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The Internet is Already Broken

Photo by irina slutsky | CC BY 2.0

Near the end of 2014 Kim Kardashian set out to “break the internet.” She posed naked for pictures. This went great, getting 1% of entire internet activity on the day she did it. Now the worry is that such expressions of democracy will be gone when we lose net neutrality.

Net neutrality is a funny phrase. There certainly was net neutrality when leftist websites were blacklisted from Google. And when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. Not to mention that all the content we receive come from six large companies who own just about all the media we consume. It is odd to see people who solely consume corporate outlets such as MSNBC bemoaning the loss of net neutrality.

What may be more troubling than the loss of a supposedly free internet is that so many of us were fooled already. Even in a neutral setting so many of us preferred to consume the very same websites that will now be able to pay for advantages on the internet.

The term “fake news” has never quite told the whole story. The idea that there is some sort of liberal conspiracy being peddled by all mainstream news outlets is silly. These people are only liberal to hide their corporate agenda from liberals, and I suppose everyone who hates liberals. Once you count the liberals and the liberal haters you don’t have many people left. Moreover, the news isn’t necessarily purely fake that often. When ABC suspended Brian Ross it was essentially for spreading fake news. What is a more effective strategy than outward lying is telling part of the truth. Or just spinning speculation without ever presenting evidence, Russia interference in the US elections being the blueprint. All bets are off for imperialism though I think. The New York Times and the Iraq war come to mind.

The mass distractions we receive on the internet are not necessarily fake, they are just nonsense. Selfies posture as resistance. Memes function as political commentary. Angry trolling is a conversation.

The US has always been pretty good about free speech, we just are dumb enough to believe what we hear. It is rather ironic that it is now Trump who is banning words like “fetus” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when he himself was supposed to represent the censored silent majority, suffering under the reign of political correctness. Trump may be an authoritarian but Obama was surely one also. Look at his treatment of whistle blowers or his mass surveillance programs.

The main point here is that net neutrality has a limited value if we are echoing our corporate masters anyways. It surely is a right we deserve, and abandoning such a principle is another step towards authoritarianism. So to this extent the loss of net neutrality may be more problematic for its implications than its effect on an already docile population.

It’s not like the internet is the first thing to exit neutrality. For a country that is so outraged about private ownership of the internet where do we stand on private land? Our schools are being privatized. So are our parks. Our land, our water and our air. Is the water at Standing Rock neutral? How about air pollution? Who owns the air when certain people are profiting of of the pollution of it? Are people themselves even neutral? Look at worker relations or domestic violence. The elections are bought. Small businesses can’t compete against large ones. In a country where 1% of the population has more wealth than the bottom 99% we are worried about the neutrality of the internet.

The loss of net neutrality will effect all these things but maybe we can take this time as a chance to spend less time on the internet and more time with each other. That is not only loving each other but also learning from each other, as news sources. If one were to only read the “neutral” news you would think that mass shootings were more common than good deeds, that  everyone looked like Kim Kardashian, that Russians lurked behind every corner and that the rich only gave to charities. A world at least a degree removed from realness has always been represented on the internet.

The news on the internet is the story of six very rich people. The world is full of many more than that. The hope would be that the loss of net neutrality might open doors for us to rely on other ways to connect with people and understand our world. So far though the fear of losing net neutrality has been met with a response bred by the internet. One of instant outrage, lacking reflection. Click bait that does more to break the internet than defeat it. At this pace it’s loss will be forgotten by the next royal wedding, and we will go on consuming the truth about the world from the people who profit from its demise.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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