WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
So declared the Party in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. The corruption of language with a constant theme of Orwell’s work, most notably his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language.” So Orwell would not have been surprised to see the term “Internet Freedom” captured by those who advocate an increased role for government (i.e., Big Brother) online. Nor would Orwell had been surprised to see these advocates claim Orwell for themselves, insisting that opponents of government regulation are the ones corrupting language. There is perhaps no better example of this than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s comments in an interview with Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin about the divisive issue of “Net Neutrality” regulations:
Rachel Maddow [dripping with sarcasm]: Sen. McCain’s bill, as you mentioned, is actually called the ”Internet Freedom Act of 2009,” and he’s deriding the government effort to keep telecoms from walling off the Internet as “government intrusion” and “trying to regulate the Internet.” What that means is that he’s picked better branding, he’s picked better names. It doesn’t really relate the facts of what he’s doing. I’m wondering if it’s too late for a rebranding of the other side here. We need to get better about talking about this, because the language seems sort of corrupt at this point.
What makes Maddow’s comments so stunning is not her view that corporate America, rather than government, is the real enemy of freedom. That view is simply part of the long-regnant political orthodoxy. No, what’s stunning is that she actually thinks that her side is losing the “war of words” just because Sen. McCain had the gall to use the term “Internet Freedom” as a rallying-cry for the outdated, bourgeois notion that “freedom” means the absence of coercion by the one entity that can enforce its commands at the point of a gun and call it “justice”: that coldest of all cold monsters, the State. That’s precisely what “liberalism” used to be about until people like Rachel appropriated that word and words like “liberty” and “freedom” as slogans for control. Xeni Jardin picks up where Rachel left off by appropriating the concept of rights, too:
Xeni Jardin: the Internet really is a basic right, it’s a necessity,such a fundamental way for communicating and accessing information now. Telecoms shouldn’t be able to throttle, to block, to slow down our access to something that might not be in their corporate interests.
This is pure, unadulterated cyber-socialism: Rights become not the sacred defense of the individual, but a positive assertion of entitlement to a vaguely defined principle of access: by guaranteeing this access through ever-expanding “neutrality regulation”, government gains unlimited control over the Internet itself.
As Adam Thierer and I have warned, that way lies madness: Inviting the government to regulate online content and services in the name of “neutrality” (or “privacy” or any of the many “glittering generalities” ending in “-y” Orwell would have denounced) would be the death of real Internet Freedom, which requires a strict “Separation of Web and State.”
If you want to see this bastardization of the language of “freedom” in action, watch the video. Just as nauseating is the way that McCain and is “disdainfully dismissed” as a corporate whore because he’s—GASP!—received donations from the telecom industry. Obviously, he must only be committing these thought crimes because evil enemies of the People’s Revolution paid him to do so! (Of course, donations may to politicians that support increased regulation of the Internet don’t corrupt them because their intentions are pure! Anyone can support any cause they like with donations so long as the cause is the right one, as determined by the People’s Revolutionary Guard.)