Saving the Internet Is Saving Freedom

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Way back in
Viet Nam times, not only didn't we have the internet, we didn't
even need it. Hey, we were out there marching and hollering because
we were all pretty much aware of the lies our government was attempting
to foist on us. How so? Well, for one thing, the Viet Nam war was
the first war ever to be reported via live TV. This meant that TV
reporters, TV cameras were out there, shooting the truth. This meant
photographing for eternity, that little girl fleeing naked from
napalm. It meant photographing for eternity an u201Calliedu201D officer
shooting a dissenter in the head as the dissenter knelt in the dirt
at the officer's feet. And it meant photographing for eternity that
famous, infamous wagon-load of injured U.S. soldiers being transported
out of a battle zone. Hordes of helicopters flying over villages
u201Cdestroyed to keep them safe from the Viet Cong,u201D replete with the
murdered lying in the mud. It was all there for us to see.

If our government
was hiding its true motives for involving the U.S.A. in a manufactured
war, lying blatantly about the Vietnamese sinking ships in the Gulf
of Tonkin, it didn't matter. All of us who protested were able to
access media, were able to watch live coverage of this sin against
humanity on TV and decide for ourselves how we wanted to deal —
or not deal — with it.

All that has
changed. This time around, all media is censored, only news that
the government believes will assist in propaganda efforts is being
released, and that ain't much. Apparently, the u201CDecideru201D running
this Iraq version of Viet Nam has decided that even a little bit
of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Therefore, in today's Iraqi Viet
Nam re-play, you may view soldiers in Baghdad, rifles at ready,
gaining forcible entry into homes, charging upstairs while occupants
watch silently We may view soldiers in their tanks and humvees driving
along roads surrounded by unexploded u201CI.E.D.’su201D (improvised Explosive
Devices) along with lots of photos of Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts.

But, if you
want to see what infants severely deformed by their father's Depleted
Uranium absorption look like; if you want to see what the actual
demolition of an entire city (Fallujah) looks like; if you want
to see Afghanistan again under Taliban rule; if you want to see
the actual face of war, you need the internet.

Turn on the
morning TV news, and you get to learn how the latest celebrity is
getting divorced, having a baby, living in Bahrain, dating his ex
mother-in-law. Read the newspaper, and learn how the city is reconstructing
a sewer pipe, closing schools for lack of money, or messing with
local taxes. Oh, sure, there are some choice items, such as the
third-highest CIA director being chased down for some scandal or
other, how Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff are being tried by jury (any
year now?) but the actual news behind our government's decisions,
behind how the wealthy are being spared taxation, how a horde of
guilty secrets, secrets that affect us all, beginning with our wallets
and ending with our actual safety are being hidden? For that, you
need the internet.

Except, folks,
right now, this very moment, our government is attempting to rid
us of internet freedom, and, in that process take away another big
chunk of the First Amendment. How so? Here goes:

The United
States Congress is currently drafting a bill known as u201CThe Communications
Opportunity, Promotion and Efficiency Act of 2006,u201D known as u201CCOPE.u201D
This means privatizing the Internet, by allowing such private corporations
as AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon and others to actually own
it, and, in the process operate the internet and other digital communications
services as private networks. The bill very, very clearly states
that u201Ccertain classes of Internet providers may – not unreasonably
– impair, interfere, restrict or limit applications or services
such as Web sites or voice-over IP phone connections.u201D

On April 26,
2006, the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications rejected
an amendment to the bill (the Markey Amendment written by Ed Markey,
D-Mass) that would have strengthened provisions for network neutrality.
That amendment was defeated by a vote of 28 to 8. (see end notes
for URLs)

I clearly and
irrefutably understand what the First Amendment is all about. Freedom
of Speech is sacred to me. I do — via extraordinary experience as
a ten-year-old Jewish kid in Nazi Berlin — understand what the denial
of this freedom can mean.

u201CRegulatingu201D
the internet, charging for its use, even u201Cmonitoringu201D it, is simply
one more step towards fascism. When I can't say what I feel, when
I can't express these feelings freely on the internet, I am being
muzzled. (Been muzzled on pain of death before, so believe it: been
there, done that.)

I do not care
a hoot who invented it. For all we know, it fell out of a Pentagon
DOD window, onto the head of a fifteen-year-old computer geek who
ran with it. What I care about is what it has become: A free and
open avenue of communication.

What matters
is that it is ours now: Ours, all of us with access to it.
And even those who don't use it own it. We made it, we use it —
and for what? Well, amongst other things we use it to exchange the
truth, that's for what! From the Moscow Post, to the conservative
Manchester Guardian, from reputable U.S. and international internet
sites, we get to learn what our own media conceals. And then, are
free to exchange this information with fellow internet users all
over the planet. In the process, we make friends, socialize a bit,
and get to know whose information is trustworthy and who's just
in it for laughs, or to u201Cspoofu201D or u201Cspam.u201D

I am also completely
aware (again via past personal experience in Nazi Germany) of the
degree to which this administration has actively censored, regulated
and propagandized all news media, both print and TV. But, via the
internet, I can get actual news from the European media, a bit above
and beyond what is force-fed us here. Those idiot u201Ccelebrityu201D articles
mentioned earlier, are a tried and true way to divert our citizenry's
attention from actual news. In Nazi Germany, all it took was Nazi
heroine Leni Riefenstahl flying an airplane with her hair streaming,
or climbing up a mountain wearing a radiant smile along with her
cleats.

If we are deprived
of free and complete and independent access to the Internet, we
will lose the last vestige of getting the real news, and the last
vestige of free and open communication available to any of us.

I
just wrote a scathing letter to my legislative representatives,
stating — amongst other things — u201CPlease remember: I am old, but
I sure vote.u201D All of you who read this, must do the same. Let them
know how you feel. Let them know. After all, you are undoubtedly
reading this very article on an internet site, are you not?

May
15, 2006

Doris
Colmes, MSW, [send her mail]
is an independent writer in Portland, Oregon. Her book, “The Iron
Butterfly” was published in 2002, and she received the Kay Snow
Award for non-fiction in 2003. She can be reached via: www.doriscolmes.com.

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