Wednesday :: Sep 14, 2005

The Price Of Free Speech - Part I

by pessimist

The word is out - access to information will soon have a tangible cost. Beginning with the New York Times to charge for 'premium access' starting Monday', the news corporations just might achieve what governments cannot - censorship of the Internet.

Considering that most of the world is not NYT, I'm not especially concerned about losing access to it. There are many good news sources all over the world, many that outclass the American majors like Lance Armstrong would in a real race with Dumbya (instead of a staged one). I can find good news almost anywhere, even about the US.

But, as the folks at LifeSite declare:

The days are now numbered for surfing an uncensored, open-access Internet, using your favorite search engine to search a bottomless cyber-sea of information in the grandest democratic forum ever conceived by humankind. Instead you can look forward to Googling about on a walled-off, carefully selected corpus of government propaganda and sanitized information "safe" for public consumption. Indoctrinated and sealed off from the outer world, you will inhabit a matrix where every ounce of creative, independent thinking that challenges government policies and values will be squelched.

Could it be any other way for those who seek to control all?

In their special report on Internet censorship, LifeSite states:

The internet poses a unique challenge to principled, family-friendly users. The freedom to acquire and disseminate information not normally available in other media, that allows individuals to be exposed to facts and truth in a way that traditional mainstream media do not permit, is something to be cherished and carefully protected. If internet censorship were to occur in the West, it would much more likely take the form of a gradual shift, guided by corporations and governments, upsetting the balance of information available to the average and unwitting citizen. Often such changes may come disguised as a solution to what is perceived as some social ill. In this scenario the face of the internet would slowly begin to resemble the face of corporate mainstream media, finely crafted by the hands of their finest plastic surgeons.

The possible consequence of this increase of corporate internet control is that “Broadband and DSL are therefore on their way to becoming extensions of corporate mainstream media.” With a select, wealthy few heading the largest internet providers and online information sources, the chances of the majority of the public receiving one, filtered viewpoint is dramatically increased.

Ultimately, the most effective revolutions in history have come, not from the top down, from federal powers to the people, but from the people up, and this remains true for this powerful cultural tool, the Internet.

Such revolutions always threaten the power structure, as certain status and priveleges for the few become threatened. It can be something as simple as local issues that can raise a ruckus for power-mongers:

Sometimes I wonder if big government for all its fine words, personalities and focus groups has forgotten what real democracy really means. Perhaps the blog is one way to remind them we still exist. Using a blog to draw attention to a local issue in this way certainly isn't going to change the world but it does give people who feel that modern democracy is failing them hope and reach in a way that wasn't previously available.

Talk to people, possibly anywhere in this country and they may tell you they have very little faith in local politics to deal fairly with their concerns. Leveraging the technology and reach of the internet through blogging can make a difference, if individuals or groups are prepared to use the web as a Samizdat, a political, underground and visible means of expressing local issues and concerns.

Censorship doesn't have to be the complete blockage of sites. For example, researchers from Harvard, Cambridge, and the University of Toronto say Internet censorship in Singapore goes beyond high-tech filtering software. Censorship of the web, they say, is instead achieved by strict libel and defamation laws. There is a case pending in Oklahoma on just this very issue. In addition, you can lose your job for using the Internet to express your opinions.

Censorship will lead to excesses and outright stupidity, but the net goal is to limit access to news and other sources vital to a free society for everyone. Thus, any way this is accomplished would be seen by the powers-that-be as a good thing.

Anything that can smooth over the embarrassment of exposure, such as the Bu$hCo incompetence and outright deliberate footdragging over disaster aid for New Orleans, would only strengthen their hold on power. Internet news censorship would have made all the difference.

More later.

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pessimist :: 3:51 AM :: Comments (14) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!