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“Net Neutrality”: How Much Government Protection Can You Net For Yourself?

Another pseudo-concept will not die. If you follow The New York Times Technology section, you’ve been hearing so much about “net neutrality” that, by this point, you want to replace broadband lines everywhere with human centipedes of ISP executives, Internet content providers, and newspaper reporters. The loudest and most asinine apparently will win, so I figure that forcing them to talk into each other’s asses would be a big step up from talking out of their own.

“Net neutrality” is a variant of the leftist idea that freedom can be forced. Specifically, it’s derived from the fear that big corporations will hold the populace hostage by owning and hoarding some element essential for survival, in this case the number of terabytes per second at which you can update your Facebook friends on the status of your gastroenterological disorders. Because, you know, what big corporations like to do most is invest a lot of money in stuff and then sit there and fucking stare at it.

The fear is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will dictate to Internet users what content is free and what content must be paid for, or even whether users should have access to particular content at all. No one person or company owns or should own the entire network, the argument goes, so no one person or company should have the ability to prevent anyone from accessing it.

I agree with that. No one should have the ability to prevent you from doing anything. By the same token, no one (that means you, you tyrannical asshole) should have the ability to force anyone to provide anything. Internet access requires technology, owned by particular individuals, and human labor, performed by living human beings. Should you desire Internet access from a particular individual, you deal with said individual on the basis of trade. In other words, show some fucking consistency, you hypocrite. You whine that no one should force you from accessing the web, but you’re perfectly fine with force if it’s in your favor. Don’t pretend your issue is with the use of force, or anything to do with freedom. Your issue is who gets to use the force against whom.

The latest perversion in this debate has been contributed by our friends at Google and Verizon. In the proposal from these two companies, they admit that they are asking for a watered-down version of pure “net neutrality”. Their proposal allows some actual freedom in the mobile arena (if you ask me to call it the mobile “space”, I will suture your tongue to your frontal lobe). This means, of course, that every pipsqueak who is not yet, but who eagerly wants to be, a Google or a Verizon is yelping that this exception could lead to big corporations dominating an entire medium of communication. Presumably, because these two clowns aren’t so sure yet about their dominance in the mobile space – fuck, I said it – they want to give themselves the option to stream as many stupid cat videos as possible to everyone’s Android phone.

As with all major social, political, and cultural questions, it seems, both sides enjoy their own unique wrongness on the issue. In the question, “what is two plus two?”, the argument becomes three versus five. But the stupidity is more monumental in this case, with one side arguing for five because they think it’s a good compromise between six and eighteen. Holy shit, is this world fucked up. If Superman were alive, he’d shoot himself in the nuts with Kryptonite bullets. A battle with Lex Luther would be a vacation compared with having to save us from ourselves.

The argument put forth by the reporters who are so knowledgeable about the issue, a group of people who should be vigorously defending individual rights, is not an argument against regulation and government infringement of rights, but rather an argument against the minimal infringement of rights. If you want to see what institutionalism on a national scale looks like, read the Times editorial stance on net neutrality. They actually had me convinced that they were sincere about this stuff. Truly mind-blowing.

I have no doubt that the issue is further complicated by the complexities of existing ISP regulations, many of which I’m confident the ISPs whose rights I’m defending have endorsed. This is to be expected in our noncapitalist society. Issues are discussed by big pressure groups in bullshit language meant to imply that principle, rights, privacy, and freedom are somehow relevant, when it’s clear as fucking day that the real goal is to advance some bullshit pragmatic agenda.

It’s true with every issue. Take one at random. Say, whether Muslims have the right to hold tailgate parties at the site of Ground Zero. If you argue for the affirmative, is it really because you want to defend the rights of Muslims, or care about religious freedom, or have an interest in protecting the rights to speech or property? Fucking doubtful. It’s because either you’re a Muslim who hasn’t bought his airplane ticket yet, or you want other people to think you care about rights.

Same shit, different issue. “Net neutrality” proponents (of any variety, on or against the Google/Verizon side) are in favor of it because either they have something immediate to gain (forcing ISPs to provide them with a service while simultaneously withholding it from their competitors), or they have something to gain a bit more long-term: the overall restraint of society, with the hope (or feigned hope) that a bunch of slaves can’t hurt each other as much. Those “net neutrality” proponents with apparently nothing to gain are by far the sleaziest of them all.

But enough is enough. (I’m referring to the length of this rant.) Someone has to defend someone’s rights to do something. The bulk of the world, myself included, is tarnished by some degree of hypocrisy and to some extent has voluntarily given up their right to their own sovereignty or unintentionally weakened their own case for it at some time or other. But we need to start taking back our individual freedoms a piece at a time. As to whose freedom to start with, just spin around and spit into the air. That ugly, pissed-off mug you just hit is as good an individual as any.

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3 comments

1 Katrina { 08.25.10 at 2:13 pm }

You should try surveying some people you know about what they think net neutrality means. I think the only reason why I know what it means is because I never, ever read the news. Just about everyone I’ve asked has thought net neutrality was supposed to stop ISPs from shutting down websites due to their content. Silly rabbit, that’s the Chinese government’s job. Even pro-free market people are sometimes duped into supporting this since companies like Comcast are government-enforced monopolies.

It’s very hard to have a conversation or debate when the subject let alone the issue is incorrectly defined. I experience this a lot in the health care debate when questions of insurance come up. So many intelligent capitalists simply have no idea what insurance is, because the concept of insurance has been distorted and twisted into something it’s not by the press and the politicians.

2 Jason Roth { 08.26.10 at 7:42 am }

So many rights are violated on a daily basis, and the system of laws that big corporations have to operate in (and, often, have actively helped create) is so absurdly complex and contradictory, that there’s often not a clear-cut, practical position to take. You have to take a philosophical position, and then explain that in order to enact your position in reality, x, y, and z would need to happen first. And then, if you get to the point at which you’re explaining why things are so screwed up that x, y, and z need to happen, you can get into a whole other argument about whether x should happen, and whether premise a or b leading to your decision to do x is correct, and, for that matter, whether you have all the latest statistics pointing to premise a. And if you don’t (say, for example, that you can’t remember the exact number of salmonella cases that occurred in Tasmania during the first two weeks of June, 1856), then your whole argument will go down the drain.

3 Katrina { 08.26.10 at 8:11 pm }

This is why I gave up arguing about politics in favor of drawing pictures of unicorns.

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