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The Coming Internet Power Grab

by Steven Yates
by Steven Yates

Over the past ten years the Internet and the World Wide Web have transformed much of the world. New technology has ushered in a truly global economy. Whereas communications overseas used to take weeks by mail, or was very expensive by telephone, an email can travel halfway around the world in a matter of minutes or less. The Web has revolutionized commerce, moreover. Anyone with the know-how can put up a website and sell items online. It is possible for a person in Italy to buy from someone in Bangkok. A few weeks ago I purchased a CD from a music store in Sweden – off the store’s website. There are people earning substantial incomes hawking their wares on eBay.

Important for our purposes is that the Internet has become the last highly visible free speech zone in our increasingly politically correct society. Although many companies monitor their employees’ email and activities online, and Internet Service Providers often keep an eye on the sites they host to ensure that no one on their servers advocates violence, these are local controls. By and large the Internet as a whole is unregulated. Thus with rare exceptions, free speech is indeed free. There are sites advocating paleoconservatism, neoconservatism, liberalism (both the classical and doctrinaire sorts), anarchism, libertarianism, or socialism or communism or anti-Semitism. These sites may each have their respective critics, but critics cannot force them out of cyberspace. Since Matt Drudge set up the first independent cyber-commentary site, the Drudge Report, and exposed Bill Clinton’s trysts with Monica Lewinsky, Internet commentators have been at the head of the pack. They sometimes scoop mainstream media sources or report events and points of view that the mainstream media steadfastly avoid.

Only on the Web can you read detailed criticisms of the legality of the income tax, for example, or of the Federal Reserve banking cartel or unlimited immigration. Only on the web you can find out that NAFTA and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas are pseudo-free trade agreements. Now that the Republican Party has fallen completely into the hands of big-government centralists, only on the Web can you read criticisms of the U.S. Department of Education (once on the Republican chopping block, but not since the neocons took over). Criticisms of government schools are around, but you’re most likely to come into contact with these through something you’ve encountered on the Web. They’re certainly not going to come to you through the mainstream media which has been in bed with state-sponsored schooling for decades.

Many of us owe substantial portions of our writing careers to the cyber-community. We most likely would not be published in most mainstream outlets; our views are too (shall we say) adventurous. Moreover, as a struggling academic philosopher (c.1987–1995), I had few readers. (No one reads academic journals, after all.) Now, as an independent scholar and Internet commentary writer, I have more readers than all but a handful of academic philosophers. For whatever such numbers are worth.

The Internet and World Wide Web have brought all of us closer together. Some would say it has helped erase national borders, although what it has done has encouraged genuine free trade along with the free and open communication of ideas. I’ve received emails from readers as far away as Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. The Web has grown and developed spontaneously, as millions of people have put up websites on every subject imaginable. More and more people are logging on every day. As a highly decentralized medium for the exchange of goods, services and ideas, the World Wide Web stands as absolute proof that you do not need centralization to have order.

It is true that the Web is not a toy. There is much on the Web that is not for children. The onus is on parents to monitor what their children and teenagers do online. Just type the word sex into the search engine of your choice, and you’ll see what I mean. There is nasty stuff on the Web, and it generates billions of dollars a year. I would expect no less when a fallen people gets its hands on such a powerful technology. No one, however, is forced to visit pornographic sites on the Web. I for one am acutely uncomfortable with the argument that the government ought to outlaw such sites. Having tasted power, what will the censors want to eliminate next? There’s also the email nuisance called spam. I admit I don’t share the extreme antipathy to spam that some people do. Some of it is actually interesting, some of the time. When I find it annoying, I hit delete. I don’t go running to the government to pass laws against it.

The point is, at present we don’t have a committee of bureaucratic overseers dictating what anyone does on the Internet. Today’s question: is this about to change? Are we about to see a gradual erosion of the freedom and spontaneity that characterizes Internet activity, commercial or otherwise?

This past week (December 10–12) in Geneva, Switzerland, a globalist organization within the United Nations called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hosted the first of two World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS). The planning that went into these Summits dates back to the late 1990s. In 2001, the UN General Assembly endorsed the ITU’s framework for this first Summit. Here is the challenge as the ITU defines it: "The modern world is undergoing a fundamental transformation as the industrial society that marked the 20th century rapidly gives way to the information society of the 21st century. The dynamic process promises a fundamental change in all aspects of our lives, including knowledge dissemination, social interaction, economic and business practices, political engagement, media, education, health, leisure and entertainment." So far, so good; all this should be obvious. But the passage concludes, "To benefit the world community, the successful and continued growth of this new dynamic requires global discussion" (emphasis mine).

That, my friends, should cause the hairs at the nape of your neck to rise just a little. Given the spontaneity and immense complexity of this "new dynamic," what kind of "global discussion," and to what purpose?

What follows looks like an effort to take over and micromanage the Internet, bending it to the service of the globalists’ social goals. What it says, piling euphemism on top of euphemism, is that "The roles of the various partners (Member States, UN specialized agencies, private sector and civil society) in ensuring smooth coordination of the practical establishment of the information society around the globe will also be at the heart of the Summit and its preparation" (emphasis mine).

The purpose of WSIS: "to develop and foster a clear statement of political will and a concrete plan of action for achieving the goals of the Information Society, while fully reflecting all the different interests at stake. The scope and nature of this ambitious project will require partnerships with public and private entities, and such partnerships will be actively sought in the coming months."

Goals of the Information Society? I didn’t know such a diffuse and spread-out entity could have goals. Silly me, I thought that only the individuals participating in the Information Society – buying, selling, educating, communicating, etc. – could have goals. But then, I am not a collectivist. The very language in which the WSIS agenda is presented betrays the collectivism driving its sponsors and participants. And it betrays the worst economic mistake of our time, that economic activity must be regulated by governmental entities, whether to promote "equality" or prevent chaos or for whatever other purpose. It will follow from this premise that if we have a global economy we need a world government to regulate it.

WSIS participants plan to adopt a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action, existing in draft form. The main purpose is to steer the Information Society alone lines compatible with the UN’s longstanding sustainable development agenda based on Agenda 21, as well as with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. From the Declaration of Principles: "We reaffirm the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms," states the Declaration of Principles, which also reaffirms "the principles of a democratic society, good governance (at all levels) and the rule of law (in international as well as national affairs), and sustainable development." This should tell us what the powers that be in the UN and the ITU see as wrong with the Information Society as it has developed without their oversight: it isn’t egalitarian enough. It isn’t inclusive enough. It isn’t nurturing and "enabling" enough. It doesn’t bridge the "digital divide" between those nations and peoples that have built the Information Society and those that have not. Thus Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) must be controlled to correct all this.

As always, much of the language sounds laudable, and that is the device employed to get as many "stakeholders" on board as possible: "We are resolute in our quest to ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities that ICTs can offer…. [A]ll stakeholders should work together to improve access to information and communication infrastructure and technologies as well as to information and knowledge; …" These goals include a kind of global affirmative action: to "foster and respect cultural diversity; …" And, a few paragraphs earlier: "women … should be an integral part of, and key actors, in the Information Society…. To this end, we should mainstream a gender equality perspective and use ICTs as a tool to that end." This embodies the radical feminist idea that men and women are completely interchangeable.

There are countless references to the need to create an "enabling environment." UN bureaucrats have become the globe’s ultimate would-be "enablers." This is crucial in fostering a world in which we are all interdependent, i.e., all individuals are dependent on, and answer to, unelected committees of globalist bureaucrats.

The Plan of Action picks up where the Declaration of Principles leaves off. We are all to work together in a spirit of globalism and interdependence: "All stakeholders have an important role to play in the Information Society, especially through partnerships. Governments have a leading role in developing and implementing comprehensive, forward looking and sustainable national e-strategies. The private sector and civil society, in dialogue with governments, have an important consultative role to play in devising national e-strategies…. The private sector is not only a market player but also plays a role in a wider sustainable development context." In other words, the sustainable development agenda trumps standard business practices. "The commitment and involvement of civil society is equally important in creating an equitable Information Society, and in implementing ICT-related initiatives for development."

Here is a sampling of what the bureaucrats command (along with whatever commentary seems appropriate):

"Initiate at the national level a structured dialogue involving all relevant stakeholders, including through public / private partnerships, in devising e-strategies for the Information Society and for the exchange of best practices." Frankly, I’m not sure what this says, but at one time when government and big business worked together to make policy it was called fascism; today, in UN-bureaucratese, it’s called the public/private partnership. Further on:

"Development of national e-strategies, including the necessary human capacity building, should be encouraged by all countries by 2005, taking into account different national circumstances." The forty-dollar question here, of course, is: what is meant by human capacity building? The document devotes a section to the subject. Among its recommendations that are more than recommendations:

"Everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully from the Information Society. Therefore capacity building and ICT literacy are essential. ICTs can contribute to achieving universal education worldwide, through delivery of education and training of teachers, and offering improved conditions for lifelong learning, encompassing people that are outside the formal education process, and improving professional skills."

As with much in these two documents, this sounds good on a first reading. But cutting through the bureaucratese, what is it really telling us? The second sentence reads to me like a proposal to extend government schools worldwide under a kind of globalist School-To-Work agenda. And "encompassing people that are outside the formal education process" sounds very much like a version of No Child Left Behind that proposes to pull everyone in the world into the system – whether they want to be in it or not.

Reading on down, there is much about "e-literacy skills for all, for example by designing and offering courses for public administration"; there are proposals to "ensure that young people are equipped with knowledge and skills to use ICTs, including the capacity to analyze and treat information in creative and innovating ways, share their expertise and participate fully in the Information Society"; there are calls to "develop pilot projects to demonstrate the impact of ICT-based alternative educational delivery systems, notably for achieving Education for All targets." There are more affirmative action-like calls for "removing the gender barriers to ICT education and training and promoting equal training opportunities in ICT-related fields for women and girls."

I could continue elaborating what is said about developing "human capacity building," but you get the idea. One sees nothing in this globalized update on the School-To-Work model of schooling that involves education in history, economics, Constitutional literacy or philosophy or theology – the subjects that enable a person to gain perspective on his society and whether or not it is going in the right direction. Rather than the graduation of educated, independent-minded human beings, schooling along the lines proposed in this model will result in collectivized drones ready to take their places in a the high-tech equivalent of a beehive or anthill. If you do not have a worker-bee’s mindset, then so much the worse for you.

Very little is really said about the ruling elites themselves in this model, but there are subtle hints among some of the suggestions, such as:

"Promote and establish an international legal framework on information and communication security under the auspices of UN system to prevent illegal use of ICTs." Sounds very much like UN-sponsored world government to me – in the absence of a clear and different definition of the sort of entity that could create and enforce an "international legal framework" that would "prevent illegal use of ICTs."

"In the Information Society, Intellectual Property Protection should be construed in a way not to deepen the Digital Divide, taking into account the need to universalize access for all. Intellectual Property Protection can and should be interpreted in a manner supportive to State’s rights to protect public policies, in particular, to promote access to the Information Society." In other words, under this system there will be no exclusive and unqualified private property rights, which of course is the point of pulling the private sector into all these partnerships with governmental and globalist entities.

"Ensure the systematic dissemination of information using ICTs on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and food, in order to provide ready access to comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed knowledge and information, particularly in rural areas." Even, I suppose, if the people directly involved in these activities are not using ICTs and doing just fine without them. Throughout both documents is the wild and unsupported assumption that information technology is for everybody, and can be incorporated willy-nilly into every human activity. This is the view that human beings are blank slates at birth, to be molded, shaped and have their life stories laid out for them by social engineers who somehow know what is best for everyone.

It is not that these social goals are all bad. Of course, it would be very nice to see third world peoples lifted – or lift themselves – out of poverty. But the collectivist and micro-managerial approach taken here cannot succeed. It can only drain the resources of those countries (especially the United States) that have embraced information technology. Eventually, the maze of rules and regulations, along with the global tax that would doubtless be instituted to fund the globalist system, will stifle new developments. We will then see the progress achieved through the Information Revolution halt and then begin to reverse!

The UN is proposing to hijack the Information Revolution to service a collectivist model of world order. They have no way to achieve their goals without massive bureaucratic controls on information and communication technology – controls put in place at the top and encircling the lives of every user. This means more, not less, centralization, and at a level that would further erode national sovereignty, not to mention privacy and private property. It cannot be done without instituting global government – long the dream of promoters of a New World Order:

"The Internet has evolved into a global facility available to the public, and its governance should constitute a core issue of the Information Society agenda," the Declaration of Principles reads. "The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking into account multilingualism."

Again, the Plan of Action picks up where the Declaration of Principles leaves off. In fact, the Plan of Action drops the verbal equivalent of a nuke on the idea of a free and unregulated Internet:

"We ask the Secretary General of the United Nations to set up a working group in Internet governance, in an open and inclusive process that ensures a mechanism for the full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, involving relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums, to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005. The group should, inter alia, (i) develop a working definition of Internet governance; (ii) identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance; (iii) develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, existing intergovernmental and international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries; (iv) prepare a report on the results of this activity to be presented for consideration and appropriate action for the second phase of WSIS in Tunis in 2005" (emphasis mine). Following is a proposal for the internationalization of the management and supervision of country code top-level domain names, a process currently in the hands of an American organization given that most of the computer power that drives the Internet and World Wide Web is based in the United States.

If this is not a recipe for a power grab of major proportions, after which there would be no exclusive rights for any Internet or Web user, I don’t know what would be. It all depends on the language. What, after all, do phrases like "ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet" boil down to? Suppose a bureaucrat decides that cantankerous news and commentary sites like, by virtue of their incessant annoying criticisms of centralized government in all its manifestations, fail to "ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet." Suppose, thinking of the reference to "multilingualism," the criticism is of our failure to write and publish articles in, say, Spanish. Or Arabic, for that matter. What then? We could find ourselves mired in such a quagmire of regulations that normal functioning becomes impossible – as opposed to a direct attack.

Or, on the other hand, we could all be charged by globalist bureaucrats with "hate speech," that amorphous and mostly undefined stepchild of political correctness that is already a crime punishable by imprisonment in some countries – with full UN approval.

These documents are permeated with references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Again, much of the language there looks good on a superficial reading. It includes such things as "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" (Article 3), "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others" (Article 17); "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion …" (Article 18); "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" (Article 19).

However, the third clause in Article 29 states: "These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations." Such escape clauses are the stuff of potential tyranny. What, precisely, are these "purposes and principles." If they are the eventual establishing of world government, then all the above rights are essentially voided if used to block the efforts and progress toward world government. Which could eventually make free speech on the Internet – including articles like this one! – criminal offenses in the global village.

Everything turns on how the bureaucratese is interpreted. With an educational system producing only technicians and more bureaucrats, there will be no one with the critical thinking skills necessary to challenge the interpretations of the bureaucratic overseers.

Of one thing we can be sure: the latter will work steadily to increase their power. They have discovered a new set of tools, one that has immeasurably enriched all its participants: information and communications technology. This technology has developed without a center and without officially-approved social goals, which is why freedom-oriented sites can co-exist on it with communist sites (or with the UN’s site). It has been identified as something to be used. The imposition of the new social goals to be laid on top of the information revolution is to done piecemeal, but should be well on its way by the second WSIS Summit, scheduled for November 16–18, 2005, in Tunis, Tunisia.

To centralize this technology and control all its players will not erase the so-called digital divide. It will only bog down the efforts at innovation that alone will improve the technology and make it more user-friendly. It will not lift those on the wrong side of the digital divide out of poverty but make their overall situations worse – while turning the Information Revolution dynamic in this country into something with about as much efficiency as the U.S. Postal Service and roughly the same capacity for education as your average government school.

December 15, 2003

Steven Yates [send him mail] has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994). He is currently at work on three books: In Defense of Logic, a philosophical treatise; Skywatcher’s World, a science fiction novel, and This Is Not the Country I Grew Up In, a collection of past articles from and other sources. He is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and next January will be joining the adjunct faculty of Limestone College. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Copyright 2003

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