In one of his latest contributions, which was (unfortunately) reposted here on ICW, WSIS is decried as "a move that is deeply
at odds with American values and security interests." Note the interesting juxtaposition: "American values" AND American
"security interests." That statement encapsulates the contradiction that grips so much Washington DC-based thinking
about the Internet and international efforts to come to grips with its governance.
To me, "American values" invokes
democracy, freedom of speech, openness, free markets, unmanaged, robust dissent and expression, diversity, and tolerance. Sadly, the term "American security interests" has come to mean just the opposite: systematic surveillance, pre-emptive wars, secrecy, self-censorship and fear, pathetic legal rationalizations for torture, flagrant disregard for the Geneva conventions, and so on.
If Mr. Levinson (quoting the more consistent and reputable organization Reporters without Borders) believes that "Holding a summit in Tunisia about the free flow of online information is...absurd," and that "holding a [WSIS] preparatory meeting in a
country like Syria, where an Internet user is in prison for simply e-mailing a newsletter, is chilling," then why isn't it equally chilling to have U.S. spy agencies talking openly about the need for "regulation, control and governance" of the Internet? The US government's power vastly exceeds that of small-time dictatorships like Syria and Tunisia. However dreadful
the control of those states may be to the people who must live under them, it pales in comparison to the power of the US
state, which can invade countries, project its laws globally, and disable global Internet services with the issuance of a
single command. Ask Dmitry Sklyarov who's a bigger threat to Internet freedom: the FBI or tiny Tunisia. Ask Indy Media whose
arm is longer: China's or the USG's.
Americans have a right to be suspicious and concerned about the attempts of authoritarian states to rein in the Internet. But
they must not let their values be exploited and abused by hypocrites who divert their attention from an objective assessment of the real threats.
But hey, maybe Levinson is not really confused. Maybe the illogical combination of attacking the
authoritarianism of other states while promoting the right of one, very large and powerful state to subordinate the Internet to its own self-defined "security interests" makes perfect sense -- as a fundraising pitch in the age of George W. Bush, John
Ashcroft, and other Big Government Conservatives and neocons, who have raised to a new level the craft of equating "American values" with the right of the American military and spy agencies to do whatever they please.