Hit the Switch!

Funny thing about freedom.  It just keeps pushing its way out of every restraint the world can throw at it. Egypt is exploding as the unflagging human drive to express oneself freely spills into the streets.  As of this morning, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are experiencing protests.  A people silenced for decades burn with desire for freedom while we douse ourselves with complacency.

To wit, Senator Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has floated the idea of an Internet Kill Switch.  Of course, Collins assures us that it is not really a kill switch–certainly not the kind that Mubarak has used in the attempt to silence protesters in Egypt.  It would merely be a way for government to “work with” the private sector in the case of a “real threat.”

Right.  Government programs are investments and OJ didn’t do it.

The Internet strikes fear into the hearts of tyrants.  It befuddles and confounds legislators who cannot make stupid laws fast enough to cope with the rapid pace of change in technology.  It allows even the poorest among us access to a platform from which to opine, vent, and criticize those in power.  It makes miserable the lives of people whose greatest purpose in life is to tell others what to do.

This nation needs to look at the Middle East this morning and ask why our nation, founded on the principle of freedom, finds itself even remotely unconcerned about such legislation.  A government given power will use it, and rarely for the ends it states when claiming that power.  Despite Collins’ assurances, this legislation is a threat to each and every one of us.

Violence erupts when peaceful alternatives are exhausted.  No citizenry is obligated to obey laws that stifle what is most noble and unique about humans–their ability to think and to express those thoughts freely.  Of all the technological advances in human history, the Internet wins hands down as the most effective enemy of oppression. Will we stand firm against attacks on our freedom or wilt?  Will we join arms in solidarity with the brave souls in Egypt or slink away and let our own government lay the groundwork for a Mubarak moment?  Will we kill the Kill Switch or let it kill us?

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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