My beloved The New Republic, which I'm less enamoured with now that it is owned by a Silicon Valley tycoon, Chris Hughes, ran an editorial titled Net Gain, in which it recited every single one of the geek squad's pet planks.
Ugh, this is awful, and what I was afraid of when I saw this liberal magazine taken over by Hughes. I've been watching to see if the signs of bias and open source cult creep would start appearing. So far, there have just been things like too much Tim Noah surfacing, and two rants on Citizens' United, which is a pet subject of Occupy Wall Street and the nerds of G+. Leon Wieseltier was able to lob in a critical column on the goofy Google guru for productivity, a fake Buddhist, and the center seemed like it might hold.
So I was thinking we might escape, much as we escaped even with TNR's sale of pages to Saudi Arabia, and even with the loss of Peretz, but no...
"Net Gain" is a vivid example of the Silicon Valley torque that will happen to the editorial line now, and the reason why this rich man bought this outlet, to push his views. It's very sad, but maybe if we all call it out, it might change.
I'm appalled by this editorial. It was dropped right into the pond wholesale by Chris Huges, the new owner, with every single political plank in the Silicon Valley agenda without any intellectual debate. Indeed, probably the other editors didn't feel they could debate it because it was "technical". Yet if for 5 minutes, the same critical thought of Leon Wieseltier brought to the notions of scientism, or the fake Zen of the Google productivity guru elsewhere on these pages, was brought to the subjects of fake notions like "net neutrality," we'd likely see the editorial simply disappear.
Everything about this editorial is straight out of Silicon Valley central casting with every hackneyed and misleading claim about the Internet. We're to believe that consumption problems and scarcity of bandwidth -- often caused by the bittorrent kiddies downloading pirated stuff! -- can be handily converted to "free speech" problems. What tripe! We're told that the SOPA bill was "overzealous" and hampered "freedom of expression" when the problem again, was about consumption and production of pirated content. The bill contains definitions, remedies, and fail-safes that would make it impossible to shut down a teenage Tumblr blog over an illegal Youtube link or upload.
It's really intellectually unconscionable to imply that there was something overbroad about legislation designed to target pirates who cause billions of dollars of losses, or that somehow music critics were going to be stifled. Not when the bill said very explicitly that the sites had to be commercial, in large amounts of a certain value, persistent over time, and not when it gave as a defefense within the bill the notion that removal of the content would pose a significant hardship to the site owner, i.e. because it would harm his legitimate business.
It really is an appalling display of thuggish muscle we saw in the anti-SOPA campaign, that scorned representative government and replaced it with a flashmob, complete with the tech blackmailing of website blackouts like Wikipedia.
And then that fake evenhandedness claiming the FTC is really going after Google, when it has only suffered wrist-slaps of tiny fines for its erosion of privacy and its monopolistic behaviour.
Net neutrality is ill-named and argued here as a propagandistic storm covering up a business model -- the California business model that involves hijacking content first, selling ads with it, then letting IP owners chase the platform provider with DMCA takedown notices.
As for CISPA, private companies suffer as much as government from overseas hacker attacks, sometimes committed by obvious malevolent governments, not individuals, i.e. the recent massive attack on ustream by Russian hackers to stop coverage of the demonstrations. The bill calls for voluntary sharing of anonymized data and doesn't intrude on the privacy of individual accounts unless the government indeed makes its case and shows probable cause. But these companies should obey their TOS in the first place; indeed, if they did that, we wouldn't see SOPA or CISPA because they would be doing a good job of regulating themselves. They are not.
And finally, this silly meme that Congress and "the world of politics" is somehow technically incompetent and therefore geeks get to use circumvention software to route around representative democracy is dangerously authoritarian. There is nothing special about the Internet, which is like any human enterprise and should be under the rule of law.