Democracy’s Death Without Open Communication

These are the remarks to the FCC of Chapter Chair Jim Hickey. They reflect one NWU member’s thinking about net neutrality. All members might ponder submitting their own ideas. Such an upsurge would have to serve both the Union and the needs of working writers.

F.C.C. Comments Submitted by Jim Hickey in Regard to Docket Number 14-28—Protecting & Promoting the Open Internet

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means

of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their

own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

So wrote James Madison as he fought for the United States Constitution.

Without doubt, our fourth President’s thinking applies to today’s issue—what

should be the nature of the Internet going forward from this moment? The bottom line is

simple to state: if we are to survive as a democracy, then more citizen control of media

must become the norm, precisely the opposite of what the Federal Communications

Commission proposes, with its ‘Fast-Lane’ and ‘Paid Prioritization’ processes more or

less sacrosanct.

 

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeThe rationale for rejecting the F.C.C. approach consist of three elements. The

first is historical. The second relates to achieving social and economic justice. The

third concerns the political possibilities for democracy versus the increasing likelihood of

plutocracy. These represent just a few among many reasons why people should reject

the present paradigm and its extension in adopting Internet protocols that guarantee

that wealthy corporations own, and dictate access to, what must become more, not less,

of a stronghold of people’s control and empowerment, what James Madison termed a

sine qua non of popular governance.

 

Summarizing the historical basis for rejecting ‘Fast Lanes’ and their ilk might

include dozens of facts, but the following are definitely critical.

• First, folks should learn about the Radio Act of 1927 and the way that it

destroyed community radio in favor of advertiser outlets, meaning that union

radio, community radio, people’s radio fell by the wayside, laying the basis for

the better part of a century of what journalist Edward Murrow termed “a vast

wasteland” in commercial radio and television.

• Second, the establishment of the Federal Radio Commission, which both lay

the basis for a ‘revolving door’ between government and media oligopoly and

established the bureaucratic underpinnings of what continues to characterize the

FCC, is noteworthy.

• Third, the delay in television’s coming to the fore shows how established media

empires—in this case in radio—manipulate the media landscape in their favor,

technological possibility and social need be damned.

• Fourth, the manner in which the cable television industry evolved, like radio

and television, from publicly supported efforts to become completely a realm of

finance capital and oligopoly following the Cable Policy Communications Act of

1984 clearly relates to what we are now facing.

• Fifth, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the dispersal to media

monopolies of the architecture and governance of the Internet itself serves in

many ways as the proximate cause of what we are confronting in the push to

institute a ‘pay-to-play’ philosophy in relation to the web.

 

One might go on, at great length. However, even this briefing ought to give pause to

anyone considering support for an end to ‘Net Neutrality.’

Examining the socioeconomic factors that call for opposing all of the coddling of

the corporate elite tantamount in ‘Paid Prioritization’ ought to contain such evidence as

• First, folks might note the profound ignorance that characterizes students

and young people in the United States, where the ability to articulate a

reasonable understanding of history, culture, and politics is worse than in any

other ‘industrialized’ nation.

• Second, observers have no choice but to see the causative relations between

poverty, powerlessness, and such social ills as unemployment and a lack of

access to media, which would inevitably grow worse in a commercialized,

bottom-line orientation to everything on the Internet.

• Third, as literally thousands of other commentators have noted, the impetus

to innovate and create would suffer enormously in an environment that made

access and development largely dependent on the ability to lay out cash for the

right to prioritize efforts.

• Fourth, encouraging monopolistic predominance will ultimately destroy the most

substantial engine—some would say the only bright spot outside of prisons and

the military—for economic progress that has been apparent over the past twenty-
five years or more.

• Fifth, not only will increasing inequality unavoidably attach to the skewed

rights and access of ‘paid prioritization’ and the like, but also such patterns will

guarantee the enlarging of the pool of the poor and benighted.

 

Once again, such analysis could easily continue. Once more as well, even this short

contextualization provides plenty of basis for insisting that ‘Net Neutrality’ expand

instead of end.

Considering just a portion of the political reasoning in favor of greater democratic

web-governance rather than less, an observer might list various component points.

• First, citizens ought to take account of the fashion in which monopoly and

privatization inherently censor grassroots, unfunded, or underfunded efforts

to reach out to others, a censorship-in-fact that guarantees that political

conversation is outside the capacity of most individuals and many community

networks.

• Second, a consequence of ‘Fast Lanes’ and such will be that, even more so than

is already the case, only ‘establishment’ narratives and reportage will reach the

surface of the web that almost all its users skim for data and news.

• Third, not only will the resources of information and knowledge be vastly more

difficult to obtain, but also the capacity to generate funds for local initiatives and

collective efforts to improve community welfare will fall catastrophically.

• Fourth, the ability of ‘whistleblowers’ and ‘watchdogs’ to catch and publicize

government and corporate corruption and malfeasance will practically disappear.

• Fifth, in the vein of Madison’s reasoning, those who want to participate cannot

help but notice that a slower, less robust, more attenuated access to data and

analysis and networking will crush citizen and local initiative to heal and expand

democratic governance and the hope of equity that, despite all evidence to the

contrary, remain dear to the hearts of many Americans.

 

As before, citizen analysts could continue, but these simple notions not only give plenty

of ammunition for eliminating every attack on Net Neutrality but also offer compelling

ideas in favor of making such a policy both stronger and more certain.

Unfortunately for those who might find this reasoning compelling, the

political ‘facts on the ground’ remain daunting. Oligopolistic financial and industrial

interests dominate both the leadership and the grounds for discussion at the FCC and

throughout the halls of government. What really is at stake here is whether citizens of

the United States, in the words of James Madison, “intend to be their own governors.”

If they truly want and plan to have such a democratic future, then they will

have to start doing a lot more than commenting in forums where the deck is already

heavily stacked against them. They are going to have to take steps to return the

public’s dominion to what has always begun as, and in all but the theory of monopolist

enterprise, must forever stay part of the public domain—whether comprised of print

media outlets, broadcasting networks, cable franchises, or Internet governance

regulations.

 

Ways to submit:

1. This link provides instructions, etc

2. This is the direct link to the comments submitting area

4 comments for “Democracy’s Death Without Open Communication

  1. James "Jake" Harrison (NWU#95050)
    July 15, 2014 at 10:07 am

    An excellent example of the writers skill, by one of our own leaders.

    The only thing that I could add would simply be this; the fact that the USA has NEVER been a “Democracy” should be at the forefront of all of our minds. Instead, I am constantly surprised at the number of Americans who do not even understand the definition of the word “Oligarchy” much less have the ability to avoid its pitfalls and traps. So please allow me to express my own observations.
    I am speaking here strictly as a Native American/Mixed race and a Veteran (USMC 1972-78) who in reality “earned his right walk around in the Whiteman’s world” versus ‘inheriting them’.
    When I insist in my own writing often, that the USA has never been anything but an “Oligarchy”, I refer to these passages. When those founding fathers (the USA didn’t have any founding Mothers) wrote those, famous (and often repeated) words, “We hold these truths to be self eivident that all men are created equal”; they were not referring to the Native Americans they were practicing Genocide against, even to the excess and extent of Germ Warfare. They were not referring to their slaves whom they made vast fortunes off of ; nor were they referring to the children they produced with those slaves whom they most often sold as slaves themselves. Indeed, DNA evidence reveals that Thomas Jefferson or one of the males in his family line fathered several children with his slaves and——– sold THEM as slaves,
    Those “men” were referring to themselves; being equal to Royalty with all of the benefits of “royalty” which in most cases exempts them from and ANY consequences of their own actions while they “hold all others responsible for their own”.
    This in itself made a mockery of the concept of “Democracy”; but history will reveal that while “Democracy” has its origins in human inventions, and while many other societies have ‘invented Democracy’; such as the Greeks, then the Romans (and ample evidence that the Native Americans also had ‘Democracies’); every single Democracy in history has been overtaken by an “Oligarchy”, the Greek, Roman and yes even the Aztec were all taken over by “Oligarchies”.
    The only answer and remedy would be for the ‘education’ systems which this article here refers to, which in the USA is intentionally inadequate ; a plan by the Oligarchy to keep the population as ignorant as possible in order to control them more efficiently. THIS MUST be challenged and changed in order to allow those who are members of the “Democracy” to be able to actually have a “Democracy”—instead of the mockery that the USA has become.
    This “mockery” has made the USA a criminal nation that currently is in illegal possession of more than 60% of its geographic territory as a direct result of violating its own Constitution’s Art. 6 “All Treaties are Supreme Law” while they send more than 8 million dollars per day to the Criminal State of Israel; who is doing exactly the same things the USA; to the Palestinian people. The USA is NOW the most feared and loathed Nation in history and cannot possibly be tolerated much longer by the world. Indeed, all the world actually needs to do is “cut off the credit lines” of those Americans and they will turn on themselves once more.
    The last time the USA turned upon itself was when the ‘slave holders Oligarchy; made war to keep slavery; and lost. The sad truth is simple; that same Oligarchy that initiated the “bloodiest war” the Americans have ever fought, and lost; kept those slaves who were freed by that war from receiving any REAL Civil Rights for another 99 years. None of this could or WOULD have take place had the populations then; had not been as poorly educated and poorly informed as they were then. Sadly they still are now.
    THIS IS THE WORK OF THE OLIGARCHY; AND WHY IT HAS SURVIVED HISTORY.
    The only reason this could ever have taken place is that the American people, presently the citizens of the most powerful nation in history; have proved themselves to be some the most ignorant citizens of the entire planet, and therefore the most dangerous. The “national average” reading level in the USA is the 7th grade level. There is much more an not enough room here to mention but this; Unless the USA makes some drastic changes soon; they will become a negative example to history and a terrible warning to mankind.
    A caution that history will teach the student who reviews ALL of history is simply this; because the USA is the most feared; and therefore the most loathed nation in history, (except of course for the few allies who mimic them in all ways) they are at great danger to their fellow human beings, and that will make their fellow humans a danger to them. All other human beings elsewhere will be required to take self defensive and self preservative action. This would make the USA a target for many more than the few they have now; and NO nation can survive that.
    On the other hand the USA has a wonderful opportunity NOW THAT THEY HAVE WORKED VERY HARD TO BE THE MOST FEARED AND LOATHED NATION IN HISTORY; THEY CAN VOLUNTARILY MAKE THE NEEDED CHANGES.
    Humanity LOVES A REFORMED OFFENDER, AND THE MORE DRAMATIC THE REFORMATOIN—THE DEEPER THE LOVE HUMANITY HAS FOR THAT——- OFFENDER.
    I am reminded of the phrase often used by those who have served in the Military and learned the “value” of the word “If”. ” IF, IS the middle word of life”.
    “IF” the USA actually did become a “Democracy”; and the only way to accomplish this is to abolish the Oligarchy and its concepts for all time. The entire WORLD would follow their example while at the same time be willing to throw their fortunes in the direction of Democracy , a TRUE Democracy; and change life on this planet forever.

    Some old “tribal wisdom” shared with me while I was very young; and now with you.

    ‘When dealing with human beings; always remember to expect the worst from them; but remember to HOPE for the BEST from them. You’ll never be disappointed; and sometimes even surprised.”

    Thank you for all that you do,

    In Solidarity,

    Jake…..

    • nwuatlarge
      July 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Jake!

      Both the strength of your passion and the accuracy of your sociohistorical characterizations are admirable. One of the documents that I consistently share with my students is Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in one of the Supreme Court’s ‘legal fiction’ decisions, Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh (http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/21/543/case.html).

      In that instance, Marshall articulates the savage and murderous ‘law of conquest’ that made the ‘ownership’ of North America a European affair, despite its indigenous original inhabitants. So deeply-ingrained was such a perspective that, not only would the United States continue its genocidal policies but also it would not even permit Native Americans to convey their own property to others, since the establishment of such a property right undercut the ideological foundations on which Marshall and other ‘founding fathers’ based their sense of right and privilege.

      Here is an excerpt from Justice Marshall’s holding: “In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were in no instance entirely disregarded, but were necessarily to a considerable extent impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty as independent nations were necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will to whomsoever they pleased was denied by the original fundamental principle that ‘DISCOVERY’ gave exclusive title to those who made it(emphasis added).

      While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves, and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a POWER TO GRANT THE SOIL WHILE YET IN THE POSSESSION OF THE NATIVES(emphasis added). These grants have been understood by all to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy.

      We will not enter into the controversy whether agriculturists, merchants, and manufacturers have a right on abstract principles to expel hunters from the territory they possess or to contract their limits. CONQUEST GIVES A TITLE which the courts of the conqueror cannot deny(emphasis added), whatever the private and speculative opinions of individuals may be, respecting the original justice of the claim which has been successfully asserted. …THESE CLAIMS HAVE BEEN MAINTAINED and established as far west as the River Mississippi BY THE SWORD. (emphasis added)…

      Although we do not mean to engage in the defense of those principles which Europeans have applied to Indian title, they may, we think, find some excuse, if not justification, in the character and habits of the people whose rights have been wrested from them. The title by conquest is acquired and maintained by force. The conqueror prescribes its limits.”

      I so appreciate your willingness to engage in conversation here. Such outreach and engagement are critical to this period of union-building which must become a part of the ‘reforming’ of our criminal past that you so nicely summarize in your comment.

      I’ll hope to hear from you further.

      Solidarity Forever, &

      Ciao for now,
      Jimbo

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