ISSUES IN FOCUS

Week of October 5, 1998

 

TERMINAL CONTROL

 

A raft of poisonous legislation is in various stages of germination in Congress.   The proposed laws all have one, common purpose: to constrict the free flow of information over the Internet and, in doing so, restrict freedom of speech.

Internet activities statist politicians are seeking to prohibit are gambling, the sale of ammunition, the sale of tobacco and/or alcoholic products to minors, the distribution of material deemed "harmful" to children, the sale of information about children and the entry to certain Internet sites without an adult access code.  Other proposals call for mandating the installation of filtering software on all computers in schools and libraries, as well as requiring Internet service providers make available, at cost, filtering software to their customers.

If statists eventually succeed in gaining control of the Internet, it will be through their feigned interest in protecting children.  Statists have only one interest in children: using them as pawns in the expansion of their powers.  The current proposals to prevent children from gaining access to material that is "harmful" to them is entirely bogus because statists know such efforts will never work.  The quickest way to ensure that a child will read something is to have the government forbid him to read it.   The most intelligent children will always discover a way to access some forbidden area of the Internet and then quickly pass along their secret to other children.   Given this fact and the fact that statists know this, there is only one purpose of legislation restricting access to the Internet: it is yet another step by statists toward absolute power.

If legislation is enacted to restrict Internet access, the future failure of the legislation will be used as the excuse and justification for even more stringent laws regarding Internet use.  Eventually, there will be calls for a law that will shut down certain "harmful" web sites in an alleged effort to protect children.

Parents, not the state, should decide how their children are to be raised.   Parents should decide what their children may or may not read, see or hear.   The role of the state with regard to children is the same role the state properly plays with regard to adults: protect the individual from the initiation of force.   Beyond this, the state should have nothing to say about a child’s rearing, including what material the child accesses on the Internet or any other means of communication.

Special laws regarding actual criminal behavior, such as fraud or robbery, are not needed for the Internet.  Just as we do not need countless laws covering each specific manner in which someone may be murdered, we do not need a special law for every conceivable means by which some crime might be committed by means of a computer.   Thus, if someone robs your bank account using a computer, there is no need for a special law regarding such a crime.  The laws against robbery already cover it.

The foregoing holds true for so-called child predators, those who kidnap children.   Kidnapping is kidnapping and it makes no difference whether the child was initially contacted by a chance personal encounter, by mail, by telephone, by e-mail or by discussion in a chat room.  It is not the means of contact that should be made illegal, it is the act of kidnapping that should be illegal.

Again, statists know all of this, which reveals that their purpose is not to penalize actual criminal behavior but to eventually gain control of the Internet, to restrict and forbid certain kinds of communication.  The precedent and principle statists seek to establish is: if they can forbid one kind of communication, they can forbid any kind of communication.  And this precedent will apply not only to the Internet but to any means of communication.

However, preserving the Internet as a totally unfettered medium of communication is vital to the future of freedom.  The Internet is the most powerful means of communication and, as such, offers great hope for those fighting for individual rights and freedom.  For this reason, it is the greatest threat to statists and, therefore, will be the object of continuous, frenzied efforts to regulate it.

If any of the proposed legislation is enacted into law, it will be the beginning of the end of Internet freedom.  It will pave the way for a day in the future when you will only be able to access state-approved web sites, when you must enter your adult access code to access the Internet, when a V-chip installed on your computer will control which sites you may visit.  It will be the day your computer terminal is no longer under your control, but under the control of the faceless rulers of your life.

Fulton Huxtable
October 5, 1998

Copyright 1998 Fulton Huxtable

 

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