January 13, 2008
The Race for the American MindBy Selwyn Duke
Last year's scamnesty bill had widespread support among the powers-that-be, with the president, the Democrat majority and mainstream media all singing its praises. Yet it went down to defeat, slain by a new-media coalition of talk radio and blogosphere warriors. Working tirelessly to expose the truth and rally the grassroots, they became a David who slew a Goliath.
Forty-three years ago it was a different world. Ted Kennedy had co-authored the "Immigration Reform Act of 1965," which created a situation wherein 85 percent of our immigrants hail from the Third World and Asia. He took to the Senate floor, claimed his brainchild wouldn't change the demographic composition of the nation and passed the culture-rending bill under the cover of darkness.
This darkness was not absence of light but that of truth; it was a media blackout. With no Internet and little talk radio, mainstream journalists had a monopoly over the hearts and minds of America. And they knew best. The little people didn't have to worry their pretty little heads about actions that would forever alter the face of the nation.
This is why the old media fears the new one. The latter watches the watchers, polices the police. It has cut into the Rathersphere's market, causing a diminution of circulation, viewership and - this is what really gets their collars up -- power. They can no longer propagandize with Tass-like impunity, for the e-hills have eyes.
Yet this is no time for a victory dance. The new media is under attack, as the left aims to silence dissent before it grows strong enough to block the thought police's coup de grace. This is the race for the American mind.
And we are losing.
The attack upon free expression is more varied than one may think, but I'll start with the obvious. Most have heard of the euphemistically-named "Fairness Doctrine," which would essentially eliminate traditionalist talk radio. People such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage may then be relegated to satellite - assuming they're willing to leap into the ether - and its far smaller audience.
Then we have hate speech laws, which empower governments to punish people of politically incorrect passions. In Europe, Canada and elsewhere, average citizens have suffered persecution for criticizing homosexuality and Islam and voicing other unfashionable truths. And as hate speech laws become more entrenched and accepted, the list of taboos of the tongue grows longer - and more widespread. They're coming soon to a theater of social operations near you.
And these laws are netting the famous as well as the anonymous. Two Canadian "Human Rights Commissions" are investigating columnist Mark Steyn and the country's bestselling news magazine, Macleans, because it published an excerpt from Steyn's book containing criticism of Islam. In Britain in 2003, Scotland Yard launched an investigation of colorful commentator Taki Theodoracopulos - not for using more letters in a name than one ought - but for "inciting racial hatred" by writing that most criminals in northern English cities were black thugs who belonged to gangs. Across the North Sea in Germany, a leftist politician filed charges against the citizen encyclopedia "Wikipedia" because one of its entries contained too much Nazi symbolism. Here's the kicker: It was a piece about the Hitler Youth. Then there's Jewish historian Arno Lustiger, who filed a lawsuit in Germany against Vanity Fair magazine because it published an interview with a neo-Nazi.
While the stout-hearted Mark Steyn won't end up cooling his heels or capitulating, the same cannot be said of everyone. Wikipedia caved quickly and altered its content, and, although we can expect greater fortitude from more professional operations, the implications are ominous. As such investigations, charges and lawsuits become more prevalent and start to stick, the media will be increasingly gun shy about publishing politically incorrect views. Fewer and fewer will deviate from the new Tass line, until news and commentary are banal, barren and bereft of truth.
Surely, though, some of the millions of blogs and other Internet sources would not be cowed, and it would be hard to arrest every one of their operators. But the government won't have to. There's more than one way to skin a Constitution.
While the Internet seems like a wild and woolly land of bits and bytes, just as information can be transmitted at the touch of a button, so can it be suppressed. Remember, when spreading your message, you're at the mercy of an Internet Service Provider (ISP), hosting company and, to a lesser extent, services that disseminate information, such as search engines. And as these businesses have already proven, they're more interested in currency than current events.
Consider Google's well-publicized capitulation to communist China. Using a filter known informally as "The Great Firewall of China," the search engine's Chinese version censors information about the independence movement in Tibet, the Tiananmen Square protests and anything else China's commissars find objectionable.
It seems like Google's motto "Don't be evil" should have a corollary: "But cooperating with it is fine."
It should be noted that Google censors information in its German and French searches as well (and probably elsewhere).
Then there's Google's subsidiary YouTube. Early last year it agreed to remove a video Turks found objectionable after a court in Turkey ordered that the site should be blocked in that nation. It took YouTube all of two days to say mercy.
But direct government action isn't necessary for censorship, as social pressure often suffices. In fact, the private sector often enforces "hate speech" codes even where states do not, such as here in the US. In 2006, pundit Michelle Malkin's mini-movie "First, They Came"-- it showcases victims of Islamic violence -- was deleted by YouTube after being "flagged" as inappropriate. Malkin isn't alone, either, as other anti-Islamism crusaders have not only had videos pulled, but accounts suspended as well.
Getting back to Google, it has also been censoring traditionalist websites from its news search for quite some time now; entities such as The New Media Journal, Michnews.com and The Jawa Report have been victims, just to name a few.
While these information sources can still be accessed, such censorship takes its toll. When the most powerful search engine in the world strikes you from its news service, it reduces both your readership and the amount of information at users' fingertips.
Censorship threatens individual activism as well. There are now countless everyday folks who disseminate information via email, sometimes to thousands of recipients. It's a quick, efficient and, most importantly, free way to sound the alarm about matters of import.
Yet email is far from sacrosanct. Social commentators Dr. David Yeagley and Amil Imani had their MSN Hotmail accounts terminated for criticizing Islam. Then there are the proposals to tax or levy fees on email, a truly stifling measure. It would make bulk transmissions prohibitively expensive for the average citizen, thereby robbing him of a resonant Web voice.
It doesn't take the prescience of Nostradamus to project into the future. If political correctness continues to capture minds and hearts, the pressure - both governmental and social - to call truth "hate speech" and censor it will continue to grow. What happens when search engines not only purge traditionalist dissent from their news services, but also their search results? What about when sites won't publish such content for fear of being swept away in the ideological cleansing? These entities will fold like a laptop.
It could reach a point where ISPs won't service you if you send the "wrong" kinds of emails and will block "hateful" sites. Don't forget that "access forbidden" prompt. At the end of the day - and it may be the end of days - hosting companies may just decide that such sites' business is no longer welcome, and registrars may even freeze their domains (a hosting company provides a site's "edifice"; a domain is its "address"). They may be consigned to Internet oblivion.
While these forces march on, we "haters" are busy educating more people every day about the their nature. This brings us to the race for the American mind. If we could influence enough citizens to reject political correctness and oust public officials who serve its ends - if we could sufficiently transform the culture - the dropping of this iron muzzle could be forestalled. By spreading the truth we could ensure that the thought police wouldn't succeed in suppressing it.
But there's a reason why I phrased that in the subjunctive.
We are losing.
Education isn't easy when people aren't listening. A great victory for the left is that it has dumbed-down civilization, making people lovers of frivolity and vice, comfortably numb. It has created legions of disengaged, apathetic hedonists who wouldn't read a piece of commentary if it was pasted to a stripper. Such people can be led by the nose and, when they occasionally notice the goings-on in their midst, will welcome the silencing of the "haters."
And what of us -- you? If you are a "hater," your voice will grow fainter, fainter, fainter . . ..
Toward the end, perhaps when tired and old, you'll have no recourse but to mount a soapbox and preach on some busy corner, as people nervously avert their eyes or measure you up for a straightjacket. That is, until the men in white coats or black uniforms come and take you to a happy place, or a sad one, the last stop in this world for recalcitrants.