Controlling the Last Free Voice in the World

February 17, 2006

By Tom DeWeese

The American people simply have no idea what it’s like to live in a totalitarian society. We go where we want; watch movies and television shows or any kind; start new businesses on a whim; shop in huge supermarkets that carry any item imaginable; even sit in public places and say anything we want about political leaders.

Today in our modern society, many of us sit at our computer for hours on end sending e-mails, corresponding, web surfing, researching, subscribing to web sites, gaining information, booking hotels and airline reservations, buying gifts, even creating personal web sites – or blogs – where any average citizen can vent on the political issues of the day and send it to the world. Frankly, there is simply no end to what we Americans can do sitting in our own homes behind our trusty computer. The Internet is fast becoming the most valued root of our free society.

To better understand the vast scope of such American freedom, contrast it with a recent new story out of Beijing, China. The Associated Press (AP) report details how the Communist government has forced Microsoft Corporation to shut down the Internet journal of a Chinese blogger who discussed “politically sensitive” issues, including a recent strike at a Beijing newspaper.

The AP report says, “Although Beijing has supported Internet use for education and business, it fiercely polices content. Filters block objectionable foreign Web sites, and regulations ban perceived subversive or pornographic content and require service providers to enforce censorship rules.” In its defense, poor Microsoft admits to being a pawn to whatever gang of thugs is in charge. “When we operate in markets around the world, we have to ensure that our service complies with global laws as well as local laws and norms,” said Brooke Richardson, Microsoft spokeswoman.”

Of course the “local norm” in Communist China is to ban anything that criticizes the brutal totalitarian government. The communists call literature like the Declaration of Independence “pornographic.” The fact that Microsoft caved so quickly on this obvious censorship, for fear of losing the Chinese market speaks volumes about corporate globalism which pledges no allegiance to any country or idea other than profit for profit’s sake.

Imagine what would have happened had the Bush Administration even remotely suggested any form of censorship of the Internet. Microsoft would have had their well-paid lawyers, lobbyists and public relations people on a full frontal assault against the very idea. They would have done it because they don’t fear the U.S. government and so they can. Not so in Communist China.

But imagine what could have been accomplished in Communist China had Microsoft worried less about losing a market and more about gaining some freedom for an oppressed people. Imagine if Microsoft had reacted to the Communist order by refusing, instead shutting down its operation in China and using its formidable press operation to tell why. China would have blinked and quite possibly relented.

Why is the China story so important? To fully understand, switch to another recent news story. That story is the unrelenting control of the Internet by the United Nations. Things got serious in the UN’s bid last November at an international confab held in Tunis.

Focus of the meeting was a desire by several UN member nations to wrestle control of the Internet from the U.S.- based International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a quasi-governmental non-profit organization that oversees the day-to-day operation of the Internet. ICANN doesn’t control who uses the Internet and it doesn’t censor content. It’s a free market and ICANN’s mission is to preserve it as such. To make it even better, though today ICANN operates under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce, in November, it will actually become a fully private corporation, breaking all of its governmental ties.

The UN argues that the Internet is international in scope and needs much grander over site. Who better to handle the chore, of course than the body that fancies itself an international government? The Internet is fast becoming the biggest international prize as the greatest source of information and human involvement. It offers the UN huge opportunity for creating tax revenues and controlling commerce. It is also the place to control the flow of ideas. What totalitarian can resist a bid to control the Internet?

The assault on ICANN was fierce at the Tunis meeting, but the Bush Administration thought it was able to argue its way out — for the time being keeping ICANN in control. However, the Administration made a fatal error when it agreed to let the UN create a permanent standing body called the “Internet Governance Forum” (IGF), which intends to keep up a long-term campaign to finally achieve UN control over the Internet.

And what will happen to the free Internet once the UN takes control. Go back to the top of this story and simply replace the words “Communist China” with “the UN.” What corporation will then oppose such censorship? And what censorship can we expect? Here’s a good example: Hate talk. We’ve all heard discussions about it. Most shake our heads in agreement that it just shouldn’t be allowed. Even pro-family groups argue that there should be some law, some control over it.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.