The (Mostly Still) Free Internet

February 26, 2008 at 10:20 am (Censorship)

It’s hard not to focus on the economic issues right now when there are articles out there like this and this and this (when exactly does a “deep” recession become a depression?).  Before the internet, apart from a few mailorder books from a sketchy publisher, where would we actually have had a chance to hear things like, “The Federal Reserve is a private firm, not owned by Americans, with no desire to eat a trillion dollars or more in losses. They are a private firm whose owners reside in London and Old Europe”?  I mean, it’s true — it’s easy to verify.  The Federal Reserve will explain it to you if you call them up.  But I’ll bet they didn’t have many people calling them ten years ago.

Right now, if it exists, it’s on the internet.  Conversely, if it’s not on the internet, it doesn’t exist.  Not too long from now, with the way our governments all regulate, filter, and delete content to various degrees, prosecuting those purveyors of information they deem unsavory, the internet will be the new history book, the new science book, the new Bible.  The internet will be the official version of things, clean and neat, and very definitely missing crucial pieces the government doesn’t like.

It’s easy for us in the West to get upset over China’s control of the internet and persecution of information-spreaders.  But censorship has always existed, and always will.  It exists right here in the US to an incredible degree.  Back at the beginning of the Iraq war, there were several websites hosting pictures taken in Iraq.  The pictures, showing bloody remains of children, babies, innocent people — people the US armed forces killed — were immediately taken down.  No ISP would host them once the government stepped in and mumbled something about “national security.”  I remember looking at these sites, watched them jump from mirror to mirror until they finally disappeared, extinguished.  The US government says something like 100 thousand Iraqis have died since 2003 of all causes combined.  Independent analysts say the number is more like a million, at least 2/3 of which were civilians killed by direct violence.  Who will ever know?  Even today in our era of advanced technology and archival ability, the official historical figure chosen will largely be a guess.  And there are no more websites that show blown-up Iraqi children.  And no one has even heard they existed or were taken down.

Right now, we’re on the verge of passing an “Anti-Hate” law to combat “hate” on the internet.  Lobbyists been trying for years and they’ll eventually get it written into law.  Those marketing types must get paid a lot of money to come up with Orwellian names like the “Patriot Act.”  Too bad the anti-hate law basically leaves it up to the government to define hate and define the groups the protection applies to.  In the words of Noam Chomsky, “If we don’t believe in freedom of speech for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Today’s article of doom: ten weeks of wheat reserves.

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