Kiss Your Internet Good-Bye

By Servando González
Copyright © 2003 by Servando González

In a short, but forceful article, Peter Sparacino pointed out that constitutional tools are no longer valid in our losing battle against a government out of control, rapidly becoming a totalitarian dictatorship. According to Sparacino, neither the ballot box, nor the jury box can be used to stop its advances -- not even the cartridge box. The only thing left to fight back, he states, is freedom of the press.
But, as media critic A.J. Liebling rightly expressed, freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. Though in theory the opportunity to own his own printing press was open to every American citizen, in practice just a few, and lately only the very rich and powerful, were able to own one.
Granted, the media monopoly was never total, and many small presses proliferated, but the big ones, later joined by the network TV channels, just played the game, giving the false image of independent thinking. But suddenly, less than ten years ago, a technological breakthrough changed the rules of the game in a radical way, bringing about what media guru Marshal McLuhan envisioned more than thirty years ago: the global village. This revolutionary new medium is the Internet.
The Internet is a totally new type of communication medium that has changed our lives. It allows for easy, fast, and cheap exchange of ideas in an optimum way. Thanks to the Internet, owning your own press is as cheap as $20 a month. Almost anybody can afford it.
As soon as the people realized the power of the tool they had in their hands, many began using the Internet not only to gather the information they wanted, but also to become themselves providers of information. Sites offering the most surprising, contradictory, interesting, and useful information mushroomed, soon to be followed by many offering not-so-useful, in-your-face, sometimes disgusting or plainly gross content. But, even with its nasty aspects, the Internet radically changed the way most of us get the daily news.
Initially, the powerful media giants, both in printed and TV form, ignored the Internet as a curiosity or a passing fad. But sites like the Drudge Report, NewsMax, or WorldNetDaily, just to mention a few of the most successful, soon began attracting more and more readers, while newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times began losing theirs. Soon after, the big TV networks experimented their own dramatic loss of viewers.
Faced with the strong, unexpected competition, the media giants joined the Internet bandwagon, but they were in for a big surprise. Contrary to the traditional printed media and TV, where money plays a cardinal role -- only the very rich can afford to hire the qualified personnel and promote and market the product -- the Internet seems to be a pure product of the human intellect.As the extraordinary success of the Drudge Report indicates, most people don't visit a site because it has a fancy design or is professionally made, but because it is a place where they can find provoking, non-mainstream ideas that make them think; exactly the type of thinking they were not able to find in the orchestrated, self-censored mainstream media. Consequently, a site made by a housewife right from her kitchen in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or by an almost unknown journalist from his home office in Oregon or Florida, can compete on equal footing with the New York Times. This is exactly how extraordinarily successful sites like the Drudge Report and WorldNetDaily were born. Like the Colt .44 in the Old West, the Internet became the great equalizer.
But the people who control the media monopoly were not going to see their power challenged without a fight. After their initial skepticism and scorn, and their failed attempts to extend their media monopoly to the Internet, they began a subtle process of infiltration. For example, I was surprised when, in June, 2001, the notorious Alexander Haig Jr. joined NewsMax's advisory board. It is probably only a coincidence, but lately NewsMax has become a sort of mouthpiece for the Republican Party and an uncritical provider of the Bush administration's propaganda. Its most recent no-brainer is a "boycott France" campaign. I stopped visiting the site several weeks ago. On the other hand, if only half of what I found in this article is true, perhaps NewsMax's problems have deeper roots than I thought.
There is a saying in Latin America: "A los periodistas se les paga o se les pega." ("Journalists: you buy them or you hit them.") I don't think it is much different here. I expect that after some unsuccessful attempts to derail some of the most succesful sites, just to bring an example, the media powers will try to buy them. But, even though I don't think it would be easy for them to do it, and they may resort to strong arm tactics, the bottom line is that, because of its inherent characteristics -- the Internet is an off-shoot of the Arpanet, a military communications decentralized nodular network designed to survive a full scale nuclear attack on the U.S. -- the Internet is uncontrollable. It is a Hydra of innumerable heads.
They can keep buying and coercing people and eventually may get control over the most successful Internet sites, but other people will come forward, and their sites will rapidly become extremely successful. The attempts of the media monopolists to control the Internet the way they managed to get control of the printed press, the TV channels, and, most recently, am radio, will never be successful. Currently, they are extremely concerned about such a powerful tool in the hands of the American people. The Internet has become a growing obstacle to their plans.
Therefore, what will they do? Very simple: They will destroy it. The only solution to solve the Internet's growing challenge to the media monopoly is to shut it down and throw the key away.
How it will happen? One of these days, out of the blue, the Internet will be used for launching a devastating terrorist attack on the United States. Somehow, this cyberattack will cost the lives of scores of American citizens. In order to avoid more damage, the government, putting to good use the recently approved anti-terrorist laws, will shut the Internet down and ban the use of the Internet as we know it.
But most government agencies rely heavily on the Internet. How can they function without it? No problem. The replacement already exists; it is called Internet 2, reportedly a consortium being led by more than 200 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet. But, contrary to the deceptive techno-babbling rhetoric, Internet 2 is nothing more than a controlled Internet, similar to the one currently in place in totalitarian countries like China and Cuba.
Internet 2 will be fully controlled by the state. In order to access it, or to have e-mail access, you must be a member of, or be affiliated to, any of the government-authorized organizations and have a sort of security clearance. Internet 2 will be out of the reach of the general public, and every person trying to have unauthorized access to Internet 2 will be charged with terrorist activities, and severely penalized
The unavoidable fact is that the Internet is incompatible with a totalitarian system of government. Therefore, either we are a bunch of delusionary paranoids, and what we see happening in this country is only a figment of our feverished imagination, and, consequently, the Internet will not be banned, or we are right, and it will disappear. Actually, the disappearance of the current free Internet will serve as a litmus test that will accurately mark our final loss of freedom.
The banning of the Internet, the cancellation of the Second Amendment rights, and the closing of our borders -- not to stop illegalsfrom entering the country, but to stop Americans from fleeing it -- in exactly that order, will be important steps in the implementation of this evil plan.
In the meantime, hope for the best, and enjoy the Internet while you can.
Servando González is a Cuban-born American writer. Among his most recent books are The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol and The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Currently he is working on Fidel Castro Supermole, the second volume of a trilogy he is writing on Castro.
Richard Rauch
* While it has often been cited that the ARPAnet was designed to withstand a nuclear strike, it is often forgotten that this depends upon having multiple routes to get around lost links. If someone cuts the phone line running into my apartment, my DSL is *gone*, and with it goes my webserver, mail server, CVS server, etc.
But, even if you have just one link (as most small sites do), it may be easier to get some kind of injunction/gag-order against the site (or people running it) or to petition the domain registrar to unregister your name. And that may also be a lot more effective. (Lose your site name, and you've lost the one reliable tie that people had to you.)
* IPng a.k.a. IPv6, has been on the drawing boards for longer than the Web has been popular (possibly even since before the Web was created; I'm fuzzy when you get that far back---I have impressions of seeing it being discussed in RFC's even when I was first getting onto the 'net, which was only when the 'net started to become widely available, and when people used "gopher" instead of the Web for information retrieval.
The problem, alas, is not just one of "technobabble". The problem is that the current generation of the Internet protocols (IPv4) that we are all using only allow up to 4 billion address-numbers to be issued. We can use a trick called NAT (a.k.a. "IP masquerading") to stretch the numbers a bit, but this is not without compromises. And, there was a lot of waste when the first IP address numbers were given to installations in huge blocks---much of which remains unremedied, as far as I know.
What IPv6 does is substantially raises the bar. Instead of only on the order of 10^9 (a few billion) addresses, IPv6 will have on the order of 10^36 (I don't know the word for a number that big).
* *You* can get on the IPv6 *now*, using *free* software (much more stable, secure, and reliable than anything MicroSoft has produced). For information on doing this with the free NetBSD ( operating system, see: V6-6TO4
...this discusses getting onto IPv6 (what you call "Internet 2") from an IPv4 (what you just call "Internet") using the NetBSD OS.
Unfortunately, direct access via IPv6 has not yet materialized, at least not here in the States. One of the barriers to this has fallen: MicroSoft finally got around to implementing IPv6 as a standard feature of MS-Windows, I'm told. I would look for small, local providers to start doing IPv6 before the bloated players like AOL, MSN, etc. But I think that it will happen.
* The U.S. can't destroy the Internet. Although it started as a DARPA research project, it is now international. They might be able to make it illegal to use it in the U.S., or they could simply license it. (Licensing it seems more probable. It would let them continue to use it while controlling who does and does not have it.) I doubt that even this will happen, but...destroy it? No, not likely. If the U.S. went offline, it might give other countries the excuse to upgrade to IPv6 instead of waiting for us, though---or the sudden burst of available IP's may make them decide not to bother with IPv6 "this decade."
* Finally, information sharing did *NOT* start with the commercialization of Internet, much less with the the more recent birth of the web. Back in the 1980's, well before you could get onto the Internet without being a university student, government worker, etc., I was regularly exchanging information with people around the world. The technology that I was using was called Fidonet (though there were other similar technologies around). Fidonet had one robustness (against government censorship) that the Internet lacks: Fidonet didn't use centralized name- servers. (There was a downside to that, as well, but that would take me further afield.)
The upshot: IPv6 isn't just technobabble and is not a response to any pending plan to get rid of pesky uncensored IPv4 sites. The Internet isn't as as immune to nuclear strike as some would like to say, but I sincerely do think that it is way beyond the power of any one government to shut down: The software is out there, the infrastructure is in scattered, and the technology is well-documented and published.
We might lose the ability to say critical things of the government without risking imprisonment, and the U.S. could make it illegal for *us* to use the Internet (IPv4 or IPv6) without a license. But the 'net itself will still be there, as China has discovered. (Look to China for some Internet hope, perhaps. I haven't followed every development, but I think that if they haven't lost completely, they're slipping, and that's in a country where people have not been accustomed to logging in for a decade or more.)



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