Three
news items appeared recently, back-to-back, which is too creepily coincidental.
And the creepers are wearing squeaky shoes made in George Orwell’s totalitarian
state of Oceania, in Nineteen Eighty-Four,
so one can hear them make their way to your computer and front door. The
coincidence may only be happenstance, but when the subject is calls for
censorship, it should trigger alarm bells.
On
May 5th, Tim Cushing of TechDirt reported that the federal
government is experimenting with mandatory “driver’s licenses” for
Internet users in Michigan and Pennsylvania. On May 6th, the
Washington Post ran an article in its Religion section by a fellow I’d never
heard of before, Omar Sacirbey, who suggested that Sharia gags should be imposed
on Internet speech to prevent “hate speech.” And, on May 7th,
in a Washington Examiner article, Paul Bedard reported that the chairman of the
Federal Election Commission (FEC) warned that the sentiment in the federal
government is to classify “conservative” Internet sites and talk
shows as Political Action Committees (PACs) and to regulate what they say and
perhaps when they say it.
All
three articles, of course, simply report the presence of Ninja censors in our
midst. Pamela
Geller
of Atlas Shrugs broke the Sacirbey
story
that appeared in the Post, but one must read the original story to
believe the brazenness of the suggestion. And not be startled by the goofy
photograph of Omar Sacirbey, who looks like he’s gritting his teeth in
expectation that Geller is about to deliver a roundhouse that will knock him
flat on his keester, or posing for a “Big Brother is Watching You”
poster. Creepy.
 Tim Cushing of TechDirt
wrote:
An idea the government has been kicking around since 2011 is finally making its debut.
Calling this move ill-timed would be the most gracious way of putting it.
A few years back, the White House
had a brilliant idea: Why not create a single, secure online ID that Americans
could use to verify their identity across multiple websites, starting with
local government services. The New York Times described it at the time as a “driver’s
license for the internet.”


Sound convenient? It is. Sound scary? It is.

Next month, a pilot program of the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
will begin in government agencies in two US states, to test out whether the
pros of a federally verified cyber ID outweigh the cons.
The NSTIC program has been in
(slow) motion for nearly three years, but now, at a time when the public’s
trust in government is at an all time low, the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST — itself still reeling a bit from NSA-related blowback) is testing the
program in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Cushing
writes that there is a catch.
But the program isn’t strictly
limited to government use. The ultimate goal is a replacement of many logins
and passwords people maintain to access content and participate in comment
threads and forums. This “solution,” while somewhat practical, also
raises considerable privacy concerns….
Beyond the privacy issues (and
the hints of government being unduly interested in your online activities),
there are the security issues. This collected information would be housed
centrally, possibly by corporate third parties. When hackers can find a wealth
of information at one location, it presents a very enticing target. The
government’s track record on protecting confidential information is hardly encouraging.
The problem is, ultimately, that
this is the government rolling this out. Unlike corporations,
citizens won’t be allowed the luxury of opting out. This “internet
driver’s license” may be the only option the public has to do things like
renew actual driver’s licenses or file taxes or complete paperwork that keeps
them on the right side of federal law. Whether or not you believe the government’s
assurances that it will keep your data safe from hackers, keep it out of the
hands of law enforcement (without a warrant), or simply not look at it just
because it’s there, matters very little. If the government decides the
positives outweigh the negatives, you’ll have no choice but to participate.
And
government, as we all know, is always fishing for “positive” reasons
to expand its power over the citizenry. Its legions of bureaucrats and wonks
must have something to do, and what better way to exploit them than to put them
to work rummaging for schemes to serve the “public good”? Or hire new
wonks to complete the task? All sorts of white papers and committee studies
will be generated by the two-state “experiment.” Politicians in Congress,
in committee meetings and on the floors of the Senate and House, will quote
from them in somber tones, invoking national security.
Cushing
writes that, in lieu of the Michigan/Pennsylvania experiment, the “government
believes this ID system will help reduce fraud and overhead, by eliminating
duplicated ID efforts across multiple agencies.” Multiple agencies? So,
Social Security numbers, Tax ID numbers, vehicle identification numbers,
license plate numbers, permit-to-carry-concealed numbers, and all those other mandatory
numbers aren’t enough; the feds want to integrate them all in another database
that will link them to your new Internet ID number.
“Grandma!
What big eyes, ears, and teeth you have!”
 “The better to see, listen to, and eat
you, my dear.”
Next
thing you know, they’ll want to know your shoe size, your daily caffeine
intake, and who you voted for. Farewell, privacy.
Pamela
Geller rips into Omar Sacirbey’s Washington Post column (she can be read here)
pointing out the inaccuracies, fabrications, and illogic in the article. Sacirbey
wrote in his May 6th article:
Anti-Muslim hate speech on the
Internet is commonplace and can motivate some people to commit acts of violence
against Muslims, according to a report released Tuesday (May 6) by Muslim
Advocates, a legal and advocacy group in San Francisco.
“When you have threatening
comments online and they go unchecked, people start thinking it’s acceptable,”
said Madihha Ahussain, an attorney and the report’s lead author. “And it
doesn’t take long to figure out that what becomes acceptable online becomes
acceptable in the real world.”
What
really pushed Geller’s buttons was a direct attack on her by both Sacirbey and
the non-entity, Madihha Ahussain of the Muslim Advocates, “a legal and
advocacy group in San Francisco.” Anyone familiar with Geller’s Atlas
Shrugs site knows that she threatens no one. What pro-Islam and pro-Sharia
readers feel threatened by is her commitment to and exposure of the truth about
Islam.
I
searched for the Muslim
Advocates
report, “Click Here to End Hate: Anti-Muslim Online &
How to Take Action” (May 2014), and found it here.
It discusses alleged “hate speech” against Muslims by public
officials, citing Peter King, Michele Bachmann, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert,
Thomas Rooney, and Lynn Westmorland as expressing anti-Muslim bigotry (p. 8).
On page 10 of the report, Scott DesJarlais, U.S. representative from Tennessee,
is excoriated for having posted on his Facebook page his concerns about a
Muslim cemetery and mosque in Murfreesboro. On other pages are targeted
organizations such as Stop Islamization of America, the United States Defense
League, the Counter Jihad Report, and Bare Naked Islam. Geller and Robert
Spencer of Jihad Watch merited their own “Wanted Dead or Alive” page
(p. 14).
Brigitte
Gabriel and ACT! For America merited all of page 15. Overall, the document is
one long whine about how Muslims are persecuted in America. It contains
numerous suggestions of how offended Muslims can turn in anyone who commits
“hate speech” on the Internet, of how to turn informant to either
Facebook, Twitter, or other venue, or to the authorities. Its concluding
statement is:
The White House should convene a
national level dialogue on hate against religious communities [namely, Islam
and Muslims] and invite Internet companies to participate in discussions
addressing online hate. (p. 37; bracketed remark mine)
In
short, the report is calling for stealth or outright censorship, mandated by
the federal government, and farmed out to Internet companies.
To
return to Omar Sacirbey, The Counter
Jihad
Report on March 14th published an article on him, citing
his Washington Post screed, together with a link to Robert Spencer’s Jihad
Watch rebuttal
to Sacirbey’s assertions in another Washington Post article of March 12th,  Anti-Muslim
speakers still popular in law enforcement training
.” Sacirbey
triumphantly crowed:
Law enforcement officers in
Virginia will no longer receive credit for a counterterrorism course taught by
a former FBI agent [John Guandolo] and anti-Muslim activist after the academy
where the course was taught canceled its accreditation the day is was scheduled
to begin.
How
did that come about? Sacirbey quotes two “authorities” on “hate
speech”:
“His views on Islam are the
equivalent of historical anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic falsehoods,” said Corey
Saylor, national legislative director for the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, wrote in a letter to Jenkins [Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins].
“Guandolo offers only his own prejudiced and inaccurate conspiratorial views,
not solid counterterrorism training.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center
calls Guandolo “a notorious Muslim-basher and conspiracy theorist.”
Given
the criminal record of Islam’s “foot soldiers” in their war against
the West and the plots concocted by their commanders to kill and destroy, this
is tantamount to Al Capone accusing Eliot Ness of being a “notorious
gangster-basher and anti-crime conspiracy theorist.”
Paul
Bedard’s article in the Washington
Examiner
, “FEC chair warns that conservative media like Drudge Report
and Sean Hannity face regulation – like PACs,” quotes the FEC head:
 Government officials, reacting to the growing
voice of conservative news outlets, especially on the internet, are angling to
curtail the media’s exemption from federal election laws governing political
organizations, a potentially chilling intervention that the chairman of the Federal
Election Commission
is vowing to fight.
“I think that there are impulses
in the government every day to second guess and look into the editorial
decisions of conservative publishers,” warned Federal Election Commission Chairman
Lee E. Goodman in an interview. “The right has begun to break the left’s media
monopoly, particularly through new media outlets like the internet, and I sense
that some on the left are starting to rethink the breadth of the media
exemption and internet communications,” he added.
Unlike
many non-profit sites that offer news and opinions, specific media have been
free to say whatever they wished, whenever they wished, without fear of
government retribution in the way of lawsuits or IRS audits.
All media has long benefited from
an exemption from FEC rules, thereby allowing outlets to pick favorites in
elections and promote them without any limits or disclosure requirements like
political action committees.
But Goodman cited several
examples where the FEC has considered regulating conservative media, including Sean Hannity‘s radio show and Citizens United’s movie
division. Those efforts to lift the media exemption died in split votes at the
politically evenly divided board, often with Democrats seeking regulation.
Here
again enter the role of “multiple agencies” collaborating in a
campaign to stifle freedom of speech. Bedard writes:
Liberals over the years have also
pushed for a change in the Federal Communications Commission‘s “fairness
doctrine” to cut off conservative voices, and retired Supreme
Court
Justice John Paul Stevens has delighted Democrats recently with a
proposed Constitutional amendment that some say could force the media to stop
endorsing candidates or promoting issues.
“The picking and choosing has
started to occur,” said Goodman. “There are some in this building that think we
can actually regulate” media, added Goodman, a Republican whose chairmanship
lasts through December. And if that occurs, he said, “then I am concerned about
disparate treatment of conservative media.”
On
the issue of campaign financing and free speech issues, in Part II of my Rule
of Reason column, “Justice
Stevens’s Liberty-Destroying Amendments
,” I wrote:
Stevens writes that there is
nothing to fear from his proposed amendment:
A constitutional amendment
authorizing Congress and the states to place “reasonable” limitations
on campaign expenditures would allow corporations to make public announcements
of their views but would prohibit them from engaging in the kind of repetitive
and excessive advocacy that the candidates typically employ. It would also
repudiate both the holding and the reasoning in the Citizens United case, giving corporations an unlimited right to
spend their shareholders’ money in election campaigns.
Stevens
then proposed a new amendment to the Constitution that would read:
Neither the First Amendment nor
any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the
Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money
that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election
campaigns.
The
connection between “the editorial decisions of conservative
publishers” and the powers of Lee Goodman’s FEC is tenuous at best. But, rummage
for a connection, and ye shall find, no matter how imaginary it might be. Per Justice
Stevens’s metrics, conservative publishers can be defined as
“supporters,” and, regardless of their corporate status under IRS rules,
can be regulated in what they say and when, and perhaps even by how much money
they spend saying it. And whether or not they are “conservatives,” any
publisher can be defined as an FEC rule-breaking opponent of whatever statist
agenda a candidate may be promulgating, and be penalized, or receive an
injunction from the FEC or IRS against further speech on the subject.
Remember
that after Hitler’s ascendance to power in 1933, newspapers which criticized
him and the Nazi Party were vaporized and their editors and journalists
disappeared.  Sections One and Three of the
Nazi “editorial
law
” of October 1933 more or less presaged the means and ends of the
Democrats and the federal government:
Involvement in the shaping of the
intellectual contents of the newspapers or political periodicals published
in the Reich, whether through writing, news reporting, or illustration, or
through appointment as chief editor, is a public function, regulated by the
state through this law….
The Reich Minister of Public
Enlightenment and Propaganda will determine which periodicals are to [be] considered
political within the meaning of the law….
 All one need do is substitute the appropriate
terms with American ones and one will have an appendix to Stevens’s new American
Constitutional amendment.
These
were the squeaks. The stealth censors are a tat less cautious than they used to
be. They look forward to the day they can jump us and throw a black bag over
our heads.