Steve August 3, 2020

In 2010, US Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Thomas
Carper (D-DE) introduced their Protecting
Cyberspace as a National Asset Act
. Better known as the “Internet Kill
Switch” proposal for the emergency powers it would have conferred on the
president, the bill died without receiving a vote in either house of Congress.

A decade later, the same fake issues and the same authoritarian “solutions”
continue to dominate discussions on the relationship between technology and
state. The real issue remains the same as well. As I wrote in a
column on the “Kill Switch” bill nearly 10 years ago

“If the price of keeping Joe Lieberman in power is you staring over a
plow at the ass end of a mule all day and lighting your home with candles or
kerosene at night before collapsing on a bed of filthy straw, that’s a
price Joe Lieberman is more than willing to have you pay.”

A single thread connects the “Internet Kill Switch” to the passage
of Internet censorship provisions in the name of fighting sex trafficking (FOSTA/SESTA),
the whining of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials for “back
doors” to cripple strong encryption, and Tweety McTreason’s threats
to ban video-sharing app TikTok, supposedly because the Chinese government’s
surveillance programs just might be as lawless and intrusive as those of the
US government.

That thread is the burning, pathological compulsion which drives politicians
and bureaucrats to control every aspect of our lives, on the flimsiest of excuses
and no matter the cost to us.

The compulsion hardly limits itself to technology issues (the war on drugs
in a great example of its scope), nor is it limited to the federal level of
government (see, for example, the mostly state and local diktats placing millions
of Americans under house arrest without charge or trial “because COVID-19”).

That thread and that compulsion are more obvious vis-à-vis the Internet
than “public health”-based authoritarianism because we’ve been
propagandized and indoctrinated into the latter ideology for centuries, while
the public-facing Internet is younger than most Americans.

Few of us can remember the days before quarantine-empowered “health departments”
in every county, let alone a time when a five-year-old could walk into a store
and buy morphine without so much as a doctor’s note.

But most of us can remember a relatively censorship-free Internet and the false
promises of politicians and bureaucrats to respect the dramatically expanded
power it gave to free speech.

That makes “kill switches” and “back doors” and TikTok
bans a tougher sell. But the political class is still coming after the Internet.
If we want to continue living in the 21st century instead of the 11th, we’re
going to have to keep fighting them.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William
Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism
. He lives and
works in north central Florida.
This article is reprinted with permission
from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

Author: Thomas Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is senior news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society, letters editor at Antiwar.Com, and publisher of Rational Review News Digest.
View all posts by Thomas Knapp

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