new lies / old lies / whose lies
Wednesday, February 21, 1996
Net Censorship Now!
The battle against Internet censorship is futile. Relax and enjoy it, sweetie.
It was touching to see all the web backgrounds turn black in the wake of the CDA's passage. I didn't notice anyone doing what would really have been an appropriate act of protest, though: setting both the bgcolor and the text attributes to black, to give an accurate picture of where a significant chunk of the web is headed now that the official clampdown has begun.
I confess there was a time when I, too, was outraged at the thought of a bunch of PONA politicians trying to regulate online speech. I no longer feel that way. Censorship of the Internet is inevitable. It's a good thing, and I'd like to offer my unqualified support and assistance to Senators Jim and Diane, Representatives Newt and Gopher, President Bill, Chairman Reed, and Attorney General Janet in their efforts to make the net safe for clueless stockholders, little kids, and Bible-thumpers from backwater states like Tennessee and Arkansas.
Allow me to explain my change of heart.
First, Internet censorship is going to happen whether we like it or not. The sheer inertia of the government screwhead bureaucracy will see to that, regardless of the differences between the net and the Fed censors' traditional stomping grounds on radio and TV (and regardless of their apparent lack of clue about things HTML). The need for orderly management of scarce "spectrum" was never more than a convenient excuse, and now that this Superhighway thing has hit the bigtime they'll easily manufacture a whole new set of excuses to explain why the First Amendment doesn't apply to this kind of speech, either.
Second, it's going to be a lot easier for everyone if we just learn to cooperate. Like a pretty-faced punk on his first night in the lockup, we have a clear choice in front of us: We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. Actually, that's probably a pretty apt simile, given the prison terms in store for those who insist on fighting for mythical "rights" to publish stolen GIFs on the web (and given the underfed physiques and cute little rear ends adorning the majority of the net's back-alley content violators).
Third, the end result will be a whole lot more (and a whole lot better) online porn, so what's the big deal, anyway?
Huh? you say. More porn? Better porn? How could this be?
It's obvious, grasshopper. Who do you think is pushing hardest for laws to shut down the roll-your-own smutsters? None other than the big boys who already own the lion's share of cache entries in browsers from .sg to .la.ca.us: folks with domains like penthousemag.com and playboy.com. The IMG tag is the best thing that ever happened to these guys, or at least it would be, if only they could get those pesky college sophomores with their hit-sapping black-market gif collections off the wire.
Enter the CDA. Cloaked in a mantle of protecting innocent children from the truth about what their parents do behind closed doors, the government censors are going to help the Hefs of the world achieve what mere copyright law has so far left them powerless to accomplish: driving the competition from the field. Once this process is finished we can look forward to a golden age of online T&A. Since said T&A will be carefully locked away behind user-authentication requirements - you didn't expect this stuff to stay free, did you? - we can rest comfortably in the knowledge that no one who doesn't have a real, grownup job is going to be in a position to access it.
But wait, you say. The net is more than just a place to look at pictures of naked women. There's all that talk, too. Surely that's protected under the First Amendment. How could so many pundits yammer on about the historic act of "deregulation" represented by the new telecomm law when it metes out such Draconian punishments for saying the wrong thing in public forums like Usenet?
I know it seems confusing. What you have to realize, though, is that telecommunications reform represents the first step toward a bold new concept in human empowerment.
It works like this: All persons are created equal, true, but some are more equal than others. Occasionally those in power must make hard choices about who will have access to scarce resources. This, after all, is a key role of government.
Free speech rights, it turns out, are just another scarce resource. We need the government to control access to those rights, or pretty soon there won't be any left.
When the Founding Fathers penned their naively absolute prohibition on government infringement of free speech, it was in the context of a country where porcupines outnumbered people and the phrase "untamed wilderness" referred to anything west of Pittsburgh.
These days it's a different story. In order to grant the necessary degree of freedom to the RBOCs and the cable companies and Rupert Murdoch and all the other well-fed corporate "persons" currently smacking their lips over the meal that telecomm reform has spread before them, it was necessary for Clinton and Gingrich and the rest to restrict some freedom somewhere else. And that somewhere else just happened to be the Internet.
Don't worry. The benefits to society as a whole will far outweigh any short-term disruptions in our modem behavior. We computer-users pay for phone service and cable just like everyone else, you know. We're all going to benefit from this reallocation of that increasingly scarce commodity called freedom.
Just think of it as the "trickle-down" theory of liberty.
In conclusion, my fellow users, let me state once more that I am pleased to be part of such a noble undertaking. The sacrifice we are making today will be remembered long after we're gone. Our children's children's children will feel their stomachs knot with pride as they read in their history texts of the time when the people of the net banded together with a common purpose, laying down their flesh-toned JPEGs and foul-mouthed flames and frank discussions of abortion and homosexuality, leaving only polite talk on noncontroversial topics and a little abject silliness behind, all in the name of the greater economic good.
I know there are those who will say I'm making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or seeking survival by bonding with the aggressor, or something equally foolish. Fine. Go ahead and say it. It's a free country, after all.
Just remember, I've got all your names written down. And my new friends from the government are going to be very interested in learning who's been saying such nasty things about me.
new lies / old lies / whose lies
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