Saving an open, democratic internet

13 August 2007,  by

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      Carmelo Ruiz Marrero < is actively involved in the struggle to maintain the liveability of the planet. He harbors, it seems to me, few if any illusions of the danger global human society is facing. Use of the internet is one of his tools. Just the other day I got from Carmelo an alert about possible U.S. congressional legislation to alter the regulation of the internet. A clear danger signal. Carmelo's e-mail contained the following:
Statement of Principles Coalition Statement of Principles

We believe that the Internet is a crucial engine for economic growth and democratic discourse. We urge Congress to take steps now to preserve network neutrality, a guiding principle of the Internet, and to ensure that the Internet remains open to innovation and progress.

Network neutrality is the Internet's First Amendment. Without it, the Internet is at risk of losing the openness and accessibility that has revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation and free speech.

From its beginnings, the Internet was built on a cooperative, democratic ideal. It has leveled the playing field for all comers. Everyday people can have their voices heard by thousands, even millions of people. Network neutrality has prevented gatekeepers from blocking or discriminating against new economic, political and social ideas.

The major telecommunications legislation now under consideration in Congress must include meaningful and enforceable network neutrality requirements to keep the Internet free and open to all.

Join the Coalition today      [I, G.S., put the words that I found questionable in red boldface.]

      If you go to you will find that the Communications Director of Free Press, the initiating group calling for public opposition to the threatening legislation, is Craig Aaron <> . I wrote Carmelo and Craig as follows:

Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2007 11:23:04 -0500

Dear Carmelo and Craig Aaron,

      Thanks Carmelo for your message this morning, “Save the internet”. The Statement of Principles on the website is flawed in one respect, and only one. It argues that the Internet is crucial for economic growth, as though economic growth is a desirable goal. That is a principal principle of capitalism. Maintaining economic growth is in fact the prime cause for practically all the world's problems. Moreover, the reason that the big capitalists want to get rid of so-called network neutrality is because the internet is providing a powerful means to counter the ideology of capitalism. The idea that the world's people, to survive as humane beings, must get rid of the profit system is spreading rapidly. Propagation of this idea is a direct threat to continued control by the major money moguls of giant capitalism. The people who wrote the Statement of Principles, which may include you, Aaron, may have avoided this issue for what they believe are tactical reasons, but I think it is a mistake. The basic principle ought to be a demand for as free and democratic access to information as is possible. I think the statement would be much improved if the bits in bold red were omitted.

      After posting my note to the Science for the People discussion listserv (at
one response was:

“Economic Growth” is a catch phrase here. Like “national security.”  As to democracy, as far as the US goes (possibly world wide) it would be hard to see the effort of bloggers,  and the recent “internet debate” contributing anything much at all. In other places the mobile phone is probably just as useful for organising opposition events.

      I replied,
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2007 09:26:13 -0500
To: Andrew Macfarlane <>

      Thanks for writing. You may be correct in so far as the people who wrote that “Statement of Principles”, however the notion that economic growth is essential for improving the human condition is also part of the arsenal of capitalist ideology, in my opinion a very dangerous part to which we ought to be alert. As for the role of the internet (including bloggers) I see its importance primarily as a tool for unmediated communication, because I believe in the need to have a large (on a world scale) well-informed population. When ordinary people ‘know the score’ (an Americanism), organization for action can be trusted to occur where it belongs — out of the control of the ‘all-knowing elites’. The idea of ‘going out and organizing the people’ is in the itinerary of the “organizational buffs”, which includes the authoritarian left (Marxists-Leninists-Maoists), the hierarchical labor unions, all political parties, in short all groups that want to “organize other people” to achieve goals set by the group. The idea of self-organization, which is preferred by anarchists, is anathema to the organizational buffs, who always want to run the show.

      I urge everyone who believes in the importance of an open, democratic internet to join in the effort to prevent crippling this tool for freedom of thought and information.
P.S. Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is well worth keeping in touch with. He maintains sites, and .

Note added 20 August 2007, a response to Andrew Macfarlane’s comment above.

From: Amy Hendrickson <>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 07:55:39 -0400

Thanks, very interesting material, George—

A comment:
“Economic Growth” is a catch phrase here . . .
This is pure foolishness. Try distributing your current excellent and informative email by mobile phone for example. The ability to reach thousands of people through various lists which we maintain ourselves is unprecedented and extremely valuable. It takes the monopoly away from gatekeeper "news" organizations and frees up the intellectual boundaries of acceptable topics or points of view. The internet is one of the only positive developments in the last number of years that gives us any hope for surviving the various forms of lunacy that go uncriticized, nuclear and biological weapons and the existance of the CIA at the top of my list. (on the CIA and similar organizations: why are we paying for our own oppression? partly because their usefulness is never questioned by mainstream media)

Thanks for being out there, George — we desperately need to consider where we are going and to reconsider our basic assumptions, such as the need for economic growth, and your ideas are very helpful.


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