for communicating and accessing information now. Telecoms shouldn't be able to throttle, to block, to slow down our access to something that might not be in their corporate interests.

This is pure, unadulterated cyber-socialism: Rights become not the sacred defense of the individual, but a positive assertion of entitlement to a vaguely defined principle of access: by guaranteeing this access through ever-expanding "neutrality regulation", government gains unlimited control over the Internet itself. As Adam Thierer and I have warned, that way lies madness: Inviting the government to regulate online content and services in the name of "neutrality" (or "privacy" or any of the many "glittering generalities" ending in "-y" Orwell would have denounced) would be the death of real Internet Freedom, which requires a strict "Separation of Web and State." If you want to see this bastardization of the language of "freedom" in action, watch the video. Just as nauseating is the way that McCain and is "disdainfully dismissed" as a corporate whore because he's--GASP!--received donations from the telecom industry. Obviously, he must only be committing these thought crimes because evil enemies of the People's Revolution paid him to do so! (Of course, donations may to politicians that support increased regulation of the Internet don't corrupt them because their intentions are pure! Anyone can support any cause they like with donations so long as the cause is the right one, as determined by the People's Revolutionary Guard.)

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:32 AM | Broadband , Communications , Net Neutrality

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So then where does that phrase "government of the people, by the people and for the people" land on your spectrum of ultra-socialist, language-perverting political speech? Good god man, stop fulminating over semantics and address the question: how is the internet different from the interstate highways - crucial for commerce - free passage of goods and people - and non discriminatory against say, small passenger cars versus heavy machinery. A corporate owned and controlled internet would be a disaster for free expression and you know it.

Posted by: craig Havighurst at November 2, 2009 10:46 AM

I know that I won't be to wrest the MarketThink crutch from your "warm, live hands," but I can at least point out that the "freedom and choice" offered by the ISP duopoly is hardly choice at all.

I can also demonstrate instances where regulation has engendered marketplace competition in ways that would have been unimaginable had the dominant industry been free to act solely as it desired.

Do you remember Carterfone in '68? When the FCC allowed other devices to be connected directly to the AT&T network it created a robust market for numerous products, including answering machines, fax machines, cordless phones, computer modems and, yes, dial-up Internet.

Then there's the 1982 breakup of AT&T's monopoly, which helped usher in the era of cheap long distance. . . I could go on and on.

One thing I'd like you to keep in mind: the internet was designed and implemented on open network protocols that allow anyone to innovate in that space. If we lose the ability to do so, we foreclose ourselves from that which is truly American: inventiveness and entrepreneurship in a free market.

We also put ourselves in danger of having a few select corporations control our ability to speak freely using the greatest communications invention since the printing press. The government GUARANTEES speech (one of the handful of things it should do, in my opinion), therefore it is well within its authority to extend that guarantee to platforms like the internet, which has proven itself to be the single most empowering asset to expression this country has ever seen.

You would, of course, prefer a purely market-based approach to the internet, governed only by the false choice of the duopoly. I'm sorry, sir, but freedom is my constitutional right, and I intend to fight for it as hard on the internet as anywhere.

Posted by: Casey at November 2, 2009 4:24 PM

At the risk of stating the obvious (and despite Havighurst's comments) the internet and the interstate highways ARE alike in that they are both regulated already. Interstates are highly policed (to arrest speeders and rescue accident victims) and not free. They are highly expensive - and paid for by taxes, from all of us. Regulations exclude certain dangerous chemicals and materials on some of the bridges and tunnels, and highways are patrolled to eliminate fallen trees, dead deer, and overturned trucks. All of these rules are in place to help society.

The internet needs some patrolling to help those of us who are victims of crime -- the crime of copyright infringement. At this point, many of us who are artists, writers, and musicians are finding rampant theft of our work via piracy. This needs to be addressed. There is already in place a way for parents to control what their minor children view on the internet (and unless you want your children watching graphic footage of rapes and murder, you should be glad that these restrictions are in place.)

If you think the interstates are free, think again; if you think the internet should be "free," I'd say you probably engage in copyright infringement.

Posted by: Leigh Harrison at November 2, 2009 4:52 PM

The current net neutrality legislation and the FCC's Draft Proposal on NN both state that net neutrality ONLY applies to lawful content. This means that schemes to protect intellectual property are fair game to explore.

This musician would like to say that we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

Posted by: Casey at November 2, 2009 4:56 PM

Leigh -- you are conflating the issue and falling for a corporate talking point. Mainline open Internet proponents are not saying that the Internet should be free for pirates. Rather, we think it should be governed by non-discrimination principles with respect to lawful content. When Comcast throttled BitTorrent traffic, the degradation was discovered by a person sharing public domain music files. If you want the big ISPs deciding whether and how you and your fans can access works lawfully, then by all means oppose the common sense principles on the table now.

Posted by: Matt at November 2, 2009 5:28 PM

As a musician and internet entrepreneur, I depend on Net Neutrality to keep my business competitive with any retailer in the world. The second this "Internet Freedom" gets enacted my website is over. I can't afford to pay the same amount for band width as Target or the Gap.

I guess I can get a job at Verizon.

There is nothing FREE about McCain's legislation. Free to pay more for bandwidth. Free to allow telecoms to make way more money as they destroy the internet. Freedom? Give me a break.

Don't use your "government is evil" baloney, WE are the government. The corporations are the true evil and you know it. You can't admit it because they own you, anonymous bogus article guy.

Posted by: Steve Cross at November 2, 2009 5:49 PM

When someone treats government-established telco franchises as if they were part of a "free market", one hardly knows whether to argue, or just point and laugh. I'll simply invite you to get back to us when any phone or cable company can string lines anywhere -- well, anywhere the landowner finds their rent offers sufficient -- and close before the point-and-laugh temptation overcomes me.

Posted by: Marcus at November 2, 2009 10:47 PM

I like the fact that my phone calls go through just as quickly as those from the CEO of any corporation. My calls don't get 2nd rate treatment, even though I have far less dough than said CEO. It's a kind of "phone net neutrality." Seems reasonable and fair. To my mind, net neutrality is a comparable concept. And what all the free marketers calling "foul" on this issue seem to willingly forget is that the Internet evolved out of DARPANET, and DARPANET was paid for with taxpayers' money. Oh yeah, and let's keep the "gummin't" away from Medicare!

Posted by: Gordon K at November 2, 2009 11:40 PM

>If you think the interstates are free, think again; if you think the internet should be "free," I'd say you probably engage in copyright infringement.

I think you're confusing "free" as in no-cost, with "free" as in "liberty and justice for all", esp. given your talk about the Interstate Highway System being expensively paid for by taxes.

Net Neutrality is about the liberty type of freedom, not the no-cost type. As Gordon K says, there is a "phone net neutrality" which is that the telephones are regarded by the gov't as a "common carrier". The Internet should equally be a "common carrier", where you pay for access proportional only to bandwidth, that being the driving commodity on the Internet. If I'm a music channel on the Web, I need to transmit a lot of signal to a lot of people, so I pay more. If I'm a little guy with a text-only website, I pay less.

Under common carrier status, the music channels don't get to gang up and say "we pay less because we're big and have money, while the little guy has to pay more because he doesn't have the lawyers to fight us." That's not freedom, it's corporate tyranny.

Yes, the gov't has the ability to enforce its rulings at the point of a gun. Which is why we need to control the corporate interests who can buy the will of the government, by leveling the playing field through Net Neutrality legislation.

We saw the same with labor unions. Read, oh, "King Coal." The corporations had guns, but only through labor law were the workers able to enlist the government to bring in their guns and level the playing field between unions and management. And then the working man was able to get his fair share of the American Dream.

Posted by: Jon B at November 3, 2009 2:40 PM

Sending more troops into war / Children carry weapons . Over 52.000 views on You Tube

Song For My Son seems to be delivering a message that the people want to hear ..

Check it out tell me what you think .


Love and Music

Mickey Carroll

Posted by: Mickey Carroll at November 4, 2009 11:24 AM

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