Klaatu on the Telecommunications Reform Act

Wilson Forbrush klaatu@clark.net

The following is a speech from the February 10 rally against the CDA, held opposite the White House.

Ahem, Hi.

I'm not used to public speaking so if I am a bit hesitant or inarticulate, please forgive me.

Thank you.

We are gathered here today to protest the enactment of the Telecommunications Reform Act. Most of us are probably mostly interested in the provisions within that much larger bill, provisions referred to as the Communications Decency Act, or the Exon/Gorton Bill. It doesn't matter what you call it, it relegates the Internet to a status less-covered by the First Amendment than would be most high-school publications. Now, I will not go into any detail regarding the ignominy of having our favorite toy locked away from us by patriarchs who smugly patronize us as they advise us that when we've grown up, we'll know better. I will not go into detail regarding the inarguable circumvention of our First Amendment rights, since that is not the issue here, the First Amendment rights which we are now exercising will remain untouched! - pause - Especially freedom of the press.

But it will be the established press whose rights remain untouched. We are the Internet; We the People. It is only by our consent that our government derives its just powers. But the only consent that counts is informed consent, and we cannot be informed, not fully, unless we have an unrestricted flow of information between the people.

The Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, while under seeming guise of fostering competition, is actually a bill which not only attempts (under the 'indecency' provisions) to stifle the fastest way for any individual to reach the greatest number of his fellow citizens, peacefully assembled in cyberspace - but it stifles competition. That's right, this entire act is in direct contravention of Antitrust Law! A trust is a gentleman's agreement, where the robber barons of industry agree behind their closed doors to stay out of each other's territories. Constant negotiation between the corporate monoliths of the telecommunications industry have been underway, and behind closed doors these agreements have been reached.

We live in an age of mergers. Microsoft joins NBC, and the immense entertainment machine of Disney has swallowed ABC whole. Newspapers are owned by broadcast corporations which have their own interlocking directorships, and the web is drawn ever tighter. While some news is too big to hide, and that we do see, there are millions of voices with stories to be told. If the corporate communications trusts do not find those voices worthy, we do not hear them, and in the absence of a Fairness Doctrine or a people's press those voices are silenced as surely as if they had been shot dead.

We are the Internet! We the people. The Internet is our medium. We have our voices there, and the corporate sponsors of corporate media do not yet own us! We can say what we want, and all who will listen can hear, and Bill Gates of Microsoft cannot through sponsorship-cancellation silence us because we prefer Linux as an operating system; Michael Eisner of Disney cannot cancel us because we don't want to watch "G"-rated cartoons! We are not motivated by soap or deodorants. Corporate sponsors hold no terrors for us, and publishing-houses' marketing-specialists have no power over our need to publish today. We have issues, intelligent issues, and we think for ourselves, and we participate in a creative act everytime we send E-mail or post on UseNet or make our own homepage. We exercise our minds when we set up our servers, and when we establish our own links to the nets, we are cutting ourselves free of the loop of corporate media. We are paying our own way, buying freedom of expression and the right to create.

We're building it, we're paying for it, we've demanded it and we got it. Our own private communications structure! One that's not available for shareholder buyouts.

The Telecommunications Reform Act is not about indecency! It is not about competition, it is anti-competition. This is not about freedom of the press, it's about the Establishment Press in collusion with the Telecom Monoliths stamping out the competition represented by We the Internet; and the powers-that-be turn a winking eye and offer a hearty handshake to the corporate media that control public opinion and keep their kind in power.

We the People, We the Internet, This is not about decency, nor corporate competition, this is the Establishment Press, the Corporate Aristocracy, quaking in fear of their lives! This is the Association of Buggy-Whip Manufacturers petitioning the State House to ban Automobiles and keep the roads safe for horses, or perhaps I should say dinosaurs.

We now have the means for the common citizens of average means to reach all of their peers. No Harris/ABC Polls, no sound bites, no talking heads on an idiot box. We can publish to the entire world for the cost of an Internet subscription. We're saving a lot of trees and the energy needed to make them into paper. Lots of corporate interest will be losing money, and the media giants of all stripes are, more importantly, losing audiences.

And we're speaking our minds, directly to each other, by the millions.

That's what this is all about. Don't let the PACs and the corporate media monopolies get away with this. The only indecency here is the insult to the American people, thinking that we're stupid enough to not notice what's up.

Thank you.