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If You’re Not Terrified, You’re Inattentive at Best - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
If You’re Not Terrified, You’re Inattentive at Best
If the power to tax is the power to destroy, the power to regulate is no less so.
When That Great Ship Went Down: The legal and political repercussions of the loss of RMS Titanic, GMW Wemyss and Markham Shaw Pyle, Bapton Books 2012

This side of the Kingdom of God upon Earth, it is a melancholy human fact that those who beat their swords into plowshares end up doing the plowing for those who kept their swords.
– Markham Shaw Pyle, in The Transatlantic Disputations: Essays and Meditations, Markham Shaw Pyle and GMW Wemyss, Bapton Books 2012

The other day, a man who had been a celebrated civil rights lawyer in Jim Crow times (with honours from the NAACP to prove it), a Democratic Party activist, and a vocal opponent of both interventions in Iraq, died.

His name was Fred Phelps.

Obviously, he was an evil and wretched man in the latter part of his career, and is, we are all assured, merrily burning in Hell as he deserves, having heard those terrible words, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity’.[i]

He also had many allies, particularly abroad – although his old mucker Saddam Hussein was already roasting in the Pit.

We’ll return to that point.
The current United States administration are going forward – unless the Congress and the electors constrain them from so doing – with a plan to surrender control of Icann[ii] – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – to ‘the world’: meaning all the governments in it.[iii] Russia, the PRC, Turkey, Saudi, North Korea: that lot.

As it happens, despite the claim’s having been made by swivel-eyed loons on the Internet, there is in fact effectively a ‘kill switch’ for the damned thing. And Icann has it. That is to say, Icann has the power – hitherto restrained by the US – to register or not to register or to decline to renew or to delete domains, through the oversight of the ‘root zone file’. It can ‘disappear’ website addresses. (Writing in Forbes, Emma Woollacott explained that ‘the responsibilities to be farmed out will include the administration of changes to the DNS’s authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as managing the unique identifiers registries for domain names, IP addresses, and protocol parameters’: which, as you might guess, is sodding well important.)[iv]

Now, I know that many of you – Americans particularly – really do believe in not giving gratuitous offence. And many of you – Americans particularly – really do believe that there can surely be no harm in making the fundamental control of the Web open to all. I know, also, that many of you – and not Americans only – really do believe that the current American president is the Second (or first, for some) Coming of Moshiach, and the best thing to happen to the United States and the world since that nation was founded – including the founding. Others, of course, regard the current president and his administration as combining the monumental stupidity and ineffectiveness of Jimmy Carter with the morals of Dick Nixon. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Even Mr Obama’s[v] partisans ought to realise – if they are on the Net at all – that this is a cock-up of the first water that’s going forward unless stopped. Indeed, especially ought Mr Obama’s partisans to recognise this.

Well, why ought it to be stopped?

No matter what many of you may say, I’ll wager your actions support the idea that ‘the Internet is for pornos’. And even if you don’t … look, I know the Net. And fandom. Those of you most likely to worship at the feet of the current administration in the United States are also those most likely to have Tumblrs devoted to ‘hawt bois’ (not to be confused, despite the fevered dreams of oboists, with a hautbois), or Queering Shakespeare, or marching for Tibet.
Good luck with all that – indeed, Goodbye to All That – if this goes through.

The United States is imperfect; it is composed of imperfect people. Yet even now, and despite repeated assaults internal and external, it preserves in act as well as in constitutional theory an ideal of free speech that much of the rest of the Anglosphere has gormlessly lost (the UK, sadly, very much included, and Canada, owing to successive spineless, feckless, nannying governments of all parties). So long as Icann was ultimately answerable to the United States, censorship at the root zone, top-level domain stratum was not possible internationally, for all that one or another tyrant might try to impose it domestically. (Look at Turkey, where Erdogan has attempted to shut down YouTube and Twitter … and the people have turned en masse to Tweeting by text and using VPNs and all sorts. Well, if this goes through, it damned well puts paid to that.)

Now imagine a world in which the best outcome of ‘global governance’ of and through Icann were to be allowing that utterly useless fucking twat James Brokenshire MP to do what he slavers to do, as a pub-league Stalinist, and invigilate the Net for things that ‘may not be illegal, but certainly [are] unsavoury’ and – in his and Sir Humphrey’s judgement – ‘may not be the sort of material people would want to see or receive’.

Imagine a world in which there is, in Mr Pyle’s typically colourful American metaphor, an alliance of ‘Baptists and bootleggers’ between, oh, Ugandan fundamentalists and Saudi Salafists to pull the plug on anything gay, ‘because hate speech’ and ‘insulting all religion’ and ‘blasphemy’.

Imagine a world in which, just a quarter-century after the birth of the World Wide Web, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party can force Icann to deny sites, and to deny, online, the right to speak and publish, to its critics: say, those who support a free Tibet. A world in which the Dalai Lama[vi] can no longer Tweet, and is knocked off all net-based communications platforms.

Imagine a world in which, just a quarter-century after the birth of the World Wide Web, Vladimir Vladimirovich Put(a)in can exert his not notably ‘soft’ power to make it impossible to register a website that promotes Ukraine’s integrity and independence, or to criticise the bastard.

Imagine a world in which, just a quarter-century after the birth of the World Wide Web, religious fundamentalists of various faiths can drive a devil’s bargain, claiming to speak for billions, and on ‘hate speech’ grounds force Icann to cut off the web access of anyone who does not agree with the Westboro view of human sexuality (I did tell you we’d come back to the dead and damned Phelps).

Imagine a world in which, just a quarter-century after the birth of the World Wide Web, North Korea has a seat at the table in saying what content may, and what may not, be on the Net.

We at Bapton Books have generally published history: and history, with its lessons and parallels, can be dangerous. There are those who’d be happy not to have those lessons pointed, those parallels drawn, and their own actions pointed out as resembling past cruelties and crimes.

I have also published a novel, the first in a series; and one series character is a devout Muslim, a British Pakistani by descent, who is struggling with his sexuality (he has thus far decided upon celibacy). I suggest you buy the book now, if ever you wish to buy it, particularly if you mean to buy an e-book, because if this goes through in the next year, I can easily see its being banned from sale or mention on the Net. Because blasphemy.

We have MSS in preparation that range from biographies to histories to ghost stories to romances in which not all the characters engaged in the toils of romance are strictly heterosexual. I can all too easily see our having to tell our authors that these are now dead in the water – if this nonsense (and it is a nonsense) is not stopped in its sodding tracks.

Imagine a world in which, just a quarter-century after the birth of the World Wide Web, not only are books (and not e-books only, but the offering for sale of physical books) banned, but fandom is bombed back into the ’zine age. A world without ninety per cent. of Tumblr, and LJ; a world without AO3. (Because offensive!) A world subject permanently, online, to a heckler’s veto. A world in which Google and Wikipedia and Amazon – and the Grauniad and the New York Times quite as much as the Torygraph, the Speccie, and NRO – are censored, or, should they resist, knocked off the Web.
And if that is not a world you can see yourself happy in, do something. Particularly you Americans. Whether you think Mr Obama a heavenly lightbringer who has been spectacularly ill-advised by incompetent advisors,[vii] or an invertebrate eunuch with the brains God gave a chair, do something. Or you’ll regret it, in silence, muzzled, forever.

[i] Matt. vii, 23. Here endeth the Lesson.
[ii] ‘Yes, Icann!’
[iii] It is generally conceded that this is owing to the embarrassments of having been caught spying to an extent Bush and Cheney never dreamt of. One can only point out that the proposed ‘solution’ has nothing whatever to do with the fault; this certainly shan’t stop the surveillance state, not by one bleeding jot it shan’t.
[iv] Mr Wemyss’ emphasis.
[v] He is ‘Mr Obama’ to me for the same reason as the French president is ‘M Hollande’ and the German chancellor is ‘Frau Merkel’: Barraco Barner is not in fact ‘president’ of the UK. I’ve quite enough to be going on with, burdened as I am with that pie-faced poon of a PM we have. So Wet you could shoot snipe over him. Maggie’d’ve had him for breakfast, on toast. At any rate, I don’t care to hear anyone’s Yank-centric blethering regarding my wrongly-presumed ‘lack of respect’. That is, simply, how one titles foreign leaders.
[vi] Hullo, Dalai!
[vii] ‘If only the Tsar knew! The Little Father cannot have permitted this….’

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2 comments or Leave a comment
shezan From: shezan Date: March 22nd, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, a thousand times YES.
taradiane From: taradiane Date: March 24th, 2014 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Love it. All of it. Particularly footnote #5.

2 comments or Leave a comment