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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Escaping and Evading Coming Government Censorship

While many people assume that even if the worst happens that satellite radio will be an unregulated option for the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the reality may well be otherwise.

First of all Sirius XM radio is hardly an island of freedom outside of government influence. It may not have the same heavy hand of the FCC on its shoulder that AM radio does, but with the merger of Sirius and XM radio, two things happened.

First of all the merger of XM and Sirius created one satelite radio giant, which also means fewer alternative options. One of the first steps of the merged Sirius XM company was to cut back on existing channels.

Second of all the merger, widely considered illegal, puts Sirius XM thoroughly under government control, which can choose to crack down on it at any time by re-opening an anti-trust investigation against it. Even the threat of such action would easily make Sirius XM extremely vulnerable to any dictates from the Justice Department, currently controlled by Eric Holder, a corrupt Pardongate figure who was criticized in a congressional report for abusing his office, and who answers to Obama.

With Sirius XM technically already in violation of the FCC agreement that allowed the two companies to merge, the company knows quite well how vulnerable it is to any action against it. And if Sirius XM already wasn't vulnerable enough, satellite radio is closely tied in with the automobile industry, and GM, recently a recepient of Federal funds, holds a major stake.

And then there are the political loyalties of the men behind Sirius XM. Gary Parsons, chairman of the board of Sirius XM, donated 2300 dollars to Barack Obama. So did Nathaniel Davis, its President and COO, Jeff Blattner its Senior VP, along with Sirius XM's executive VP, and numerous other company executives.

What all that adds up to is that if the knife comes down, Sirius XM may not be the solution. Realistic alternatives to such censorship will have to be focused primarily on the internet. Designed to continue functioning even in the event of a nuclear war, controlling the internet remains difficult.

Censorship usually begins at the top, and the internet lacks a true "top". The cultural decentralization of ideas that the internet makes possible can be ugly, but it also assures a kind of independence. So does the virtual anonymity of much of the system. That however can quickly begin to change. As I wrote a month ago, plans are underway to create government controlled forms of secure access in the name of fighting identity fraud.

Controlling the internet would require both closely monitoring and regulating the internet. The Clinton Administration had opened the door to regulating speech on the internet with the Communications Decency Act. Both such attempts were shot down by the Supreme Court for being poorly worded. It is not certain that they will be reintroduced, but current Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked under Janet Reno and her efforts at internet censorship, had called previously for internet censorship.

The court has really struck down every government effort to try to regulate it. We tried with regard to pornography. It is gonna be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at. - May 28, 1999 NPR Morning Edition

Whatever restrictions come into play, they likely will be "reasonable". This time out Holder may not try the pornography approach. Fighting Identity Theft or controlling extremism may serve as the justifications for restricting the internet. New York Governor Spitzer had already begun the dismantling of the internet as a state tax refuge, a process that has now gone nationwide. Dismantling the internet as a free speech haven would be a more complex matter.

The centralization of internet access is one key point. With the transition of more American households to broadband, Cable providers enjoy widespread monopolies across large areas and millions of customers. Cable companies may be profiting from the internet, but they are also threatened by it. The very same access that enables customers to go online, also enables them to bypass cable companies by watching programming online, as well as using independent VOIP services to bypass the cable company telecom offerings, and cable companies are fighting back. With cable companies struggling to get government permission to regulate their users, and a new administration interested in regulating internet users, this twin set of interests between cable companies and the government is set to overlap.

Additionally Google has emerged as a powerful force for centralization, gobbling up emerging companies such as YouTube and Feedburner, and demonstrating a clear political bias in its dealings. Google's dominance of the search market gives it a great deal of control over what customers can and can't see, and as Google's agreement with the People's Republic of China has demonstrated, Google is willing to censor to accomodate governments.

As Google emerges as a larger player, its lobbying has become more aggressive, and it needs government to promote the policies it favors, while restraining the sort of anti-trust investigations that scuttled the Google-Yahoo ad deal. With Google's notoriously data hungry ways and ultra-liberal politics, it could well serve as a vital ally in any internet censorship scheme.

However the attempts by totalitarian regimes such as China to control internet traffic has in turn generated a variety of tools to bypass censorship that may come in handy should the domestic picture turn ugly. Additionally the tensions between the internet's centralization and decentralization trends create a constant friction that is innately hostile to any form of permanent control.

The decentralized bias that was seen during this election was an ominious event, but it is quite different from an attempt at centralized censorship. For now decentralized bias has been working quite well for Obama and his cronies. Any intensive attempt at internet censorship would itself backfire even among his supporters. What we are more likely to see are "delicate" attempts at control, at pressuring the right company to make changes, to crack down on speech that is considered hateful, to be far swifter in pulling websites and blogs that are politically incorrect.

Such actions could occur in the shadows, disguised by language that emphasizies the positive and avoids any mention of censorship, and yet would spread the shadow of censorship nonetheless. And the best way to avoid it is to research and be educated about the alternative options. Censorship begins at the top, which means that bigger companies will begin implementing it first. Bloggers in totalitarian countries such as Iran and China have managed to stay online, despite vigorous censorship. We can and should learn from them. Finally it is important to closely monitor any moves toward censorship. Censorship is much easier to stop before it becomes custom or law, then once people have become used to it. Awareness is the key to resisting the creeping totalitaranism coming down the road from D.C. By being aware we can stay free.


  1. The days are coming when no one will speak above a whisper because the mixed multitude, with Esav and Ishmael will be in control.
    ----for a little while.

  2. My guess is eventually the half-breed will try to shut down Rush, who will pull an arutz sheva (it's early days) and do an off-shore pirate ship broadcast. :]

    At which point, half-breed will have Rush's ship blown out of the sea, which in turn will bring Rush's 20 million listeners to Washington where the half-breed will be captured, cut in half and freedom will be restored.

    Hey! I can dream!

  3. ROFL Yobee!

    Personally though, I believe that as more and more media outlets get more Internet savvy there could be a huge backlash against Internet censorship.

    Nothing makes reporters howl and wail more than even a hint of censorship.

    They might be hopelessly devoted to Obama right now but once he or his agents start infringing on their First Amendment rights that could all change.

    Already some media organizations such as Committee to Protect Journalists and even the ACLU are defending bloggers and their rights to free speech.

    BTW: The ACLU isn't all bad, especially when it comes to fighting censorship. I know from first hand experience with them.

    Google is scary. Recently they reported on what information people search for when they think they have the flu.

    I have an idea--everyone go to a Google search engine and type in the words "Google Equals Censorship."

    Totally freak them out :)

  4. I do agree with Sultan that the Obama Adminstration will make its first attempts at Internet censorship under the guise of fighting Hate Crimes or Identity Theft.

    Extremism, too. He won't use the term war on terror because apparently that's been dropped from his lexicon.

  5. Anonymous9/2/09


    Far-right British National Party members discuss attacks on Jews.

  6. Anonymous13/2/09

    The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech .

    And the answer to the problems of inbred, stone-age, pedophile-worshipping savages taking offence is to cause them more offence.

    Free speech - use it or lose it. Do something gratuitously offensive to Muslims every day.



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