The problem with irony is that not everybody gets it. -- Ray Wylie Hubbard
John Oliver is a British expatriate doing satire in the United States. He'd been interesting on The Daily Show before subbing for John Stewart, and now he's got his own gig on Sunday nights for HBO. I realize that some of our readers will read "Jon Stewart" and "British Expat!" and rush to a default position blaming Zionists and the House of Windsor for everything. Don't do that, at least for a moment.
You see, Oliver has exposed a great truth of 21st Century existence -- if you want to announce something evil, make the announcement in the midst of something incredibly boring...and then discuss it only in talking points and make use of absolute bullshit in most of the talking points. Like it or not, musicians, poets, fiction writers, historians, satirists and some academics are the only ones in public life actually saying things that we should hear. And, because you might" not be able to dance to it", or "who wants to read some poetry" or "I'll wait for the TV shows"or" the books are too long or too complicated" we just read the commentary if that. Which is largely made up of talking points based on lies and absolute bullshit. One of my friends, economic analyst and musician Eric Garland tweeted recently that after reviewing Piketty and some of the complaints against him, he no longer believed that the complainers had read Capital in the 21st Century. I asked him if he had only recently learned that there was no Santa. Sshocked to hear that I didn't believe in Santa anymore.,Eric was concerned that I won't believe in the confidence fairy either. (I don't.)
So, if you don't like Healthcare and loathe Barrack Obama, don't complain about the affordable care act on its merits, but rail about the need to vote to repeal the "Job-Killing, Economy-Busting-Medicare-Killing Death Panel Obamacare Bill" which is a nice way of saying absolutely nothing. If you were to go into the Congressional Record and review the legislation introduced since 2010 in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, you'd find lots of such titles. Silly but that's what they've been doing; this is Karl Rove/Lee Atwater crap played out legislatively -- attack the other guy's strengths by denying them, and troll them downwards. It may or may not work in the short run, but if you're basically a spiritual ORC, it works well at degrading the public debate and making our civil society something more akin to the French Assembly of 1793 than Hamilton, Jay and Madison's vision of how a Democratic Republic is supposed to work.
The issue that got Oliver wound up as shown in the video above is Net Neutrality. As is typical with changes to Federal Rules and Regulations, the briefings are incomprehensible and full of jargon, acronyms and legalese. It's boring, violates all the rules of rhetoric, and makes about as much sense to most of us as four or five pages of organic chemistry. However, in this case it's fairly simple -- Net Neutrality requires that internet access by providers be equal. You put your stuff online, and it goes out at whatever speed your modem and network can handle and it gets downloaded and read at whatever speed your customers, readers or the NSA is currently handling. The current effort to change the rules is pretty simple -- you allow the providers of internet services to charge extra for premium speeds.
The big online providers contend that this will make the people paying for that additional speed get a faster connection to the consumer, but will not put those buying the basic distribution system at any disadvantage. To ensure this, we have the FCC which is now run by the guy who used to be head lobbyist for the CABLE and WIRELESS industries, and of course, we all know that we can trust lobbyists. And, the cable companies and internet providers...which already exist with monopoly basis and use all sorts of bizarre tricks to maximize profits while shafting consumers. We all have our horror stories about how lousy these firms are, and now we're going to trust them to do the right thing by us all. How bad could it be? (Very...extremely...totally!) What could go wrong? (Everything...)
Yeah -- problem is that in their Ayn Rand-derived world view, screwing us is not only their right but their civic duty. In the vulture capital world of cable-broadband-Wall Street-and big time politics, there should be no consumer protections, no truth in advertising protections, no guardians for the guardians guarding the rights and well-being of the people. The FCC does have a couple of problems though --it has to convince Congress and it has to get through the public rule review and commentary period. Frankly, this is a chance for those of us who complain about the failure of democracy to at least twist a few tails here. Oliver's piece reveals the address where you can email you comments on net neutrality. He has fun with that, addressing internet trolls and encouraging them to step up to the plate and tell this bunch of politicians, bureaucrats, thieves and whores that you're not happy about this. You will hold the agency and the elected officials responsible for this attempt to stifle competition and reduce freedom of expression through the use of money to deny access to free speech.
Now, the Cable-Broadband industry are major players in our dysfunctional political financing and politicianing whoring black market. So, both sides of the aisle are pretty vulnerable here. The only way this works is if we actually exercise that free speech and scare these people. Regulators and Congress-critters are shy, timid things when the voters actually make noise. As a progressive Democrat, Secular Humanist and Skeptic there are few things I can agree with some of my colleagues here at Vets. Vets by the way, is not so wealthy that we could pay the freight for high end access or else the editors have been kidding me. But, we can all get behind this idea -- the internet is one of the most democratic things we have in terms of leveling the playing field. Granted, one of the problems with democracy is the lack of quality control, but when left and right and moderate and downright scary extremists can agree on something, and make some noise, the bureaucrats and politicians tend to jump on the me-too train.
Be aware, of course, that eternal vigilance will be necessary to make this a permanent state of affairs, but that's OK. One thing that I've figured out is that if we want to protect liberty and freedom in the expanding chaotic democracy that is the 21st Century is that evil keeps coming back. Figuring out a way to banish it forever may well be impossible. But, that is no reason to accept it as inevitable. Actually, eternal vigilance is almost cliche these days-- protecting freedom and equality requires a rare level of being OCD...and, not boring.
Oliver's rant on Sunday, June 1 resulted in the volume of email in the public commentary mailbox at the FCC to basically explode. We need to keep it exploding. Here's the address: email@example.com.