Hypocrisy on freedom of speech

A new threat to freedom of speech on the internet has appeared in the form of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) that enables the Attorney General, in response to complaints from big business, to shut down websites with little notice.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes SOPA as the “blacklist bill” because it would “allow the U.S. government and private corporations to create a blacklist of censored websites, and cut many more off from their ad networks and payment providers.”

That means the Attorney General would have the power to cut off select websites from search engines like Google. It could also cut off advertisers and payment processors like Visa from the sites. The Attorney General could essentially kill all of a site’s traffic and revenue in a matter of days.

SOPA only allows targeted sites five days to submit an appeal. That doesn’t leave much time for them to defend themselves before losing their site and their revenue altogether.

Due to opposition, the SOPA billed seems to have stalled (for now at least). Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is promising a filibuster of PIPA, but it is not clear if he will be successful.

It is this kind of internet censorship that is righteously deplored by the US government when it is practiced by other countries. See for example, Joe Biden in a speech at the recent London Conference on Cyberspace give the kind of ringing endorsement of internet freedom that his own government is seeking to suppress in the form of SOPA and PIPA.

On February 15, 2011 Hillary Clinton gave a stirring speech at George Washington University on the importance of respecting the right of freedom of speech and the free flow of information. During the speech, 71-year old Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and currently a member of Veterans for Peace, stood up and turned his back. For this simple symbolic act of protest, he was forcibly dragged out of the auditorium, resulting in bruising, all while Clinton (like John Kerry in the infamous 2007 taser incident) said absolutely nothing but continued blathering about the importance of the freedom of speech. McGovern was taken to jail and fingerprinted before being released. As is often the case, charges were initially brought against McGovern in order to give a patina of legitimacy to this act of suppression of peaceful protest, and then quietly dropped when the media stopped paying attention. Kevin Zeese describes the events and McGovern was interviewed about it on Democracy Now!.

Clinton also found time to lecture Russia on the need to protect human rights.

“I think all of these issues –imprisonments, detentions, beatings, killings – is something that is hurtful to see from the outside,” she told Echo of Moscow radio.

“Every country has its criminal elements, people who try to abuse power. But in the last 18 months… there have been many of these incidents.

I think we want the government to stand up and say this is wrong.” [My italics]

Of course, she could easily have been talking about the Obama administration of which she is a part. Drone killings, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the black sites the CIA operates all over the world, the torture and deaths that occur in all these facilities are things that in the future we will look back with shame. At least I hope we do, unless we have become so desensitized that nothing our government does in our name is worthy of condemnation.

I think that I could if I wanted to spend my entire time on this blog documenting the hypocrisy of the Obama administration on various issues of principle. The fact that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the choices that the Democratic party faced in the 2008 primaries, and that John Kerry was the 2004 nominee, shows how wretched the system is.

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