Ron Paul and his rEVOLution noticeably stalled out this year. Blame it on the lamestream media and powerful forces attempting to stifle the Texas doctor’s message of low (read: no) taxes, isolationist foreign policy and legal pot. But his ascension to the White House was curbed by the fact that few voted in the Republican primaries for the famously rogue congressman, save for his usual gang of creepy weirdos who think home-schooling their kids and lurking on Judge Napolitano message boards are indicators of a life well-lived. It seemed like his devotees were destined to come of age this year and drag the Republican Party establishment towards an across the board small-government approach. But their visibility and vocality belied their minority status in the GOP.
Even more disastrous has been Paul’s inability to make headway on his signature issue: Destroying the Federal Reserve Bank. After the notorious Wall Street bailouts and the ire they raised on both the Left and Right, it appeared for a short while that though he could not bring down the Fed (a quixotic endeavor if there ever was one), perhaps he could undermine its powers through an “audit”. And never mind that a viscerally anti-taxation politician would borrow terminology from the Internal Revenue Service. But that effort too fizzled because while many Americans are distrustful of the Fed’s power over the economy and its shadowy reputation, most are too afraid to do away with it. That and the Jews. There’s gotta be a connection there somewhere, I just know it…
So now, with his momentum spent and his supporters’ enthusiasm dampened, Ron set out to reinvigorate and refocus his loyal following with the help of US Senator and suspiciously-named son, Rand (short for Randall, my ass. Hundred bucks says the family dog was christened “John Galt”). But this time they needed something that would galvanize traditional Republicans in addition to their youthful base. It had to be of consequence and have far-reaching repercussions for the country’s future. There must be a pseudo-libertarian bent involved. And most importantly, for once it needed to be a winnable issue. So entered Internet Freedom.
BuzzFeed reported this week that the Pauls released, by their own admission, a manifesto calling for greater liberty on the web. “The revolution is occurring around the world,” proclaims the document, which was posted to the webpage of Ron’s Campaign for Liberty group. “It is occurring in the private sector, not the public sector.” Big Government is predictably derided as the cause of every evil imaginable, though they do make a salient point on the perniciousness of warrantless wiretapping and citizen surveillance. Had the two focused on this issue and even thrown in some anti-taxing-the-net rhetoric, perhaps they would have found some friends in the Progressive camp. Instead, the lefties are disregarded as “wealthy, international NGO’s, progressive do-gooders, corporate cronies and sympathetic political elites” who, when their powers combine, form Captain Plan– err, I mean, “the Collectivist-Industrial Complex.” They’re right on one thing: everybody has had it up to here with those goddamn do-gooders. If only this country had some do-badders!
Ron and Rand make the case against the existing policy of Net Neutrality and contend that free markets are being imperiled by onerous government regulation and centralization. Afterall, Apple and Microsoft uploaded themselves by the bootstraps by crafting world-shattering innovations such as Windows, Apps and iPods on a technological platform created and developed since the 1960s by the federal government Ludwig Von Mises. Yeah, let’s say him. That guy is so awesome.
To be sure, the Pauls are arguing for greater freedom; but not freedom of the people. Freedom of corporations. You see, Net Neutrality guarantees that all online content will be treated equally and is enforced by the federal government. Any site that you want to visit will load at the same rate and is evenly accessible. But internet service providers want to alter this arrangement and argue that they ought to be allowed to restrict web browsing depending on the amount of bandwidth a person uses. For instance, they want to make pages load slower for more frequent internet users, as well as prioritize certain web pages for fast access. This means that corporations will pay the ISPs to ensure that their sites are in good graces. And if you author a seldom-read blog that festers in a dark corner of the net (cough cough), you’d be totally fucked. Under Net Neutrality, sites like The Weekly Constitutional and News of the Bored are freely available, load as quickly as Google, and elicit the same sense of shame and remorse in all who visit. Without government stepping in to assure a level playing field, the big buck sites will have an unfair edge. But that’s the point.
The Pauls’ proposal would give freedom to the ISPs to restrict our freedom. This platform lays bare the underlying contradiction of small-government libertarianism: they seek not to eradicate tyranny, but to disperse it. States' Rights has always been about transferring power from the despot in DC to the despot in Albany or Sacramento or Montgomery. Rand Paul himself got into a kerfuffle over Civil Rights during his 2010 campaign to be Kentucky’s junior senator. He remarked that the feds had no right in halting racial discrimination in the Jim Crow South some 50 years ago. Notice a pattern? Liberty only extends to the right of people to curtail the liberty of others. How meta. The only difference between now and then is that today the crusade is to shift autocratic rule from Washington to Wall Street.
So it is under this conceit that the Pauls have the chutzpah to assail those that regard the internet and technology as “a vast commons that must be freely available to all.” The oft-romanticized ideals of Washington and Jefferson are once again trotted out to demonstrate how the Founding Fathers “understood that private property is the foundation of prosperity and freedom itself.” I suppose it was the invisible hand of the free market that tended to their plantation fields, right?
The “Technology Revolution” treatise is downright Orwellian in its denunciations of groups who actually defend the freedom of the average internet user, like the American Civil Liberties Union and Free Press. Though not specifically cited, these and similar organizations are disregarded as pretenders whose priorities lie in shilling for special interests and wealthy plutocrats. This ought to be known as the “I Know What You Are But What Am I” fallacy. It’s clear that the Pauls enjoy the moral and financial succor of service providers as well as media conglomerates, who chafe at the content pirating that cuts into their bottom line.
Franklin Roosevelt once promised a world in which four basic human freedoms would be safeguarded. I know, I know: Japanese-Americans were exempt from possessing these liberties. But stay with me for a moment here. Obviously, small government conservatives like Ron and Rand despise FDR and have made it their mission to combat Freedom from Want and the seemingly anti-Second Amendment Freedom from Fear. With this latest attempt at a “movement”, they hold little esteem for Freedom of Speech and Expression too. Only Freedom of Worship survives. Through a shrewd mix of sophist talking points and balls so big that even Atlas couldn’t shrug at them, the savvy congressmen may succeed in duping many who cannot see through the bullshit. The plan this manifesto sets forth is the Trojan Horse through which the World Wide Web will be homogenized and de-democratized. While bandying libertarian bombast, the two Pauls are not-so-secretly fighting for a fifth liberty that Roosevelt would never have proposed in his day: Freedom from Freedom.