Category: communications policy
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I believe that Alan Borovoy, father of Canada’s hate speech legislation, repented of his earlier enthusiasm for hate speech legislation and its expansion into human rights codes by the time it began to be used by Human Rights Commissions to suppress the likes of Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. At least his old friend and sparring partner George Jonas thought so:
It always puzzled me why Alan, a civil libertarian by vocation as well as avocation, would burn the midnight oil to set up laws and institutions designed to reduce the very liberties he was safeguarding and promoting by day. The answer, it seemed, was that he never imagined human rights commissions, a progeny of the progressive left, could be a threat to free expression. In my column a few days ago I wrote: “It never occurred to [Alan] that civil liberties can be threatened from the left…..
Initially, Alan, like many left-liberal social activists, believed he and his comrades could regulate conduct without affecting expression or conscience. After all, how could prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing turn into censorship in the media?
Unfettered by the illusions of the left, conservative civil libertarians could see it easily. Deny liberty to conduct; it’ll soon be denied to speech, or vice versa. Freedom is indivisible. Cutting it in half means killing it. King Solomon understood this in relation to babies; civil libertarians like Alan didn’t think it applied to civil liberties. He disdained any talk about “the thin edge of the wedge.” In the 1980s, with civil liberties already halfway down the throat of the voracious state, Alan was still dismissing the slippery slope as a shopworn myth. It took him another decade and a half to change his mind.”
The left wing assault on speech is only gathering strength, because now it is unhinged from reliance on courts or quasi-judicial bodies like human rights commissions. Now it exercises its whims through young twenty years old social justice warriors in the platform oligopolies: Facebook, Google, Youtube, Apple and Spotify. No such thing as fair process, or rights, hinder the process. What the Left does not like, is “hate”. That is to say, all speech not conforming to the left wing mindset of our times is hate: sexist racist fascist transphobic Islamophobic nyah nyah nyah.
The targeted takedown of Jones was strategic.
Few people want to defend the substance of his content. So CNN gets to wrap itself in self-righteousness, even though it was an act by CNN of political activism.
And yes, these are private companies who can do what the government cannot. We understand that. But they have taken on a role approaching public utilities, without whom we can’t communicate politically.
This is something we’ve covered a lot in the past year, how an oligopoly of left-leaning high tech firms control virtually all of our social media interactions. In my dreadful 9th Anniversary post, I wrote:
If the assault on the Electoral College was the game changer for me, a runner up was waking up to implications of the concentration of power in a small number of social media and internet companies who have been weaponized to shut down speech and expression. Google, Facebook, Twitter and two handfuls of other companies now completely control our ability to communicate with each other, while internet backbone companies are poised to block internet access altogether.
Imagine living in a repressive country in which the government blocked access to and suppressed internet content. You don’t need to move. It’s coming here but from private industry. This is, in many ways, more dangerous than government suppression of free speech because at least in the U.S. the government is subject to the First Amendment, and can be voted out of office.
The social justice warriors have moved from shouting down speakers on campus to pressuring high tech companies to expand the definition of “hate speech” and “community standards” to the point that anything right of center is at risk….
And further from Jacobson:
These social justice censors start with neo-Nazis, then define everyone who opposes them as the equivalent of neo-Nazis. So they move on to Alex Jones, then the NRA, and won’t stop until mainstream conservatives are banned.
Yet lunatic leftist #Resistance conspiracies proliferate on these same social media platforms without hindrance.
One of the best comments I saw about the Jones takedown was from David Reaboi on Twitter:
When the only thing you’ve got to say about the deplatforming of Jones is, “it’s a private business”—for conservatives, it’s a tell.
It means you don’t see the larger fight about deplatforming and Left’s “hate speech” restrictions to expression. You don’t know what time it is.
That is spot on. There is a war being fought for the turf controlled by the big tech social media oligopolies, and when the openness of these forums is lost, we’re back to the equivalent of Samizdat.
Sargon of Akkad has this to say:
A posthumous memoir from a mutant genius
John Perry Barlow, who died this year at age 70, was a Grateful Dead lyricist, a pioneer in the fight for online civil liberties, and possibly a mutant. As Barlow recounts in his posthumously published memoir, Mother American Night, his mother as a girl was treated for tuberculosis by a quack who administered a prolonged beam of X-rays right into her hip. Forty-five minutes of this treatment gave her radiation sickness. Her hair fell out, she suffered severe burns, and she was informed that, oops, she’d been sterilized.
The sterilization didn’t take. Two decades later, in 1947, she gave birth to John Perry Barlow. One of his X-Men superpowers seems to have been to unerringly locate centers of the American zeitgeist and discover some pivotal role he could play in them.
John Perry Barlow was the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He died in his sleep at the age of 70 on February 7th. He was a person with whom I wish I could have spent more time. He did a great deal of good on his life.
At a time when the freedom to express oneself on the Internet or anywhere else is under attack, it is important to recall that there is an issue on which liberals and conservatives ought not to differ. Free speech is one of them.
His obituary on the EFF website says of him:
Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”
The late John Perry Barlow was a songwriter with the Grateful Dead in his earlier days. Here is a link to his compositions.
When one considers that free speech is now associated with speech that the Muslims and the Left do not like, with “weaponized” discourse, according to the National Post article this morning, it is more than ever imperative to recognize friends of free speech wherever they may be found.
Traditional free speech advocates are reconsidering the status quo they helped create, in which hate speech is only a Criminal Code charge that requires political approval, and so is rarely prosecuted. There is even talk of resurrecting the defunct and much maligned ban on internet hate speech, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The latest example was a lecture this week by Omar Mouallem, an Edmonton journalist and board member of free expression group PEN Canada, in which he argued online racists have “weaponized” free speech against Muslims, and Canada should consider a new anti-hate law to stop them.
I have said it repeatedly, that the end goal of Islam and the political Left is identical: a fear-driven and conformitarian orthodoxy. They differ in that the ideology in Islam is constant, whereas with the Left it changes daily. I have no doubt that both are pernicious, but which will prevail is as yet unknown.
To the memory of John Perry Barlow, friend of man and friend of freedom. We need more like him. The fight is never over.
I was listening today to a journalist whom I rather like and do not agree with, Susan Delacourt. It was at a conference on digital governance. (Yes, cynics, I can see your eyes rolling). Susan is a decent sort of leftie, and in this case I use her to illustrate an issue about how the media have changed.
Her source of concern was a demonstration that occurred in Toronto recently where a bunch of Canadians were ranting about Islam, with the fear that some parliamentary motion was going to be the first step in the imposition of sharia law in Ontario.
Her comment on the issue of the media’s lack of control was this:
“We used to be the filter” and she added, sotto voce, “we have to go back to being the filter”. She said that, years ago, the racist rantings of a group of Ontarians upset about Islam, or anything else for that matter, would simply not receive wider circulation. Now everything is on YouTube. To find the clip above I simply entered “Toronto meeting Islam parliamentary motion”.
The upside of the digital revolution has been the changed media landscape; the downside has been the same. Nothing can be stopped any longer from being published. No locker room talk of 15 years ago can escape it. No picture of anyone with a dick in their mouth. No careless word, no angry remonstrance. No intemperate remark goes unpublished. There is no filter any more. You cannot “pull a story”. There is no central control, there is no fixed set of reporters, editors and news outlets. Google has sucked the revenues out of the newspaper business. Reporters are working faster to shorter deadlines for less money, with no time to develop a source, correct an error, or get it right.
As Blair Atholl once remarked, the printing press had a five hundred year run. The 19th century hot linotype machine defined the range and circulation of the news-paper. As an industrial structure it is passing out of existence.
The result has been the diminishment of the status of the reporter, the media outlet, and the editor, as well as the elimination of thousands of newspaper jobs. News gathering is much more do-it-yourself. Citizen empowerment means any bozo can upload something to YouTube, and does.
But the upside has been the lessening of thought and speech controls. People who are pissed off about Islam can say so now. The “facts” of global warming can be disputed. The people against the European Union can reach out to one another. Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pat Condell, Nigel Farage, Trump: people that the media would like to turn off, not record, not hear from: they cannot be censored any longer.
The interesting thing about today’s comment from Ms. Delacourt was her frank admission that they used to practice censorship and would like to do so again. For better or worse, the days are gone when the bien-pensant media class exercized censorship, try as they might to restore it.
The battle over Trump has been as much about the by-passing of media controls as it has been about Republican versus Democrat. As we have seen, those who hate Trump go ballistic at every mis-statement, such as for example, his reference to “trouble last night in Sweden”, and they miss the main point that everyone else seems able to understand, that Sweden is in dire straits because of too many uncivilized Islamic immigrants. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.
Moreover, the long-term suppression by the bien-pensants of what they believed people simply should not hear or see, was the cause of the build-up of popular resentment of the media. The job of selection, analysis, and assessment has passed out of the hands of a clerisy into the hands of the people. For better or worse. I say: for the better.
“Chronicle of folly” is the name that could just as well be attached to any serious blog. The world is too much with us and the follies are gigantic and continuing, on this we are all agreed. No sooner do we rid the world of a serious belief in the state’s owning the means of production (communism) than it resuscitates itself as the global warming panic, which calls for anti-market governance by bureaucrats seeking to adjust our carbon outputs, as if carbon dioxide were not one of the bases of life. There will be no end to it as long as humans are in charge.
But to today’s sermon will address a smaller and more parochial aspect of the march of folly: local news. It appears to our federal parliamentarians that there is a crisis in local news which needs fixing, and probably by state intervention.
The Commons committee will embark on an expansive study of “how Canadians, and especially local communities, are informed about local and regional experiences through news, broadcasting, digital and print media,” according to a motion passed Tuesday.
It will also delve into media concentration, and its impact on local news reporting, and how digital media fits into the whole picture. The MPs have committed to no less than 10 meetings for the study.
Now here’s the rub:
The fear is that with the decline of a strongly Canadian news industry, any shared sense of national identity is also in peril.
Fry says the study will take a close look at the shifting information consumption habits of Canadians, and whether they are getting enough Canadian content online.
It is inevitable that this kind of political exercize will wring its hands about national identity and bemoan the fact that we are not getting enough Canadian content on line. How much is enough? Even to ask that question is to posit a point of view from which to judge the matter, and that point of view is statist, or dirigiste. It assumes there is a “we” that knows, or can ever know, and that “we”, in the context of a federal government inquiry, consists of the chattering class opinion, largely Liberal, that will submit its report and call for “dialogue”, a “conversation” on national identity, and suggest means of controlling the Internet for the betterment of Canadian national identity.
This vision of the anointed will have to face the wrath of the Canadian people. We have moved on, while our governing classes seem locked in a worldview that we need the state-licensed, advertizing-supported video of the broadcasting industry . We have become used to getting our information in new ways. Even I, still a subscriber to a physical newspaper, have become used to gleaning information and opinion from twenty or thirty sources, and occasionally perusing another fifty blog sites. I do not feel I am underinformed. I do not feel the lack of fifteen pounds of newspaper accumulating every month for disposal. My biggest concern for the future of the news paper is to find a source of kindling material for my woodstoves in the country.
The legal hook that will become apparent is that the Internet is not regulated by the CRTC and the broadcasting industry is. The CRTC claims jurisdiction over the Internet to the extent it carries full motion video. Full motion video = “programming” and “programming” = “broadcasting”. That is how their interpretation of the law works. They have maintained that view since they first heard of the Internet back in the nineteen nineties. No technical reality of any kind has been allowed to interfere with their interpretation of the law. The Commission has chosen not to regulate the Internet solely on the basis that they have been unable to detect the harm done to the Canadian broadcasting system by the Internet.
Clearly the economic harm is mounting. It is as if the farriers, saddlemakers and ostlers got to determine whether the automobile was a threat to horse-centric transportation.
This recondite legal matter would have no importance but for one huge thing. To “broadcast” is to require a legal licence from the CRTC. To “broadcast” without a licence is to engage in a very serious crime, with enormous financial penalties and possibilities of jail time. According to the CRTC’s interpretation, this blog and the rest of the sites on the Internet within Canadian jurisdiction become licensable undertakings at the Commission’s discretion a) if they use video and b) are found in their collective economic effects, as a matter of fact, to be harming the licensees of the regulated broadcasting industry.
The advocates of the program production industry in Canada will tell us that they have just a little “Netflix” tax for us to help sustain the Canadian broadcasting industry. It won’t hurt and it will only apply to some minuscule part of the Internet.
Wait until you see the jihad (crusade if you prefer) unleashed by the Canadian public on the government and the CRTC when they try this. But as to the newspaper owners, who significantly overlap broadcast television owners, will they rise in revolt, or apply for “broadcasting” subsidies for their “local” news outlets?
PS: This is Dr. Hedy Fry, she of the accusations of cross-burnings on the lawns of interior British Columbia towns. She would not know how to find where the interior of British Columbia is, from her riding in downtown west-end Vancouver. The BC interior begins at Coquitlam, for this lady, if not Burrard Street.
One of my animating passions is the importance of the Internet for freedom of expression. You do not have to get your blogging licence renewed annually for $56.00 from the CRTC (just send your money by credit card to the Minister of Finance – they make it so easy and convenient to pay). Nor do you have to conform to the CRTC’s broadcasting exemption order, which gives you the right to “broadcast” across the Internet without a licence if you conform to its provisions.
As a blogger you do not belong to the regulated universe of broadcasting. You sit down to the computer and write, post pictures, upload videos, and voilà, your blog is ready for however many or few people can be attracted to it.
Broadcasting is a different matter. From the beginning, broadcasting has been heavily regulated by the state for cultural, economic and political purposes, everywhere in the world. The original justification was that broadcasters used precious radio spectrum, which is a public resource, and that signal channels needed to be assigned to particular uses and users so that interference would be prevented.
But once the hand of regulation was laid on broadcasting, the grip has never ceased nor its hold lessened.
Take for example, the leading issue of our time: the role of Islam in our future. Europe has been convulsed with a refugee migration, numbering in the millions, of young males who have been taught by their religion and society that they are conquerors of women and that non-Muslims are fair game for assault and rape. Mixing young Muslim men from unreformed societies into the modern world of Europe: what could possibly go wrong?
Just about everything. But you are not going to hear about “Asian” sex slavery gangs in Britain, or mass sexual assaults in Europe from your carefully controlled state broadcasters. No sirree! The carefully controlled public and private broadcasters exercize restraint and discretion in how they treat outrages committed by Islamic street trash.
A retired media boss at a major German state broadcaster has admitted his network and others take orders from the government on what — and what not — to report.
National public service broadcaster Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), which was recently forced into a humiliating apology for their silence on migrant violence and sex assault is being drawn into a fresh scandal after one of their former bureau chiefs admitted the company takes orders from the government on what it reports. He said journalists received instructions to write news that would be “to Ms. Merkel’s liking”.
Former head of ZDF Bonn Dr. Wolfgang Herles make the remarks during a radio event (from minute 27) in Berlin where journalists discussed the media landscape. Moving on to the freedom of the press, the panel chair asked Dr. Herles whether things in Germany had got “seriously out of whack”. With an honesty perhaps unusual in Germany, Dr. Herles replied that ordinary Germans were totally losing faith in the media, something he called a “scandal”. He said:
“We have the problem that – now I’m mainly talking about the public [state] media – we have a closeness to the government. Not only because commentary is mainly in line with the grand coalition (CSU, CDU, and SPD), with the spectrum of opinion, but also because we are completely taken in by the agenda laid down by the political class”.
“We are completely taken in by the agenda of the political class”.
There is nothing unusual or surprizing in this admission; German media are no more directed by government than are Canadian, and if they are, it is irrelevant to the argument I am making.
Broadcast media are the slaves of the agenda of the political class. Their enslavement is manifested by government regulation, by whose grace and favour they hold their licences, and to government funding, which keeps them alive. And no one should imagine that private broadcasters are any the less enslaved to government licences because they are also enslaved to private sources of advertizing revenues.
[Take our own broadcasting system as a case in point. We have only to consider Lisa LaFlamme of CTV news hyping every story of political incorrectness and victim-mongering versus the relative calmer national broadcaster, to see the truth of that assertion].
Can you think of one issue of importance in contemporary life where the broadcast media have not toed the line laid out by the political class? Islam? Anthropogenic global warming? Mass uncontrolled immigration?(in the US), multiculturalism? Political correctness?
Toeing the line: all feet come forward the same distance and height
And can you think of a single important political issue since 1990 where the contest against it did not start in the unregulated blogosphere? Certainly talk radio in the United States has assisted the expression of non-conforming thought. Yet the overwhelming case against the preferred positions of the political class have had their origin and found their audience through the blogosphere.
The most important function of the controlled media, here and elsewhere, is to persuade you that opposition is useless, vain, even insane, and that despite what is before your eyes, you must doubt what you experience and conform to the vision laid out by the media. You are alone; you are powerless to resist. No one thinks like you. You do not speak in public what you feel in private. I call it the Iron Mask of political correctness. It is placed over all of us, and it is our duty to notice it and take it off.
The liberation that came with the Internet – an unlicensed and democratic medium – was to allow people to identify themselves and not be alone, to make it easy for small groups to form who could share their disbelief in the false gods set before them by the national media to worship.
Some views expressed on the net are crazy, some bad, some vicious. Of this there is no doubt. But the negatives are eclipsed by the enormous increase of freedom of opinion made possible by the freedom, efficiency, and ubiquity of the Internet. The means of expression has been liberated from government licensing, for the time being. Let’s keep it that way.
Toeing the line: Government regulation of the broadcasting sector
José Ferrer was an old actor when he played the Emperor Shaddam IV in Dune. I have often wondered what a pleasure it would have been to speak the following lines, knowing they might be the last he ever spoke in a professional role:
“I want 50 legions of our Sardaukar terror troops on Arrakis at once!”
“Sire, that is our entire strategic reserve!”
“At once I tell you. I am talking about genocide. The deliberate destruction of all human life on Arrakis.”
Would any actor be able to resist the charm of a part that held such lines as these, and made them credible?
Think about the oil extraction business for a moment. Huge investments, monster engineering, and the world’s total dependence on petroleum to fuel our lifestyles. Think of tanker traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, and navies sent to protect shipping lanes. Think of 4 billion cars and trucks moving goods. Think of 18 million barrels of oil a day passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s biggest choke point.
Then think of the world’s vehicles coming to a halt for want of oil. Thus when you search google images for “Strait of Hormuz”, what mostly appear are of maps and warships.
Now imagine all the world’s oil had to pass through the easily blocked Strait of Hormuz, and alien powers controlled both sides of the Strait.Trying to block that strait would be asking for it, would it not?
Thus the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV pulled out all the strategic reserves to descend on Arrakis/Dune for a clean-up campaign of singular extremsim.
The particular genius of Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, was to postulate an esoteric substance akin to a psychedelic, made in only one place in the universe, Arrakis, that was the only conceivable fuel for interstellar transport at practical speeds. That was “spice”, the incidentally anti-aging compound that enabled Guild Navigators to “fold space”.
Thus, Dune is the most important planet in the universe, because there and there only is found the one substance that holds the known universe together in a network of trade and empire. And it bears more resemblance to LSD or DMT than petroleum.
Now imagine some little desert punk with a nom de guerre of Mu’ad Dib is threatening the supply lines with his guerilla.
Why could spice not be replicated elsewhere? As the story turns out, spice is the detritus of sand plankton which has come into contact with water, poisonous to the sand plankton ecology of Dune/Arrakis. The ecology of Dune is based on a life form for which water is a poison, and at the acme of the Dune food chain is the sand worm, Shai Hulud. The giant sandworms were the end stage of creatures that started out as sand-plankton, like krill that grew into whales.
At their greatest size, they were a mile long, and relentlessly patrolled their territories to destroy the sources of noise, whatever they were, animal or machines. Thus spice mining was an expensive affair, as extractor-refineries had to be lifted off the surface before the sand worms destroyed them. Only the vast profits of spice-mining could justify the accompanying losses of life and investment.
In the inimitable words of Baron Vladimir Harkkonen, the ultimate villain,
He who controls the spice controls the universe!.
And this is only part of the background to Dune, and not the plot line.
What is the spice of modern life?
So I ask you, what is the spice of modern life? What is the monopolizable commodity of inestimable value which can be cut off and when cut off, is disastrous for the economy?
Petroleum? comes close, but check out those pictures of battle fleets patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, and think about fracking. Supply is fungible. Prices can go down as well as up. We can destroy any overt seizer of oil supplies. Just ask Saddam Hussein. Navies serve as price regulators, in a way.
Coffee? Buy it for pennies and sell it for pounds to addicts, which is most of us. Comes close but is not grown in one place only. Cannot be monopolized.
Heroin? Does not drive the economy or human efficiency. Too debilitating. A limited taste.
Khat? Not addictive enough.
Tobacco? Addictive, but not monopolizable.
Alcohol? Ubiquitously available, even where it is banned.
Internet protocol addresses? there are 4.8 billion in IPv4 and galactic clusters worth in IPv6. Even if you used them up, they would just invent another numbering system for computer addresses. Very limited opportunities.
Wait a minute!
What about bandwidth into your home?
- vast investments preclude much competition;
- huge lobby power to influence governments and popular opinion;
- being pro-regulation makes you look like a commie;
- academics are on call to defend your power;
- vertical integration into services allows you to make money off the high-end services (TV, sports etc);
- endless litigation can be readily afforded.
I think bandwidth (signal capacity) is the spice of modern life. Unlike the case of Paul Atreides/Mu’ad Dib in Dune, it is by no means settled whether the Emperor will crush the rebellion or join it.
It us up to you, Prime Minister Harper. It is up to you, Commissioners of the CRTC. CRTC hearings begin on Monday on an apparently boring subject: on what terms should smaller Internet service providers be able to lease bandwidth from the carriers?
Will you play the role of Baron Harkkonen? That would be politically suicidal. Or the liberator of the spice, Paul Atreides? Dangerous but possibly worth it. Or the Emperor Shaddam IV? Hard to say, but he intervened on the wrong side of that dispute. Do not emulate his example.
You should be aware of this. In case the table is unclear, Netflix (the application) holds 31.09% of aggregate traffic share across peak period North American networks, followed by YouTube at 12.28% and HTTP at 11.84%.
Source: Ars technica
The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes and around it.