Monday, July 27, 1998

Week of 07/27/1998

The Empire Strikes Back!
Darth Vader has nothing on Congress
- by David Matthews 2

You might say I warned you…

Last year, the US Supreme Court slapped Congress down for enacting the Communications Decency Act, the biggest Anti-American piece of trash since the Alien and Sedition Acts. Although I was ecstatic that the nine most technically-challenged judges in America gave the Internet the same level of First Amendment protection as print media, I warned people that the forces of censorship will try again with CDA 2.0.

Earlier this year, CDA 2.0, sponsored by the protégé of the dishonorable former Senator James Exxon of Nebraska, the equally dishonorable Senator Dan Coates of Indiana, was submitted for consideration. The only difference between this version and the original was the language. Gone was the criminalization of "indecent" material, and instead was inserted the equally vague "harmful to minors" standard.

Even worse was how CDA 2.0 got passed by the Senate - it was quietly inserted into the Senate Appropriations Bills for Commerce, State, and Justice departments without any debate. Typical trademark of dirty-pool politics. This is a despicable tactic by legislators, no matter what the subject is. The backroom bastard of American politics that created pork barrel legislation, secret pay raises, and campaign loopholes so large you can sail the Titanic AND the iceberg through them!

Actually, it should be to no surprise that the Senate would start the censorship ball rolling again. The US Senate started the ball rolling with the original CDA, and it appears that they have the same disdain for the very Constitution they have taken an oath to protect and defend.

Now let’s get brutally honest here: This second attempt at Internet censorship by these Net Nazis opens the door to even more regulation than the original CDA!

Proponents say that CDA 2.0 is only limited to "commercial web sites." So define a "commercial web site." Is my site considered a "commercial" site? Proponents say that CDA 2.0 is designed only to material that is "harmful to minors." I’ve read what the moralists define as "harmful," and the categories define as "harmful" include anything specifically that deals with sex or nudity. Guess what? That includes sex education, breast cancer, AIDS.. if a "commercial" site is vaguely defined, then any site can be considered a "commercial" site, and these discussions will be criminalized as well.

But that’s not all.. if a site does not have any "redeeming" value, that too is "harmful" to minors. Let’s see.. a "commercial" site that has no "redeeming" value can be considered "harmful" to minors. Gee, that’s almost as believable as a politician who tells the truth, listens to the voters, isn’t beholden to the special interest groups, and takes the Constitution seriously! If you believe that, I’ve got prime real estate in the Florida wetlands to sell you!

What’s worse is the message that apparently Congress wants to tell the parents of the world - namely that they’re sheep! They can’t be responsible, even though they are the ones who purchased the computer, they’re the ones who sign on the online service, they’re the ones who are paying for the phone bill, they’re the ones who are paying for the online service, and they’re the ones who decided to have kids! They can be responsible for EVERYTHING ELSE, but apparently, when it comes to computers, parents are presumed to be complete and total idiots!

More than a year ago, the US Supreme Court said, in no uncertain terms, that the Internet deserved the maximum amount of protection under the First Amendment. World leaders said in Geneva this past weekend that they want an Internet with as few regulations as possible. Congress, however, refuses to let well enough alone.

What will it take for the politicians to get it through their thick skulls? Are frequent violations of the First Amendment an impeachable offense for members of Congress? I feel we may have to go that far before they get the hint.

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