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A modest proposal…to kill the Internet

By Justin Banda
web posted March 7, 2011

Several weeks ago, the then-Egyptian government used its last-resort weapon: a kill-switch on Egyptian internet servers. This drastic, last-ditch measure was admirable in its subtlety. By effectively blocking communications between protesters, the Egyptian government wisely exercised its right to its continued, justified regime. Although Egypt eventually fell (due in large part to releasing a jailed Google executive, who then rallied the people into a mob which overthrew the government), their tactics and honorable, above-handed methods should be emulated across the world, even right here in America.

How could such an internet kill-switch come in handy? Let us imagine several scenarios in which the American government could utilize such a tool. Take the Wisconsin labor bill currently being viciously fought over in the state's legislature. If the government had such a tool at its disposal, Governor Scott Walker could disable the internet for cheeseheads across the state, cutting off the pro-union protestors from their rallies and leaders, and stunting the protestors' progress. "As Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan summed up the unexpected fervor on MSNBC last week: 'Cairo has moved to Madison.'" [1] What worked so well for the Egyptian government could also work well in an American scenario. The fleeing Democratic senators would be relegated from using email and the internet to plan their escape to using old-fashioned phones. The anti-union bill would be crippled, and Walker could continue his term knowing that he successfully crippled educators everywhere.

Or consider the WikiLeaks scandal which rocked the world back in October, and left the American government reeling. Julian Assange, a pseudo-journalist and notable whistleblower, released several gigabites worth of classified information to the press. In return for free information on corporations, he was vilified by numerous world governments and was doggedly pursued until he was captured at Heathrow Airport. If such a kill-switch were enabled, the United States government could have killed the internet and captured the perpetrators before the information was disseminated to the presses. WikiLeaks would have gone offline (probably permanently, for good measure), and the New York Times would never have re-released that information to the public. We the people would have been none the wiser. We would never have seen the records of abuse that U.S. troops kept hidden, and we certainly wouldn't have found out about how American soldiers fired on unarmed civilians—and a foreign journalist. [2] The government could have protected its assets and information with the flick of a switch, and with that switch, could have kept its citizens in the dark. But because they value so-called 'human rights', they refused to. And because of this respect for human rights, Assange is now a free man. The fiend!

But perhaps we have a chance to rectify this glaring omission in the United States's policy toward the internet. At this very moment, S.3480 is being fiercely debated in Congress. [3] If you want your governent to have the power to kill your internet, please beg them to enable this government-empowering piece of legislation. In the end, it will mean the difference between knowledge and ignorance, truth and lies, and freedom and imprisonment. Obviously, we want to be a society free from the cares of the elitist politicians in Washington. They know what is best for us. Therefore, I set my modest proposal out as such: that we are resolved that the United States Federal Government should significantly reduce our internet freedom. For our own good, naturally.

To quote Bill Hader's fascimile of Julian Assange: "Here's a status update: democracy is dead! Happy holidays!" [4] Indeed. ESR


[1] "Why the Wisconsin Labor Bill is a Big Deal." Zachary Roth, Yahoo News. 17 Feb. 2011.

[2] "WikiLeaks video exposes 2007 'Collateral Murder' in Iraq." Dan Froomkin, The Huffington Post. 5 April 2010.

[3] "Senators Decry Link Between Egypy, Kill-Switch Bill." Declan McCullagh, Cnet News. 2 Feb. 2011.

[4] "SNL: Julian Assange Hacks Into Mark Zuckerberg's 'Person Of The Year' Thank-You Message." Steven Loeb, BusinessInsider. 19 Dec. 2010.

This is Justin Banda`s first contribution to Enter Stage Right. © 2011 Justin Banda.

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