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ReVision

Not Neutrality

Each action of government intervention makes us more dependent on government's good intentions.

The FCC yesterday moved to take the first steps toward regulating the Internet. "Net neutrality," as their intentions are called, is designed to keep the Internet a free and open source of information to all users.

But whenever government gets involved, what we don't get is neutrality. We get politics. And politics are anything but neutral. Instead, politics is fraught with bias, agendas, and grabs for power. Bless their hearts, politicians just can't help themselves. Whatever they can do they will, and what they will is to gain, keep, and expand their personal power. Controlling the Internet - whatever that may come to look like - can only be bad for freedom.

Now I'm not happy with everything that's on the Internet. But I'm happy to be on it myself. And the prospect of some federal agency at some point in the future deciding that the views expressed on my website don't conform to "net neutrality" doesn't sit well with me. The FCC, of course, has not aggrandized this kind of power to itself with these first measures. But these are just first measures.

Government's tendency is to create camel's noses wherever it can, which can always be enlarged at later times, often without much public exposure or fuss. It's not hard for me to imagine a scenario in which, through a system of ratings, fines, and cyber blocks, government might gain more control over the Internet, all the while invoking the doctrine of "net neutrality" and freedom of speech to accomplish its nefarious ends.

I'm not saying that's where we are right now. But that's where we could end up, and in an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary manner.

Congress can muster the votes to overturn the FCC; however, some members of Congress don't think the FCC has gone far enough: Senators Al Franken and Jay Rockefeller, for example - the latter wants the FCC to shut down Fox News and MSNBC, a move, he insists, that will be good for political debate and decision-making.

Freedom of speech is potentially at issue here, and "we the people" will have to be especially vigilant against government usurping any of our rights of free expression. Certainly I don't think everything on the Internet is good for us. But the regulation of questionable information ought to be a matter of self-control rather than government heavy-handedness.

The American people have demonstrated far too little self-control over the past generation. "Net neutrality", in the minds of many, is just one more way that government needs to step in and care for us. But each action of government intervention makes us more dependent on government's good intentions. And in politics, the "good" in "good intentions" is typically defined in self-advancing and self-aggrandizing terms. If government were more the force for good that Scripture envisions, that would be one thing (Rom. 13.1-4).

That being not normally the case, however, we shall have to maintain vigilance over government encroachments in this - as in all other - areas, lest the freedoms we cherish, and by which we freely propagate the Gospel of the Kingdom, be gradually redefined, undermined, or simply consigned to the dustbin of history.

Additional related texts: Proverbs 14.12; Rom. 13.1-4; Acts 4.18-20

A conversation starter: "The Federal Communications Commission is moving to regulate the Internet. There may be some good aspects to this, but as one who cherishes my freedom of speech, I'm going to stay wary. What do you think: Should we - especially we as Christians - be vigilant against government's reaching to control the Internet?"

T. M. Moore

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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