Censoring the Internet

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planning something…I can always tell. And I’m never wrong because,
truth-to-tell, they’re always planning something. You know how,
before the government springs some really nasty new regulation on
us, they soften us up with leaks and little tidbits of what’s to
come, maybe to see if anyone will notice that they’re about to screw
us big time. If we make enough noise, we hear the old “we didn’t
mean it” while they quietly proceed with a repackaged version. This
time, it’s censorship of the internet for political content that’s
on the line.

the nearly imminent passage of the Incumbent Protection Bill (aka
Campaign Finance Reform), they'll be able to keep those pesky outsiders
(citizens and their business enterprises) from interfering with
(having some say in) important legislation (regulations they are
forced to live under), turning democracy into the big Washington
circle jerk they always dreamed it could be. But that’s not enough,
for our plucky government officials have of late become proactive
with a vengeance, if you’ll pardon the expression. Washington camp
follower Bill Bennett has formed
Americans for Victory Over Terrorism to “wage holy war against
those who would weaken America’s resolve to fight terrorism.” While
something like 90 percent of Americans have supported the war up
until now, only about 50 percent favor the mission creep policy
that’s lately taken over the Bush administration, and these stalwart
guys are gonna nip the anti-war movement in the bud. They remember
how they lost Viet Nam in their youth (where they all avoided combat),
and they don’t want history to repeat itself now that they’ve got
their own precious war to run.

our plucky, stalwart, proactive legislators and ambitious bureaucrats
are still not satisfied. They know that the internet is the hotbed
of anti-war anarchism, developing intellectual weapons of mass destruction
laser-guided at the very heart of The State. They’re not going to
wait quietly for us to gain strength, they’ve got to stop us right
now…just like Saddam.

speaking of Saddam, our government’s respective problems with the
internet and Saddam have something in common. It’s called morality,
an unfortunate inconvenience from their dissolute viewpoint. In
Saddam’s case, you see, he’s never attacked us, and he hasn’t attacked
anyone since Kuwait 12 years ago. America prides itself on going
to war only in self-defense. Never mind that previous provocations
for wars either never really happened (Viet Nam), or were manipulated
by our government (Pearl
), or brought on a disproportionate military response
(Fort Sumter). It’s the fiction that we write in our history books
that counts, not reality. I’m sure those boys in Washington are
wracking their brains trying to figure out what pretext will best
sell their upcoming attack on Iraq, and I expect we'll know what
they came up with soon enough.

for censorship of the internet, it’s that annoying Bill of Rights,
which clearly prohibits Congress from abridging the people’s “freedom
of speech, or of the press.” But there’s always a work-around. One
of their favorites is to bury some far-reaching theft of our freedom
in an innocuous little new and unrelated regulation in the fervent
hope that the lapdog Supreme Court will pretend not to notice. That
may be just what we’re seeing this week, as the Justice Department
is “actively working on an Internet
to target the Web as a source for infiltrating raves,
as part of its crackdown on ecstasy, LSD and GHB.” But buried in
the fine print of the recommendations is a list of the five groups
who should be targeted including “previous drug offenders, legalization
advocates, anarchists and people promoting ‘an expanded freedom
of expression’ that pushes the boundaries of the First Amendment.”
Excuse me! We’re seeing some massive mission creep here, as the
War on Drugs is about to take a giant leap to controlling political
speech. And could they please describe these “boundaries of the
First Amendment.” Don’t give us that tired old “shouting FIRE! in
a crowded theater” line, since the fact that it’s perfectly legal
and appropriate if there is a fire shows that it's fraud
that's being prohibited, not free speech.

Its the usual bullying tactics of The State at work. They’re hoping
that by threatening freedom and anti-war writers and publishers
with censorship, they’ll get us to tone down our rhetoric. But articles
such as this one presage the kind of “blowback” these strong-arm
tactics will bring. And if they ever get arrogant enough to try
to shut us down, we’ll just move offshore. Freedom-writers are like
the cockroach…we’ll be here long after they’re gone.

16, 2002

Bottoms [send him mail]
is usually able to keep his sarcasm under control in Phoenix, Arizona.

needs your help to stay on the air.

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