Outlawing “Cyber Violence” — the Next Big Thing?

Women sit during discussion board conversation

Is it possible to commit violence against another person via the Internet?

Common sense and even the tiniest regard for individual rights would seem to suggest no. But a newly issued report by the United Nations claims otherwise. Not only that; this U.N. report calls on all nations, including the United States, to use their “licensing prerogative” (translation: the FCC) to ensure that “telecoms and search engines” are only “allowed to connect with the public” if they “supervise content and its dissemination.”

What kind of content? Are we talking about videos of people where actual victims are raped, murdered and assaulted against their will and the videos of the victims’ trauma are then made public?

No, that’s not what concerns the U.N. in this report. From breitbart.com [9-26-15]:

According to feminist culture critic Anita Sarkeesian, who spoke at the event, online “harassment” doesn’t simply consist of what is “legal and illegal,” but “also the day-to-day grind of ‘you’re a liar’ and ‘you suck,’ including all of these hate videos that attack us on a regular basis.”

Unable to prove that they are the victims of a wave of “misogynistic hate” – no bomb threat against a feminist critic of video games has ever been deemed credible and there are serious doubts about threats supposedly [leveled] at transsexual activist Brianna Wu – feminists are trying to redefine violence and harassment to include disobliging tweets and criticisms of their work.

The laws are directed to protect women in particular from what’s seen as the crime of unduly offending or hurting their feelings.

“Abuse online is still abuse, with potency and very real consequences,” says UN Women’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka [unwomen.org 9/24/15].

But emotional or verbal abuse is not against the law. For one thing, law has to be objective. It often is not, but it should be. And in order to be just, a law must be objective so everybody understands what they’re being required to do, and the law can be enforced impartially.

Even if you could define emotional abuse by some objective standard, it should not be against the law. It may be unkind, mean, anti-women or anti-anyone else; but government does not exist to protect hurt feelings. Government is not a gigantic mommy or daddy, and adults are not children.

If there’s anything worse than even the nastiest form of emotional abuse, there’s one thing worse still: the prospect of the government controlling the “content and dissemination” of what we read, think or say on the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest. There are worse things than the mean things people say to each other, and one of those worse things is dictatorship.

Interestingly, many such laws and beliefs these days stem from the feminist movement. If you define feminism as equal treatment for women under the law, there’s an insulting and contradictory attitude about women right there. Do feminists really respect women? There’s an interesting question. But feminists routinely come out for laws and policies like this.

The premise is that women cannot stand having their feelings hurt, while men presumably can, so women need special or extra protection by government “licensing prerogatives” to ensure that they are not insulted or offended.

Isn’t passing a law to protect women from government-defined “hate speech” offensive to women, since it treats women as helpless while ignoring men since they can presumably better fend for themselves? What does this have to do with “equal rights”?

Of course, there’s a far worse implication of such a law, for both men and women, and for anyone at all who values individual freedom.

The idea that the government might start deciding what kind of content is or is not OK for people to hear, state or otherwise put into their minds is the beginning of a totalitarian dictatorship.

The U.N. uses this language: that the government must “supervise content and its dissemination.” Forget what kind of government is doing this, which party or anything else. Just the fact that the government would be doing this is unthinkable and unacceptable.

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Even in the United States, the government already heavily regulates nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Consult the regulations coming out of agencies like the FDA, OSHA, the FCC, the DEA, EPA, HHS, and you’ll begin to realize just how far from individual liberty and how close to dictatorship we already are. Government monitors, controls and in some cases directly outlaws what we may eat, touch, place against our bodies, keep in our savings or investment accounts, spend and, to some extent, what content comes into our minds. There’s precious little left for the federal government to regulate, monitor or otherwise interfere with other than free speech itself. Remember that the U.N., and its underlying philosophy of unlimited government, has the unqualified support of the entire Democratic Party, and probably much of the Republican Party as well.

The greater concern is not that a law like this might pass tomorrow. The greater concern is that almost nobody would provide the right argument, if support for such a law (especially under a President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders) were to grow. And it’s not just from the left. On the right, it’s not difficult to imagine a President Mike Huckabee or equivalent calling for a little “content and information dissemination supervision” to protect women from the alleged evils of abortion, or children from the claimed corrupting influences of homosexuality.

The most likely arguments against such a measure would be things like, “That’s silly.” Or “not in America.” But we’ve heard those arguments before, against things like socialized medicine, government turning the Internet into a public utility, of placing millions of illegal aliens on welfare (without legislation), and of exploding the national debt into tens of trillions of dollars to keep unsustainable entitlement programs running. Yet all of these things have come about, gradually and progressively, almost invisibly over time. Why not something like this too? If the majority of us permit — and even encourage — the government to do everything else we let it do to us, why not let them start regulating Internet and other speech content as well?

The only compelling argument against such legislation (or executive order) would be the individual right to sovereignty over one’s life, one’s body and one’s mind. This sovereignty means that the government has no right to control what people say, do and think, provided they are not inflicting physical harm or fraud on another. Arguments like this are used when defending the right to gay marriage or abortion, for example. But with almost every single other issue facing our society, that claim is never made, and it’s actually violated on a routine basis. Forcing people to buy health insurance and making the federal government the (just about) single payer of health insurance and final say on all health care decisions was simply the most glaring and recent example.

If we stop making the case for individual rights based on individual sovereignty over one’s own body and mind with all other issues, what’s to defend us against the attacks on freedom of speech? Dictators, including those who sit in U.N. offices, are watching America closely.

Sooner or later — actually as soon as possible — we have to start reasserting our individual rights; otherwise, the last and most important one will be gone too.

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