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Slashing holes in the Net
Posted By Joel Miller On 04/28/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
We knew it was coming. It had to. In our goose chase to fix blame on
anybody but the gunmen in the Littleton school shootings, anything
remotely blamable is fair game. And with the Net being so highly
profiled in the lives of the killers, it was inevitable that the
political finger-pointers would thrust an accusing digit at the
This government apparently had been ready and waiting for something
horrible to happen, salivating at the opportunity to shove its gun
control agenda down the wide throat of the body politic. Only a week
after the event, President Clinton presented what some are calling the
most sweeping gun control legislative reforms in 30 years. The
legislative language had to have been completed before the event — the
only hitch was waiting for something big and nasty to occur to grease
the political wheels. Littleton certainly scores pretty high in the “big
and nasty” category.
So do widely available bomb-making recipes on the Internet. Thus,
having vanquished guns and ascended the Mount Olympus of
moral-high-ground politicking, our brave commander in chief and his
congressional cronies are going to do battle with that other great
domestic enemy, their naysayers — under the pretext of limiting access
to things like bomb-making instructions, of course.
“Whenever a new form of evil extrudes into American society,” Declan
McCullagh recently wrote for Wired News, “demands for Internet
regulation seem to arrive faster than a greyhound on crack.” True to
form, only a day after the massacre, the American landscape was deluged
in editorials and experts spouting off like a chorus of bullhorns about
the Net and its culpability for the shootings.
McCullagh, reporting for Wired News, noted that at a White House
briefing yesterday afternoon, a mob of Washington press corps reporters
“complained about the lack of controls on Web publishing.” Apparently
having missed most of the lectures on the First Amendment in journalism
school, one reporter questioned about the possibility of the government
concocting “some solution to get all this hatred and bigotry and
violence” off the Net.
The solution is not difficult. Though civil libertarians and others
call it by many four-letter names, its common moniker is “censorship.”
The feds can simply pass a spat of draconian laws that limit free speech
set up restrictions on Net publishing — content filters, licenses, etc.
Of course, there is the First Amendment, but it is of little
significance. One official at the briefing said he could see a way to
circumvent it. But even steering around it is unnecessary. Why not just
run it over? Since when does this administration or the Congress really
care much about the Constitution? Even more worrisome, since when does
the public care a whit about it? It seems that anytime something bad
happens, people run with their freedoms in-arm to the nearest
governmental agency and beg to be relieved of them — which the
government seems more than happy to do.
Road-blocking the Information Superhighway is something very amenable
to our ruling elite. Clinton and Co. have never liked it, despite the
fact that one of them invented the marvel. The Net has been a thorn in
Clinton’s blubbered side since he assailed office — especially by the
middle of his first term.
Websites and e-mail lists galore propounded his many character and
political flaws; his fetish for statist control; his womanizing; his
Brutus-like ambition; and his willingness to skirt the law to achieve
his desired goals. Websites continue to do this — the only difference
is that today there are thousands more, and his reign has provided much
more to talk about. Besides the incredible splash made by Monica,
there’s Juanita Broaddrick, his starring role as Benedict Arnold in the
Chinagate saga, and his deplorable bomb-tossing in Kosovo.
And far from mere rumor-mongering, there is serious reporting behind
much of the allegations. In fact, serious enough (and effective enough),
that the White House compiled a monstrous report on it entitled “The
Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” in which they specifically
lay blame for their tarnished reputation at the feet of this paper and
its editor, Joseph Farah.
The Clintonian Comstocks are probably drooling through twitching lips
with unbridled anticipation over the Littleton blame game. The nation is
screaming for something to be done about the Net. We’re ready to use the
First Amendment to line our parakeet cages, instead of protecting the
press, and just itching for the government to stick a muzzle on our
collective mouth. Rest assured, it will.
If opportunity is given for the government to protect its power in
the future, it will do so now. That opportunity has been handed to
Clinton and his menagerie of power moguls on a platter of 24-carat gold.
Under the color of providing a “solution to get all this hatred and
bigotry and violence” off the Net, the government has been given a
King’s X to get anything it wants off the Net. It may take time and
circumstances to get there, but with a little statist determination,
we’ll arrive for sure.
When you invite the government for tea, it stays for dinner — and
usually steals the good china and silverware. Once we open the door for
Net regulation, it won’t stop until all Internet content is stamped
“approved” by the state — for national security, to secure domestic
tranquility, to save the children, to keep our President from looking
like a jackass. Whatever the required reason, it can and will be
One of the purposes of a free press is to keep tyranny and despotism
at bay. With both those things rearing their misshapen heads in the form
of Internet regulation, that is precisely the purpose the press should
be about now, in earnest.
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