Monday, November 10, 2014

Neutering Dissent

Well Glory Hallelujah come on get happy. President Obama makes his preferences known, in no uncertain terms, and Internet freedom fighters throughout the land are exploding in gratitude, wonder and awe. From the official White House pronouncement published to great fanfare today:
“Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.
When I was a candidate for this office, I made clear my commitment to a free and open Internet, and my commitment remains as strong as ever. Four years ago, the FCC tried to implement rules that would protect net neutrality with little to no impact on the telecommunications companies that make important investments in our economy. After the rules were challenged, the court reviewing the rules agreed with the FCC that net neutrality was essential for preserving an environment that encourages new investment in the network, new online services and content, and everything else that makes up the Internet as we now know it. Unfortunately, the court ultimately struck down the rules — not because it disagreed with the need to protect net neutrality, but because it believed the FCC had taken the wrong legal approach.
So net neutrality is a done deal, right? Not so fast, proles. If the FCC would like to go full Bartleby the Scrivener and "prefer not to" follow the boss's recommendations, then there is very little the lame duck boss can do about it.... capiche? Always remember to search for the hidden caveats and self-neutering "on the other hands" in  every Obama pronouncement. It's how the man rolls.

 And how can we forget that the president telegraphed his commitment to a free and open Internet by appointing an industry lobbyist to run the FCC?

It's interesting that Obama made his comments on the same day that Internet activists started picketing the residence of his college buddy and industry wheeler dealer/ FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. It's interesting that whatever Wheeler ends up doing, or pretends to be doing, the Republican Congress and/or Supreme Court can end up un-doing anyway. And by then, Obama will be freely making lucrative commitments of his own. Book advances, speaking gigs, board seats, foundations... here he comes.

Call me cynical, but is it also just a coincidence that Obama is making his "preferences" known on the first day of his trip to China, which is notorious for its own strict government control of the Internet? It seems possible that the president is simply trying to gain the upper hand and present himself as a beacon of light and freedom compared to that other authoritarian regime. It certainly seems to be just more gobbet of self-serving political propaganda.

Obama also is aiming to give himself some domestic cover for the contents of the secretive 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership, which he hopes to cement during this Asia junket. According to the latest leaked draft, Obama is actually pushing for more corporate control over the Internet, not less. Under the terms of the TPP, copyright and fair use laws would be subverted into the ability of powerful entities to gratuitously remove content that they don't like without the benefit of judicial process.  Obama's glib "preferences" could be immediately rendered moot and as empty as his suit under the terms and conditions of the corporate coup disguised as a "free trade" deal.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation supplies all the anti-Net Democracy details contained in the leaked draft here. The "net" effect would be a chilling one for creativity and free expression. You could theoretically be subject to criminal penalties for pasting a Mickey Mouse illustration on your blog, or using a corporate logo or slogan for satiric purposes. Something like these:


President Obama did not put out a statement on these "trade" proposals of his, because the corporations which he serves would prefer him not to, lest the public get all in a tizzy. Ergo, today's White House Net Neutrality manifesto, designed to make us rest easy and stop paying attention while the president takes care of Business.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Obama has spent the past six years attempting to neuter dissent. In so doing, he ended up neutering himself.

Quite a Faustian bargain. But hey, to be President, most people equally lacking in principles would probably do the same.

Denis Neville said...

Lame Duck supports net neutrality!

The FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler said that he was "grateful" for Obama's input and called the president's statement "an important, welcome addition" to the FCC's deliberations. However, the legal issues involved are complex and the FCC had "more work to do" in order “to get the job done correctly, once and for all, in order to successfully protect consumers and innovators online."

If Lame Duck truly wanted to ensure net neutrality, why did he appoint Wheeler, a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, as Chairman of the FCC?

Why now?

Lame Duck is getting ready to once again say, "Well, I tried."

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded…
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes, everybody knows”
- Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows”

The idea of a public utility worked in a different era when there was a sense that we, the public, are in all this together. There no longer exists such a sense of common purpose. We now glorify private over public interests.

“The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.” – Etienne de La Bo├ętie, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, 1548

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Good summary of what's wrong with modern mass media, for those who haven't read Chomsky et al:

I'm going to send the above link to several people.

Also, just learned of this site, worth a look by Sardonicky readers:

In particular, see this from last month (originally from Ars Technica):