All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.
This George Orwell quote was never more true than in our modern age. But we should amend it to read something to the effect of “All issues are political, and politics is a mass of diversions and illusions.” In other words, politics isn’t so much about the surface level, but what is buried beneath, hidden amidst an hallucinatory cloud of disinformation.
A near perfect example is Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) H. R. 1981, known as the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” a bill which drips with pathos but would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to collect and store user data in an immense database made available to the government.
As I wrote in July, the bill would, in essence, provide the legal framework for “federal, state and local authorities to usurp the 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures.” And, in the future, “it could be used for the government to collect information on activists and dissidents and anyone else who doesn’t necessarily agree with America’s transformation into a corporate democracy.”
As if any other evidence were required to prove the bill is much more vital to government interests than prosecuting those engaged in child pornography, the bill has been altered and shaped for “prime-time” (Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s words) in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are two other pieces of legislation with specific goals (fighting online piracy) that will have repercussions far outside their intended realms, and perhaps intentionally so. Now we shift our gaze to The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.
ACTA is the global internet censorship superstructure that will have New World Order paranoids running for their bunkers. For the sensible, it is a call to arms, as it has been with SOPA and PIPA.
Before proceeding, however, it should be noted that WikiLeaks cables relating to the ACTA negotiations have made possible the mounting anti-ACTA campaign. As Quadrature du Net noted nearly a year ago, if not for WikiLeaks, people would still be ignorant of the fact that many countries party to the agreement were incensed over the lack of a democratic process (imposed by the U.S. and Japan), as well as the fact that non-participating, poorer countries would eventually join by coercion. (Read the Quadrature du Net compilation of relevant WikiLeaks cables for background.)
Today, ACTA is up for its first debate in the European Union Parliament, brought to the floor by Jan Zahradil, a conservative Czech with Euroskeptic views—a rather ironic choice to bring ACTA to the EU floor given the treaty’s vast international scope.
The brilliance of the treaty agreement mechanism is that it allows the negotiations to occur in secret. The nature of the treaty will also allow the U.S. president to bypass a congressional vote. While in a traditional treaty the President must seek advice and consent by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, an executive agreement allows the circumvention of executive checks and balances.
As a group of 75 law professors wrote in a 2010 letter to Obama, “the Administration has stated that ACTA will be negotiated and implemented not as a treaty, but as a sole executive agreement. We believe that this course may be unlawful, and it is certainly unwise.”
And though it certainly is sensible to staunch the flow of pirated and counterfeit goods and intellectual property (movies, music, etc), to do this would require a serious rewiring of current internet standards and protocols.
For instance, rights holders (known in ACTA’s legal language as “a Party”) will be able to force ISPs into cooperation by demanding user data without court proceedings, forcing compliance by threat of civil proceedings or criminal sanctions for “aiding and abetting” infringement. Rights holders become pre-eminent in the eyes of international law, with due process for ISPs and websites, blogs, etc., thrown right out the window. The treaty would also allow participating countries to enforce criminal sanctions, creating the architecture for these procedures without a democratic process.
Another reason to fear the treaty, according Public Knowledge, is that “[w]ithout going through any pre-existing avenues of legal change—whether domestic or international—this treaty may be considered an act of ‘policy laundering.’” That is, the use of an international treaty to justify the passage of controversial legislation within one’s own country. In other words, this treaty could pave the way for passage of SOPA and PIPA. For this reason, significant public awareness and pressure must be amassed to stop ACTA from being signed by the U.S. government.
For now, sign a petition to President Obama to end ACTA.
Also, send a letter to your Senator demanding democratic transparency.