The Free Speech Episode

The internet does it’s best this week to prove that “STOOPID” reigns supreme online as armchair activists drop their Cheetos, remove the wedgie from their tighty whities, and grab their keyboards to spew forth their vitriol and ignorance in support of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “reality” show “Duck Dynasty”.

As Paul, Steven and Daniel gently toss their ZZ Top beards into the discussions which revolve around freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment of the United States, Satanists raise money for their monument on Indiegogo, a mom gets arrested when a topless picture of her and her 14 year old daughter ends up on SnapChat, and the UK decides that adults are too stupid to decide what they want to view online.

Stories mentioned in this episode of the Nothing Serious Podcast include:

America – I Can’t Wait For You To Wake Up And Be Great Again

Anybody who’s been following my twitter stream probably knows that I’m disturbed by recent events here in the U.S, such as the introduction of the E-PARASITES / PROTECT-IP act and the Stop Online Piracy Act – “SOPA”.

I’m not the only one concerned, and Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm even went as far as to say that “congress has declared war on the internet“. Strong words, maybe not strong enough.

As a damn dirty foreigner, lefty European, filthy liberal, foreign bastard who is leaching of the U.S. and contributing nothing and who should gtfo out of America if he doesn’t like it a technology buff and an “outsider” living in the U.S., I’m increasingly concerned at the apparent erosion of the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of the corporation.

Growing up in Ireland (in the 80’s) I watched the great innovations that were happening here, learnt about the formation of the United States in school, read about the U.S. Constitution, and everywhere I turned we were bombarded with concept of the “American Dream”.

Much (95%) of this bombardment came from American media.

Back in the 80’s Ireland was broke. Our tiny population wasn’t able to afford to create much in the way of TV, so our radios were full of American and British music and our TV’s showed countless re-runs of American classics, and occasionally a high pressure weather system would come in, and with a little fiddling of the antenna, we’d pick up ITV or some other station broadcasting out of Wales.

We were bombarded with the best and worst (RTE, the national broadcaster, couldn’t always afford the good stuff) of American culture. We learned to love the American dream, but to loath the “Hollywood” version of America that was being pushed, with it’s thinly veiled veneer of style, racial undertones and obvious xenophobia.

We loved the idea of freedom of speech, particularly in a country that was still under the boot-heel of the Catholic Church, freedom from religion (although a secular Ireland would take another 15 – 20 years to arrive) and the idea that with lot of work and determination, somebody in America could achieve almost anything they desired.

Man, how times have changed. Seriously, the internet fucked things up royally for America when it comes to how Americans are viewed abroad. Maybe not the internet on it’s own, but certainly as up to the minute news became available, the veneer of America’s greatness began to get severely scratched.

As the results of America’s foreign policies filtered into our lives, as the fruits of America’s xenophobic attitude to education (there is America, and the sun orbits America), became readily apparent in discussions, forums, international politics and filtered into the lives of the common man – as we watched the once great nation succumb to fear, political shenanigans, religious bigotry and relinquish more and more personal freedoms for that ever elusive “hope” that you might be a little more safe, we’ve found ourselves asking how could this happen?

How could a country, founded on people wanting a better life for themselves, let things get so out of hand? How could the yoke of religion take such a hold in a country that prided itself on having separation of church and state written into the constitution? It’s perhaps ironic to note that England, who’s head of state is also the head of the Church and armed forces is today, essentially secular.

How could people willing give up basic freedoms, day in day out and allow themselves to fall prey to, heck, ask for and demand, a nanny state that serves only the corporate interest?

I don’t really have an answer to many of these questions, except to postulate “greed”.

There’s really not much wrong with America that you can’t trace back to simple greed.

Religion is huge in America. Ridiculously huge. To the rest of the western civilized world it’s bordering on insanity. It’s greed. Religion is a big, big, tax exempt business.

All political decisions are made by people on corporate payrolls. Talk around it anyway you want, but the simple fact is that bribery, by any other name is still bribery, even when it’s wrapped up nicely and spun as lobbying.

Education receives cutbacks and CEO’s making millions receive tax cuts, breaks and exemptions. Industries that should have been allowed collapse and the individual players absorb each other, which makes way for new start-ups, new innovation and new business, get hand-outs in the billions.

Again the problem is greed. An educated American instinctively shirks off certain intellectual shackles. Educated people tend to push away from religion, which is bad for the business of religion, which in the U.S. and lets not beat around the bush here, is the business of making money. It’s the great con. It’s not about saving your soul so that you can be rewarded in some divine after life, it’s about lying to you now so that those who peddle religion can reap the rewards in this life.

Educated people also tend to question things – purchases, advice, media, authority and none of those things are good for big business. Big business would prefer that you know just enough to make money and to spend it on what they tell you to, but not enough that you question them, their motives or authority.

They want you to be sheep.

I don’t blame them (the corporations) for that. If I were in charge I’d want exactly the same thing. It makes perfect business sense.

So, what do education, religion, greed and corporations have to do with PROTECT-IP, and SOPA?

Education, or more importantly, the limiting of access to information by essentially creating the “Great Firewall of America”. Despite what you may be told by those people introducing these bills, the fact of the matter is they are far more wide reaching than just blocking access to pirate sites outside the U.S.

…law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required. As Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said of the PROTECT-IP Act:

At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

In effect, the new law would route around many of the protections in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including the “safe harbor” provisions (a number of law professors have said that they believe the proposed legislation would be unconstitutional because it is a restraint on freedom of speech). The idea that ISPs and internet users can avoid penalties if they remove content once they have been notified that it is infringing, for example, wouldn’t apply under the new legislation — and anyone who provides tools that allow users to access blacklisted sites would also be subject to penalties.

It gets worse:

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick notes that the new bill actually expandsthe range of websites that could be targeted by the bill: the previous version referred to sites that were “dedicated to infringing activities” with no other obvious purpose, but the new law would allow the government to target any site that has “only limited purpose or use” other than infringement (by the government’s definition).

The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option…

Great firewall indeed. More liberties being eroded, (and don’t give me the bullshit that this is just about piracy.- this goes WAY beyond piracy and hits your freedom of speech directly) and there doesn’t appear to be a peep about it from mainstream America.

Perhaps mainstream America doesn’t care… right now. But they will care if one day they wake up and find that core parts of their online lives which they take for granted are gone.

But caring only goes so far as the uneducated (and that’s how they are trying to keep America) tend not to question things for long (if at all) and just move on.

I’ll wrap this post up with this sound bite from Hillary Clinton which she gave during a BBC Television interview recently (thanks to No Agenda for the clip), where she’s talking about training people to bypass the Iranian regimes control of the internet:

[audio|width=450|bgcolor=0×000000|titles=Hillary Clinton Talking About Iran On BBC|bgcolor=ffffffff|animation=no|remaining=yes]

This is one of my highest priorities. I’ve spoke out repeatedly about the right of people to have access to the Internet. It is freedom of speech and expression and assembly – values that we think every human being is entitled to.

How can American politicians say those kind of things about the need for internet access in other countries, about it being a basic human right, and then allow the introduction of such bills on their home turf?

I think you know the answer.

Why not do something about it? Make your voice heard. Take a step towards being great again.