Rheingold: Last Stop Before the Censorship State [cr-951217]


Richard Moore

Date: Sat, 16 Dec 1995
From: Phil Agre <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Howard Rheingold urges action on the telecommunications act

Date: Fri, 15 Dec 1995 23:32:58 -0800
From: •••@••.••• (Howard Rheingold)
Subject: Call The White House Now

The following "Tomorrow" column will be published by King Features client
newspapers the week of December 25. Permission is granted to reproduce this
and retransmit this column electronically. Fax it to offline friends.

Last Stop Before the Censorship State

By Howard Rheingold

        Americans have one last chance before we lose the Net. If American
citizens write, call, and fax the President now and urge him to veto the
telecommunications deregulation bill, we might not lose an opportunity to
revitalize the democratic process and grow hundreds of thousands of small
Net-based businesses. And we might not hand over a nascent native  industry
(the dominant industry of the twenty first century) to international
        The effects of this legislation (S 652) go far beyond the Internet,
reaching into every aspect of American lives, undoubtedly influencing the
shape of the democracy our children will grow up in. This
telecommunications bill encourages the concentration of ownership of all
news, entertainment, and communication media, institutes censorship
provisions that will put online service providers out of business, cut off
universities from the worldwide network, and turn American scientists,
engineers, educators, entrepreneurs into a nation of Net-morons in an
increasingly online world. This bill allows rates to rise too high and too
fast, is generous with megacorporations and stingy with education, and it
completely ignores the widening gap between information-rich and
        Through months of committee debates and decisions, censors and
monopolists have won every battle over the future of the Internet. By
shamelessly exploiting legislators' and citizens' ignorance of the nature
of the Internet, a small group who are intent upon imposing their brand of
morality on everyone else,are about to silence a potentially powerful
medium for citizen-to-citizen communication, cripple American industries
trying to compete in global markets, and create a Federal bureaucracy with
the power to determine what is decent for citizens to say.
        Congress will almost certainly send to the President a
telecommunications reform bill that can send people to jail for two years
and fine them $100,000 for mentioning the seven words that are forbidden
from radio and television. Mention of abortion, condoms or safe sex are
almost certain to be the next items forbidden. American universities, on
the advice of their attorneys will turn off all Internet access for their
students as soon as the law goes into effect.
        American citizens don't have to be electrical engineers to
understand the nature of the new communication media. But we do need to
have the truth told and the complexities explained, and that has not
happened. Computer BBSs, e-mail, citizen networks, mean that you no longer
have to own a press to benefit from freedom of the press: every desktop
connected to the Net is a printing press, a place of assembly, a
broadcasting station. The idea that ordinary taxpayers should have the
power to publish eyewitness reports, argue policy, distribute information
threatens the old power structures. Politicians and corporations whose
fortunes are based on control of mass media  fear their power will erode to
the citizens.
        Legislators have failed to uphold their oath to defend the
Constitution by pursuing such nonsense as flag-burning amendments to the
Constitution while at the same time destroying the liberties that flag
symbolizes. Internet censorship legislation is not about pornography on the
Internet (which will easily move offshore). It's about who will have the
power and control to broadcast words, images, and sounds, to everyone else.
Citizens? Or cartels?
        A trillion-dollar pie is being cut up. We, the people, are getting
cut out. Speak up. We still have the right to communicate with the
President and demand that he hold the line. Tell him to send this back to
Congress. We've been living for sixty years under the rules set forth in
the Communications Act of 1934. Now the Congress is changing the rules
again, determining the way our nation and its industries will communicate,
educate, and do business for decades to come. We deserve better than this.
Tell Clinton to tell Congress to try again, to cut the citizens of this
country into the deal, and to keep their hands off the Bill of Rights.
        Contact the White House right now:
        (202) 456-1414 Phone
        (202) 456-1111 Comment Line
        (202) 456-2461 Fax.


Howard Rheingold •••@••.•••
Fax: 415 388 3913
what it is ----->is------>up to us


 Posted by      Richard K. Moore        <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland | USA citizen | Editor: Cyberjournal

CyberLib:       http://www.internet-eireann.ie/cyberlib
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