Saving the Internet Is Saving Freedom

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

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