Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Political Purity Arrives in Cyberspace

Flight of the Barbarous Relic is a novel about a renegade Fed chairman that the author is adapting as a screenplay.   With the usual amount of luck and perseverance, it may someday see life as a movie on the big screen. 

What follows is a short segment from the novel - chapter 23.  At this point in the story certain websites have gained a strong following by exposing the flaws in the official account of the death of the Fed chairman.  The government decided it cannot afford to let this continue, so it claimed monopoly power over web browsing.  To this end, it hired nerds to develop a “purposeful collection of government bytes” called the Liberty Browser.   As a reporter in the story describes it,
. . . Liberty Browser will only recognize sites that have been approved by the government, much like the only drugs we can legally obtain are those approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Though President Gage assured us that all his “favorite critics would be alive and well” under the Liberty Browser, we need to consider what that might mean.  Certainly his “favorite” critics are not those exposing the Federal Reserve’s spurious underbelly in web-only commentary. . .
Here, then, is chapter 23, a triumph of oligarchic oppression over the subversive forces of the web. 

Gradually, as downloads proliferated over a three-week period, Liberty Browser became the eyes through which many Americans viewed the World Wide Web.  As President Gage had promised, the new browser saw no evil.  Political purity had arrived in cyberspace.  On the American version of the WWW, Preston Mathews was defined as the late Fed chairman and no more.  He had been an outstanding public servant whose life was tragically cut short in a private plane accident.  There was no trace of corrupted dollars, suicide missions, or money drops.  The lunatic fringe that fostered such nonsense had been snipped off in the public interest.

It had been a fight for freedom – freedom for government versus freedom for those under it – with the victor proclaiming the other side had won.

With Winston Marlowe standing behind him off to the side, Gage was basking in a press conference in a White House briefing room.  For once, his smile actually reflected his feelings.  He was carefree, light, joke-cracking.

“I don’t know the exact figures off the top of my head,” he was saying to a reporter, “but I know the number of websites that weren’t invited to the Big Dance is on the order of one in ten thousand.” He flicked a quick glance at Marlowe as if to confirm the statistic, then turned to the audience again. “So we’re not doing anything Draconian. Most sites made the cut, a small handful didn’t. This is a far better percentage than we see in the sports world or private enterprise when selections are made.”

Hands shot up amid calls of “Mr. President!” Gage picked one out.

“The government browser lets us access numerous sites dedicated to gold investing and promoting a gold standard, yet barbarous-relic.com is not one of them. Can you comment on that?”

“Barbarous-relic.com was dedicated to subversion and malicious slander. Gold was merely its cover.”

“Are you saying barbarous-relic.com was non-factual or misleading?”

Gage had his hand raised, ready to pick someone else.  “Yes, I am saying that.”  He pointed to a man standing on the far side of the room.  “Yes.”

“President Gage, some anti-war sites have been excluded from the browser’s acceptance list.  What criteria was used in determining whether to include them or not?”

“There’s a fine line between responsible criticism and subversion.  As you’ve noticed, I’m sure, you can still find plenty of sites calling for my head.  A lot of heat goes with this job, and anyone who can’t take it shouldn’t apply.  But there were sites, for example, that went beyond common decency, such as those showing the mutilated corpses of American soldiers after an ambush, and I don’t think that furthers the cause of our nation in the least.  Our military personnel are thousands of miles from home defending our freedom, and they need all the support we can give them.  They don’t need reminding that war has its dangers.”

“But sir, don’t the people back home need reminding?  If war isn’t portrayed accurately how will people understand what it is they’re supposed to support?”

“I think every adult American realizes that war is sometimes a necessary evil.  Even that great critic of government, Thomas Paine, conceded as much in his famous Common Sense pamphlet.  I don’t think our cause is furthered by showcasing hideous details.  Certainly, the families of the fallen don’t need it.”

“One last question: Some people maintain defending our freedom thousands of miles from home makes no sense since there are no ostensible threats at that distance.  How would you—“

“—That’s a very narrow, parochial view that American statesmen abandoned long ago.  We are not an ostrich with our head in the ground.  We are not isolationists.  We have a moral mandate to bring freedom and democracy to every land where it is missing.  Furthermore, our freedom is threatened by their lack of it, because countries in which freedom is missing tend to be belligerent.  That’s why it is perfectly correct to say our soldiers are defending our freedom.  In bringing freedom to oppressed peoples they are defending ours.  I want to thank—“

“—Sir, excuse me, but do you think a policy of perpetual war and foreign intervention is compatible with freedom at home?  As our civil liberties are necessarily eroded through war-time measures, some claim we’re a threat to world freedom instead of a defender of it.”

Gage managed a smile. “Only people who have given up on America consider that argument plausible.  I certainly do not.  As everyone knows, we’re still the freest country on the planet, and we intend to stay that way.

“I want to thank you for your questions and add one final comment.  We sometimes hear people say government doesn’t deliver on its promises.  Do me a favor.  Next time you hear someone say that, ask them to log on to the internet.  We promised the American people a respectable web experience, and with Liberty Browser, we have delivered.  The Liberty Browser has cleaned up a segment of our social life in desperate need of attention and thereby has strengthened the freedom and morals of our nation.  I expect that other countries will look at what we’ve accomplished with some admiration.  Thank you.”

Gage and Marlowe left the dais with the reporters on their feet, applauding.

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