Tea Party believes open Internet a threat to freedom

What is the Tea Party's beef With net neutrality?


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


If there is one thing activists on both the right and the left can agree on, it is that the resurgence of grass-roots political activism was born of, and in many ways is dependent on, the power of a free and open Internet.

Yet at the same time as Sen. Al Franken spoke to a packed house in Minneapolis and warned of a corporate takeover of the media, and as a hearing featuring Federal Communications Commission Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps heard the public concerns of Verizon and Google's recent efforts to drive the regulatory framework for Internet access and the mobile media, Tea Party activists have apparently had a change of heart and would rather see a corporate takeover, a corporatization of the media world than to see the possibility of free citizen journalism.

According to Tea Party folks, who have made great use of the Internet, a free and open Internet threatens our freedom. Sorry, erm, run that by me again. More specifically, many on the far right view the Obama administration's movements toward net neutrality (no matter how sputtering and so far ineffective those movements may have been) as more evidence of a growing socialist agenda. How they make that one out beats me and I guess a great many others too, but thus is their train of thought.

Those who have come out in opposition to any proposed government regulation argue that the idea of net neutrality is an assault on free speech and free markets – that government regulation will prevent consumers from flexing their collective purchasing muscle and keep corporations in check.

The problem, of course, is that policy framework put forward by Google and Verizon and the mergers between many of the big players in the field limit the power of the consumer by consolidating services and providers. The fewer the players in any commercial market the less likely innovation and evolution can take place. However, this is not necessarily bad for a free Internet, especially one where activists can be active because the platforms are provided free, well sort of, by the bi players, such as Blogger, which is part of Google.

In a lot of ways Tea Party opposition to net neutrality is not all that surprising. The consistent narrative of this movement is anti-government involvement, even if certain nativist elements currently speak louder than the libertarians of the group. But the biggest problem here is that the opposition to net neutrality assumes an already functional free-market. And that's just not the case. Media consolidation has reached a tipping point and without strong action now, the kind of access that the public has become accustomed to, and the kind of access that has pushed successful grass-roots organizations on both the left and the right, is directly threatened by the growing corporatization of the Internet.

On this issue, the populists of both the left and the right should be able to find common ground. But so far the reaction from the right has been knee-jerk and contrary for the sake of being contrary. But if the Tea Party thinks that media consolidation in any way helps their cause, they are sadly mistaken.

The Tea Party behaves in its opposition to net neutrality and Internet freedom very much like a fascist government. Italy is a great example here where they are trying to outlaw – basically – any citizen journalism and thus any Blogs that may operate as a news and opinion platform as, according to the reasoning of the Italian lawmakers only licensed media is permitted; licensed by the Italian state, regardless of whether the platform for the Blog, for instance, is in Italy or abroad.

All those that wish to use certain pressures are afraid of freedom of the Internet and the real freedom of the press and rather have a controlled Internet and a controlled press. Often they claim that such controls must be put in place to “protect our children” and has it not been the mantra “for the children” each and every time, aside from “war on terror”, when new draconian measures have been brought in as regards to this and that.

Now it is getting even worse, as far as the Tea Party people are concerned, in that they claim that a free Internet is threatening our freedom. I am having a little difficulty with comprehending that line of thought except for this that, in my opinion, they feel threatened by it and thus claim that “our” freedom, that of the “free” world is under threat from a free Internet.

But, then again, we must not forget that those are also the same people who are afraid, so it would seem, of a free, well, sort of, and universal system of healthcare, like that in Britain and Germany, for each and every American.

That all definitely should make us think, methinks.

© 2010