Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Great Equalizer

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Kiss Your Internet Good-bye
by Servando González
= must read

" media critic A.J. Liebling rightly expressed, freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. Though in theory the opportunity to own his own printing press was open to every American citizen, in practice just a few, and lately only the very rich and powerful, were able to own one.

Granted, the media monopoly was never total, and many small presses proliferated, but the big ones, later joined by the network TV channels, just played the game, giving the false image of independent thinking. But suddenly, less than ten years ago, a technological breakthrough changed the rules of the game in a radical way, bringing about what media guru Marshal McLuhan envisioned more than thirty years ago: the global village. This revolutionary new medium is the Internet.

The Internet is a totally new type of communication medium that has changed our lives. It allows for easy, fast, and cheap exchange of ideas in an optimum way. Thanks to the Internet, owning your own press is as cheap as $20 a month. Almost anybody can afford it.

As soon as the people realized the power of the tool they had in their hands, many began using the Internet not only to gather the information they wanted, but also to become themselves providers of information. Sites offering the most surprising, contradictory, interesting, and useful information mushroomed, soon to be followed by many offering not-so-useful, in-your-face, sometimes disgusting or plainly gross content. But, even with its nasty aspects, the Internet radically changed the way most of us get the daily news.

Initially, the powerful media giants, both in printed and TV form, ignored the Internet as a curiosity or a passing fad. But sites like the Drudge Report, NewsMax, or WorldNetDaily, just to mention a few of the most successful, soon began attracting more and more readers, while newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times began losing theirs. Soon after, the big TV networks experimented their own dramatic loss of viewers.

Faced with the strong, unexpected competition, the media giants joined the Internet bandwagon, but they were in for a big surprise. Contrary to the traditional printed media and TV, where money plays a cardinal role -- only the very rich can afford to hire the qualified personnel and promote and market the product -- the Internet seems to be a pure product of the human intellect.

As the extraordinary success of the Drudge Report indicates, most people don't visit a site because it has a fancy design or is professionally made, but because it is a place where they can find provoking, non-mainstream ideas that make them think; exactly the type of thinking they were not able to find in the orchestrated, self-censored mainstream media.

Consequently, a site made by a housewife right from her kitchen in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or by an almost unknown journalist from his home office in Oregon or Florida, can compete on equal footing with the New York Times. This is exactly how extraordinarily successful sites like the Drudge Report and WorldNetDaily were born. Like the Colt .44 in the Old West, the Internet became the great equalizer.

But the people who control the media monopoly were not going to see their power challenged without a fight.

After their initial skepticism and scorn, and their failed attempts to extend their media monopoly to the Internet, they began a subtle process of infiltration.

For example, I was surprised when, in June, 2001, the notorious Alexander Haig Jr. joined NewsMax's advisory board. It is probably only a coincidence, but lately NewsMax has become a sort of mouthpiece for the Republican Party and an uncritical provider of the Bush administration's propaganda. Its most recent no-brainer is a "boycott France" campaign. I stopped visiting the site several weeks ago. On the other hand, if only half of what I found in this article is true, perhaps NewsMax's problems have deeper roots than I thought.

There is a saying in Latin America: "A los periodistas se les paga o se les pega." ("Journalists: you buy them or you hit them.") I don't think it is much different here. I expect that after some unsuccessful attempts to derail some of the most succesful sites, just to bring an example, the media powers will try to buy them. But, even though I don't think it would be easy for them to do it, and they may resort to strong arm tactics, the bottom line is that, because of its inherent characteristics -- the Internet is an off-shoot of the Arpanet, a military communications decentralized nodular network designed to survive a full scale nuclear attack on the U.S. -- the Internet is uncontrollable. It is a Hydra of innumerable heads.

They can keep buying and coercing people and eventually may get control over the most successful Internet sites, but other people will come forward, and their sites will rapidly become extremely successful.

The attempts of the media monopolists to control the Internet the way they managed to get control of the printed press, the TV channels, and, most recently, am radio, will never be successful.


The only solution to solve the Internet's growing challenge to the media monopoly is to shut it down and throw the key away.

How it will happen? One of these days, out of the blue, the Internet will be used for launching a devastating terrorist attack [...] this cyberattack will cost the lives of scores of [...] citizens. In order to avoid more damage, the government, putting to good use the recently approved anti- terrorist laws, will shut the Internet down and ban the use of the Internet as we know it.

But most government agencies rely heavily on the Internet.

How can they function without it?
No problem.

The replacement already exists; it is called Internet 2, reportedly a consortium being led by more than 200 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet. But, contrary to the deceptive techno-babbling rhetoric, Internet 2 is nothing more than a controlled Internet, similar to the one currently in place in totalitarian countries like China and Cuba.

Internet 2 will be fully controlled by the state. In order to access it, or to have e-mail access, you must be a member of, or be affiliated to, any of the government-authorized organizations and have a sort of security clearance. Internet 2 will be out of the reach of the general public, and every person trying to have unauthorized access to Internet 2 will be charged with terrorist activities, and severely penalized.

The unavoidable fact is that the Internet is incompatible with a totalitarian system of government. Therefore, either we are a bunch of delusionary paranoids, and what we see happening [...] is only a figment of our feverished imagination, and, consequently, the Internet will not be banned, or we are right, and it will disappear.

Actually, the disappearance of the current free Internet will serve as a litmus test that will accurately mark our final loss of freedom..."



Servando González is a Cuban-born American writer. Among his most recent books are The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol and The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Currently he is working on Fidel Castro Supermole, the second volume of a trilogy he is writing on Castro.

Note: I have edited a few lines out of this article, to soften its strong political tones and to allow more people to use it as a neutral vehicle to incentivate more critical thinking and questioning.

Robin Good

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, April 30 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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