Net Neutrality And The Republican Party

6 minute read

To My Dear Republican Friends — I’m done watching your party allow megacorporate operatives bastardize your values (again)

You’re not repealing “Obama-era” Net Neutrality. You’re empowering a select group of companies to segregate online speech, for a profit.

I have stayed silent. Silent while friends demonized friends during Trump vs. Hillary, silent when the ‘First 100 Days’ only polarized their relationships further (some beyond repair), and silent ever since. Until now.

Silence is not an option when Americans are intentionally being driven into a national mindset of “Us versus Them” - ‘them’ being fellow Americans, even friends & family.

I’ve never been into “President-bashing” - not during Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and so far Trump. So this is new territory for me - especially since I don’t have a problem with Republicans…I’m just terrified at the moves their nominated President is making that bring America closer to a corporate plutocracy.


Democrats: don’t get too excited by the title

The Democratic Party has a plethora of problems, as well (but hey, don’t we all? 😇)

Republicans: I am not a Democrat, nor“bashing” Republican values in any way

I have voted for members of both major parties, and some independents. At the time of this writing, I have not registered as a member of a political party. That is going to change very soon.

Above all else, I am simply hungry to learn, because my political beliefs are driven in no small part by the information at my disposal.

I grew up in a 99.9% conservative Republican environment until I was about 17 years old. As an outspoken little brat, I was politically eager, ambitious, and 100% confident that I was right about…well, everything. In middle school I even volunteered for a local Republican congressional candidate (which mostly taught me how miserable a cramped campaign bus feels just 2 hours into Day 1 of a 5-day district swing).

Barely in time for my first vote, I stopped caring about party lines and started caring about what kind of person I was voting for. Fast forward to today, and now my family and friends are so scattered across the political spectrum that frankly it’s hard to keep up.


The Psychology of Manipulating Public Opinion

Ten years of campaign strategy, digital marketing & PR has made a bit of a cynic out of me, when it comes to noticing how people are trying to manage public perception. Anyone whose job involves raising awareness, PR, reputation management, and generally influencing public opinion should be able to spot exactly what is happening. Lobbyists, government factions, and corporate interests (including the news media - more on that soon) all have someone like myself telling them the darker truths of mass psychology that every marketer knows:

  1. An angry public is a distracted public.
  2. An angry public consumes & shares news that “justifies” their views.
  3. The news media is still a business, and must match their supply to viewer demand. To compete as a news source today, their news cycle has to supply stories about what Americans care about…sadly this feeds the ::“Us versus Them”:: mindset happening across America. To be clear, I’m not faulting the news media industry en masse for any of this — they have the unenviable job of balancing their duty to report the facts with their obligations to shareholders. A different discussion, possibly for an upcoming article.
  4. Managing public opinion is all about pathos. Pathos is a Latin term referring to the emotion behind a story — I’ll give you an example: for my startup & corporate clients, I always advise them that announcing ~“Hey, we built Product X”~ only gets them a “big whoop, who cares” in the public eye. Instead they should tell a story, such as ~“I lived in my car for 6 months building Product X to save puppies!”~ Can you see the pathos in the last version? Honestly, who can resist a good underdog story (see what I did there? 😏).

Therefore:

  1. Encouraging Americans to think in terms of ::“Us versus Them”:: actually creates one form of pathos. Think of it this way: Anger is the “Emotion of the Year” for anyone trying to influence public opinion.
  2. The more passionately Americans hate other Americans, the more national attention is drawn to the issue.
  3. Ultimately, this means that public anger is an effective (albeit twisted) way to control the news cycle.

Who wants to call their representative about something called “net neutrality” when Trump’s latest tweet could start a war with North Korea?

My own Congresswoman (Marsha Blackburn, R) calls Republicans to “Repeal Obama-era Net Neutrality.” Honestly, a few years ago I actually didn’t have a problem with Congresswoman Blackburn. But Net Neutrality is not about repealing Obama-era or even Democratic laws. Nor does it require understanding tech jargon (like “net neutrality itself). It is just a term that means that internet providers ought to treat everyone’s data the same - every website, blogger or app’s data. I just call it a free internet — without it, companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc. can “sell” premium treatment on the internet like real estate, leaving small businesses, startups, and more unable to afford this “elite” internet or compete with that market.

It’s not just about net neutrality. This is “Trump’s America,” a web of influence and politics which, the more I investigate, the more I believe is the foundation for a corporate plutocracy.

This is about another corporate empire co-opting the Republican Party, not unlike how the “grassroots” Tea Party was co-opted by corporate sponsorships.

Battle for the Net

I am extremely disturbed about the plan to reverse Obama-era FCC regulations. As a consultant to technology startups, every new entrepreneur I work with serves as a reminder that startups & small- to mid-cap businesses depend on being treated equally online, just to stand a chance of competing in a free market.

At the time of the Constitutional Convention, there was no concept of instant, global communication. We simply committed our country to one generic principle on the issue: the US government will not and cannot ever restrict the freedom of speech.

While the pro-repeal conclusion is flawed (and sadly often made partisan), I do agree with the sentiments of its supporters:

  1. The Obama-era regulations are not perfect; and
  2. We absolutely should not set a precedent for the government to interfere in a free market.

My two questions for every member of Congress (and especially my district’s Marsha Blackburn) are:

  1. Is it still a “free market” when a select group of corporations (ISPs/Data providers) has the power to segregate speech on the internet? To manipulate markets by auctioning off the competitive edge?
  2. The Internet is the foundation of how modern Americans communicate. When did you decide to allow data providers to put pricing packages on free speech? When did it become OK for these companies to enable “free speech for all” plus “better free speech (for a fee)”?

It is the federal government’s duty to protect & defend the very existence of that freedom. It’s a very simple social contract: Every American citizen and business has equal freedom of speech (and with it, equal opportunity to compete in the free market). In exchange, the federal government defends that very freedom by protecting it from any threats, foreign or domestic.

Consider the following:

  • Monopolies and antitrust business practices (SEC, FTC Bureau of Competition)
  • M&A deals whose post-merger market share would kill off or severely discourage any other competition in the market (FTC, SEC Division of Corporate Finance)
  • Insider trading (SEC, FTC, etc.)
  • Publicly-held companies that misrepresent or even fail to publicly disclose their financials (SEC)
  • Infringing upon patents & copyrights (US Copyright & Patent Offices)
  • Employers who provide unsafe work environments (OSHA)
  • Discriminatory treatment of employees or job applicants (EEOC)
  • Unregulated child labor (Dept. of Labor Wages & Hour Division)

These are all things that happen in a free market, when greed & responsibility are left unchecked. They destroy the free market itself if uncorrected. I don’t favor government interference - but I end with one thought:

The “free market” that FCC Commissioner Pai claims to support by repealing net neutrality does not start with a foundation of corporate plutocracy.

Learn more & contact Congress to stop the FCC in time ⏱

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