Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Securing your Right to Free Speech

Summary and Fundimental Assertions:
  1. Free Speech is a protected Natural Right, recognized in many places.
  2. Alienated or marginalized individuals are able to coalesce into a cohesive movement through a common language of resistance
  3. An open free speech area that promotes ideas on their own merit will aid in the development of a Manyspeak democracy
  4. Free Speech frightens the State because it threatens the illusion and control of a unified Onespeak Democracy.
  5. The state identifies, regulates and infringes free speech.
  6. The state is very likely to continue to infringe further and further.
  7. You can take measures now to protect yourself and your right to free speech. 
  8. Further measures of protection should be developed and more regularly employed.
  9. We are afforded, currently, a tremendous opportunity to unshackle our society from an engineered Onespeak Democracy
  10. The challenges presented by a Manyspeak Democracy can be overcome by the restoration of Freedom and the Rule of Law. 

The Right To Free Speech:

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution reads as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"
But congress has made laws, haven't they? From the Biden-Feinstein Act to bills that speak of "Homegrown Domestic Terrorists", they write bills, and vote, and appoint watchers and listeners, and our rights are continually infringed and eroded.

The Nineteenth article of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

But all around the world governments, from China to California, tell their people what information may and may not be imparted or received, dont they? And then they watch and listen to what is said, seeking out violations of their oh so important regulations, for "the good of the state."

Eric Holder, the Attorney General apointee of President Obama, the highest law enforcement office in the land, has stated that he does in fact support "Reasonable Restrictions on Free Speech" especially concerning that all too scary boogieman "Internet."

The Internet, as you will no doubt hear more and more in the coming months, is a danger to the status quo, the stability of systems, because it is essentially unregulated. What they wont say is that it is essentially equal, and it is this equality that poses the real risk. All forms of expression that can be used to impart information are to be feared by those who prefer safety and stability to freedom, and are in danger, but the Internet is a special case. While people like Chuck Schumer wont come out and say it, the reason he says that the Internet "should be regulated like pornography" is that the Internet has very little in the way of class or caste controls. As many members of blog sites, such as this one, show, Anyone Can Have a Voice. This is a scary idea for the controlling oligarchy, and if you contrast this with the historical emphasis on freedom of the press, which was intended to be in fact free; but only at a price, you will notice a stark difference, a difference with a huge and beneficial impact on democracy.

In 1791, at the adoption of the first amendment, "Freedom of the Press" only applied to a handful of pressowners, all well-to-do members of their communities, often businessmen with a variety of other investments. The ordinary citizen could not afford a printing press. In short, these were all men who were part of the system, and who, if they strayed from the system, had something the system could hold over them to bring them back into the fold.

Its true, people who weren't connected, or well-to-do, were still able to speak their minds and could often still hand letter handbills or letters and make their viewpoints know, but to who? a handful of bills or letters at most, and in this way, this freedom of speech, and of the press was protected, but always slanted through the screened voices of class separation. The mass influence of the modern press was unrivaled, even up into the technological age, where its class tradition was preserved in the new worlds of Radio and Television. As these new technologies developed, there arose private newsletters and shortwave radio stations, even small mail order video distributors, with alternative viewpoints, but still, the influence of the status quo, the system of the affluent, far exceeded the influential impact of a few people here and there who might receive such mailings, or such broadcasts, and so, while the movement of information was free, it was always essentially controlled, at least enough for a democratic society to maintain its equilibrium through majority influence and preserve the status quo. This is the essential point of maintaining mob rule, with the viewpoint that unbridled democracy is inherently instable, tumultuous and undesirable. In effect, the idea that The Masses can't be trusted.

The accessibility of the Internet, however, is quite different from the mass media concept of tiered information, as not only can anyone, at almost no charge, post their opinion, anyone can reach, and read it, and with exactly the same investment, is able to repost it, or forward it, if they so desire. In this way information is uncontrolled, and in fact viral. It is true that no one web journal article or independent web page is read by as many people as say the front page of CNN, so in a way that tiered propagation of viewpoints is maintained, even on new technology, but at the same time, one article, or idea can be spread from person to person, from web journal to web journal in a matter of minutes, often traveling further than a single article from a big news site ever could. This propagation of information, spreading like the branches on a tree, is what has made the Internet a powerful tool for the conveyance of ideas.

For the first time in history, information has the potential to be vetted entirely on its merits, and not on the merits of the person or agency providing the information.

If you would, consider the following:

"Colonial rebellions throughout the modern world have been acts
of shared political imagination. Unless unhappy people develop the capacity to
trust other unhappy people, protest remains a local affair easily silenced by
traditional authority. Usually, however, a moment arrives when large numbers of
men and women realize for the first time that they enjoy the support of
strangers, ordinary people much like themselves who happen to live in distant
places and whom under normal circumstances they would never meet. It is an
intoxicating discovery. A common language of resistance suddenly opens to those
who are most vulnerable to painful retribution the possibility of creating a new
community. As the conviction of solidarity grows, parochial issues and
aspirations merge imperceptibly with a compelling national agenda which only a
short time before may have been the dream of only a few. For many American
colonists this moment occurred late in the spring of 1774." -- T.H. Breen, The
Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence,
Oxford University Press, 2004, p.1.

As information and opinion spreads, it can be latched upon by unhappy portions of the masses, who, then, are no longer isolated from the rest of society, and inevitably, through either isolation or re-assimilation, neutralized as mere interruptions of the status quo. Instead, unhappy portions can gather and form their own shadow societies, people with like values or beliefs can gather virtually or physically and reinforce those beliefs and values together, as they communicate and interact separately from the masses that share the beliefs and values pushed down by the tiered and controlled media, society at large. This shared political imagination can spontaneously, organically bloom into a societal revolution of sorts, with a definite impact upon democracy. Just in recent times, i can think of one such "revolution" that did, in fact, have a definite impact on the last presidential campaign, though that movement was only in its infancy.

This sort of organic democracy, is, and always has been a challenge to the authority of the status quo state. As society evolves, an autocratic or unresponsive government will always lag behind the will of the people, which it tries to combat by controlling that evolution. A society that can evolve in many different directions simultaneously is a logistical nightmare for any controlling statist, and therefor, a threat. 

And so, these status quo statists, believe that they must fight this unstable and dangerous force. They pass laws outlawing certain types of speech, they first illegally, and then under protection of law, set up processes and agencies to monitor 100% of the available information, building databases and launching investigations into those that originated it. Examples, or signals of this impending choke hold already abound, both to frighten people into "watching what they say" and to punish those who might originate such language of resistance; ideologically, or through action. 

In 1996 the Communications Decency Act was signed into law, severely restricting online speech that could potentially be seen by a minor – which, of course was argued, is almost all of online speech. (Crying "its for the children!")

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act criminalizes the discussion and dissemination of technology that could be used to circumvent copyright protection mechanisms, and makes it easier to act against alleged copyright infringement on the Internet.

The Biden/Fienstein Act made it illegal to instruct anyone how to build explosives or other dangerous weapons on the Internet (older pages say to boil bleach outside and add salt to supersaturation) 

Jim Bell has of this year served over 10 years in a federal prison for writing a single article he posted to the net. The original article, entitled "Assassination Politics" was pulled from the internet, and for many years the government forced other servers to remove copies of the article, but soon realized they were fighting a losing battle, and instead creating much more interest, through its big brother censorship tactics, in what was originally an obscure thought exercises in free market impacts on government corruption. Today a simple google search will bring up hundreds of copies. 

Sherman Austin, an 18 year old kid in L.A. was arrested and convicted, not for writing anything, but for merely hosting content on his server, "raisethefist.com" content that the government didn't agree with, and he was convicted of "cyberterrorism" the first such case tried under the S.U.B.J.errr... P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.

And its not just Political activists that have been targeted or silenced.

A January 4, 2007 restraining order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein forbade a large number of activists in the psychiatric survivors movement from posting links on their websites to leaked documents which purportedly show that Eli Lilly and Company intentionally withheld information as to the lethal side-effects of Zyprexa. The Electronic Frontier Foundation appealed this as prior restraint on the right to link to and post documents, saying that citizen-journalists should have the same First Amendment rights as major media outlets. The First Amendment Concerns in this case were dismissed by the appeal court.

The authors of PGP (pretty good privacy) a secure encryption scheme for email, were involved in a multi-year court battle over their work, which the government argued could thwart their attempts to secure evidence or perform proper surveillance, under the assertion that encryption was a weapon, and subject to the same controls they hold over missile guidance systems.

This tendency toward increased regulation of content and accessibility to the Internet shows no signs of slowing, nor is it likely that it will, as it is not in the state's interest, the US congress has proposed legislation to ban access of all social networking sites from schools and public libraries, the Deleting Online Predators Act, and numerous bills have been proposed to introduce FCC style regulation of the Internet as a whole, under the misnamed "Net Neutrality" movement, and more recently there has been a number of vocal proponents, like Chuck Shumer, for regulating political speech under the guise of "Fairness Doctrines" As the state marches on with these limits, it becomes ever more clear that, if we wish to retain this right to free speech, not just in private conversations, but in the public forum of the world wide web, we must guard both against laws that would give watchers more power, and that we must guard the ability to defeat the detection of the watchers entirely.

As the measures taken against free speech on the Internet become more totalitarian in nature, those who wish to preserve those rights must become more defiant of those infringements, while protecting themselves from being targeted or eliminated for what they say, believe, or read online. While no measure of security is invulnerable, there are many common techniques any advocate or supporter of real change must familiarize themselves with, and depending on their personal circumstances and content, begin using even now, as a small measure of protection, and more importantly, to raise awareness of what really is going on behind the scene with big brother.

It is in this vein that i have introduced a series of articles on "Some Semblance of Privacy." The first article, on creating a portable thumbdrive with a browser that disables some tracking scripting as well as anonymize the orgin of browser traffic, is already up. This double layer of protection, in both the drive being usable from anywhere, as well as the traffic being rerouted to various secure proxies around the world, is a good start, but we will need to know more than just how to view a webpage securely. We might need an encrypted Chat, or Anonymous Email, or... and the list goes on. As time permits, I will add to it, but it is a good starting point, from a practical application standpoint, and something you can do today.

In the future it is possible that we will need something like public decentralized servers to host dissident content or discussions, and i hope that someone is working now on a simple user friendly solution to that now. The Freenet Project is an excellent example of uncensorable internet, but it isnt particularly user friendly, and doesn't work for static reference materials, as all content expires and is eventually purged from the network. It is still, however, important that we continue to work to protect the opportunity provided to us by continued development of the electronic networks, as it is the last great hope we have, and the best chance an ordinary person has to help save the world, so to speak. 
It was thought at one point that the technology of mass media would put an end to ideological factionalism, or Manyspeak, by influencing the very thoughts of the Masses through the uniformity of information and presentation of values, or Onespeak. Aldous Huxley's speech at Berkley in 1962 is the penultimate illustration of this concept, which he called "The Ultimate Revolution" (listen to it, if you have never heard of it, and the same goes for Brave New World)

"It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this, that we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy, who have always existed and presumably always will exist, to get people actually to love their servitude. This seems to me the ultimate malevolent revolution... This is a problem which has interested me for many years and about which I wrote, 30 years ago, a fable Brave New World which is essentially the account of a society making use of all the devices at that time available and some of the devices which I imagined to be possible, making use of them in order to, first of all, to standardize the population, to iron out inconvenient human differences, to create, so to say, mass produced models of human beings arranged in some kind of a scientific caste system. Since then I have continued to be extremely interested in this problem and I have noticed with increasing dismay that a number of the predictions which were purely fantastic when I made them 30 years ago have come true or seem in process of coming true. A number of techniques about which I talked seem to be here already, and that there seems to be a general movement in the direction of this kind of ultimate revolution, this method of control by which people can be made to enjoy a state of affairs which by any decent standard they ought not to enjoy. I mean the enjoyment of servitude." -- Aldous Huxley

But people can only be made to love an identical servitude if they are given identical "facts" about reality, and identical experiences to back them up. Alternatively, they can be given different forms of servitude if they divided into castes and kept seperate, as they were in Brave New World, and given seperate "facts" for each caste, with seperate experience to reinforce each of the respective facts about what constitutes reality and propriety.

 Once individuals are free to discover their own facts, and share "facts" and experiences between classes or castes, the illusion begins to waver, the un-uniform nature of reality becomes evident and this type of control is nearly impossible. Instead of adhering to one of the roles set forth for them by society at large, individuals again begin to form their own roles, and reach out to strangers for support, discovering that common language of resistance, outside of the structures set up by society at large. This creates friction in the well oiled machine of public relations democracy, and does in fact result in a democracy that is inherently instable, tumultuous and undesirable.

That is why, as a society, as we continue to develop, we must not only rely on the ideals of democracy, as the more free we become with information and comunication, ideals, experience, and growing understanding of the nature of reality, the harder uniform stable democracy can be. This is exactly why these statis quo statists are afraid of these developments. As Nigel Lawson, former UK finance minister, recently wrote:

"Democracy is nowadays a greatly over-hyped blessing, particularly by Americans, who have no pre-democratic history to provide a perspective. It is clearly less important than freedom, the rule of law and constitutional government, which ideally it should entrench, but may well not do so."

It is exactly with the understanding of the dangers and instabilities of democracy, that documents such as the Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were drafted, so that democracy could flourish, but be kept from destroying itself. It is through the rule of law, and the aportionment of power among people that mob rule and the resultant chaos of factionalism must be kept in check, as democracy itself can be transformed from a fight between factions over what beliefs or ideals can be forced upon others, into a discussion of what beliefs or ideals we all hold in common. It is most likely that this discussion, far from the partisan bickering we see today, will show that we do, in fact, hold the common ideals of Freedom, the Rule of Law, and a constitutionaly protective structure of government. Any challenges to order presented by factionalism or seperate beleifs will be overcome by embracing those beleifs we hold in common.

This great discussion can only be begun in a public and equalitive venue, and it is up to us to guard the one we have now, even as we begin to develop new ones, as this may be the most important discussion in the future of our society.

Libertas Quae Sera Tamen


Jay21 said...

Excellent essay, i really like the emphasis implied by #6. Looks like you have been writing a bit more lately. Any way good essay and good luck.

ReverendFranz said...

Thanks, didn't know if anyone would read the whole thing, bit long and blogger wouldn't let me insert any pictures. Oh well.