George W. Bush, governor of Texas and presidential wannabe, has proved how agile he is by tickling his tonsils with his toenails. During a recent televised press conference, he railed against a Web site (www.gwbush.com) that parodies his official campaign Web site (www.georgewbush.com). Rather than ignore the parody, which probably would have insured its obscurity, he attacked it, stating "there ought to be limits to freedom." This clever approach has made www.gwbush.com wildly popular--over 6 million hits in May, compared to a paltry 30,000 for www.georgewbush.com.
We shouldn't be surprised at Bush's reaction. The Internet upsets powerful elites like him because it lets citizens poke holes in their carefully crafted world of empty soundbites and glossy images. It lets us voice real alternative viewpoints and find audiences denied us by the mainstream corporate media. It empowers us.
Unlike much of the Third World, our leaders don't get to use death squads to silence opposition. Our Constitution and laws provide us with some of the best protection from State-sponsored violence you can find on this planet. The only way they can control us is to control our thoughts. To drown dissenting ideas in a sea of propaganda and PR campaigns. To divert our attention from things they want to cover up. And to make us believe that there's only one proper way to look at the world--their way.
But now, rather than just sitting on our couches and passively sucking corporate-government sludge from the cathode-ray nozzle, some of us are using this wonderful electronic forum to take a good, hard, public look at what we've been sucking. We're able to sidestep the well-paid gatekeepers of information and discover our own ways of looking at the world. And most importantly (and most despised by those in power), we're able to say "not only does the Emperor have no clothes, but he's an asshole."
Make no mistake: those who wield political and economic power don't want us meddling in their affairs. They want us to trot down to the voting booth every four years to decide which half of our one-party system we want shafting us for the next four years, and then to shut the hell up. They want us to be good little uncomplaining consumers with ideas exclusively approved by Wall Street, the White House, and the handful of huge transnational corporations who own most of the media. They'd love to turn the Internet into yet another one-way dispenser of mindless entertainment, officially-sanctioned opinions, and endless sales pitches for thrilling new consumer objects to replace the hopelessly out-of-date consumer objects they convinced us we couldn't live without last year. They'd love to shut us down.
Don't be fooled into thinking George W. Bush is the only politician who thinks "there ought to be limits to freedom." He's just the latest one stupid enough to say it out loud.