The Open Internet is History if Congress Gets Its Way
Great ideas flourish in freedom. Such is the case with the history of the Internet, which went from a limited defense-oriented model adopted and adapted by the Pentagon to secure information through diffusion to the commercial engine of the Information Age.
But with great success comes an overwhelming temptation for the state, an institution founded on coercion and theft, to exploit whatever is making a buck and to shut down or otherwise control whatever it deems to be a threat. Open communication and open commerce are the antithesis of the authoritarian state, and the Internet’s shining success is a rebuff to the statists who propagate the lie that anything they don’t control is doomed to failure.
The watchwords for the statists who seek to reimpose control over the “Wild West” of the open Internet are “protection” and “security.” Computer users have long had to deal with security vulnerabilities, whether viruses or Trojan horses or worms and the like, but numerous security firms have sprung up to remedy the problem.
Through competition and commerce, these firms have been able to innovate to handle much of the security demand. But the state implies in their arguments that there are some insidious foreign agents out there who care about what average Americans do and say. Military communications and civilian communications are largely separate matters; and if the military is using the open Internet for communications, perhaps it should be questioned why.
Regardless, the financial sector and city infrastructure are vulnerable to attack, but this is a matter for separate institutions to remedy through competition. Uniformity is in no wise conducive to widespread security; the conflation of big and uniform with secure and stable is a source of no end of confusion and widespread economic and political problems.
Central planners do not have the intelligence, the capability, or the time sensitivity to make themselves architects of information exchange for an entire nation; not without killing the confidence in telecommunications that has spurred true progress and commercial success.
But that won’t stop them from trying. Not only have commercial interests lobbied Congress to institute a potentially oppressive PROTECT IP Act, but there is now talk of supplementing that with a quasi-government body (think Fannie and Freddie) charged to “protect” America from attack. The name of the act that would bring this body into being, perhaps to coordinate with Obama’s “Cyber Czar,” is PrECISE.
The Department of Homeland Security was brought into being by the Congress for the supposed cause of “protecting” us from terrorists, but yet is a body that harasses more Americans than terrorists. One can be assured that any organization “empowered” by the Congress and delegated to the executive branch to “protect” the Internet will become both a censor and bully.
The U.S. government is feeling the heat of millions of Americans circumventing the normal establishment channels of communication to find out the truth about the widespread corruption and dangerous practices of the politicians. The mainstream media have been such powerful agents of social conditioning and political manipulation, but they are now widely distrusted and growing less relevant. Neither the state nor the media establishment are happy with this situation, where both are being held to higher account.
We have experienced a lag period of truly free communications, rare in history, and the state has taken notice. Prying the statists’ hands from the Internet will be no easy task; for surely the government will partner with big businesses in exchange for the kind of spoils we have so brazenly seen distributed under this lawless administration. If some brave firms should refuse to comply, they will simply be denied the right to exist and to operate.
Just as Americans have been taking precautions to secure their persons and property, they also need to take precautions to secure their information. But it is my belief that we should be as open and assertive in defiance of the state as it is intent on quelling our liberties. There is strength in numbers, and it appears that the government has been late to rouse through the bureaucrats’ hubris, which derives from their overconfidence in both their brilliance and our stupidity.