Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jamming ISIS’ Message on the Internet

Over the course of the past year, we have witnessed a startling increase in terrorist violence undertaken either by organized groups of people or lone individuals under the influence of ISIS’ message of hatred and war against the “crusaders.”  

This violence has many negative impacts beyond those who are killed or injured by the attacks.  It unsettles the broader population, making it fearful of “strangers” in their midst and opening up their minds and hearts to very anti-democratic measures to counter this threat.  It thus tears at the fabric of our societies and threatens the very basis of modern democracy which is tolerance for all and the protection of minorities against the discriminatory whims of the majority.

In both the U.S. since 9/11 and across Europe for decades, far-right politicians have appealed to these fears, stoked them in order to further their own quest for power.  Once they were outliers.  But no longer.  Their words are finding a growing receptive audience as the population becomes increasingly spooked by the violence.  Whether these politicians are sincere in their misguided beliefs, as neo-Nazi’s and many others are, or whether they are deceitfully manipulating people’s fears, which I believe is the case with Donald Trump, makes no difference.  The harm done to our democratic societies is the same.

This violence thus presents one of the greatest threats to democracy in our time.  The question must therefore be asked … why is this happening now?  Have our societies broken down?  Is it because we have all these Muslim immigrants amongst us?  Are these immigrants people who want to harm the very countries that accepted them when they fled their own homes?

No, these are not the answer.  The answer is that we now have the internet.  And with the internet, groups such as ISIS can easily spread their hate and campaign of war into all corners of the world.  Vitriolic videos can be accessed from every computer.  Granted, there needs to be some fertile soil for their message, which comes in the form of people who are desperate, who feel discriminated against, who feel alienated from the larger society.  While the mass of Muslim immigrants clearly do not feel that way, it just takes a few, and without question those individuals exist 

But regardless, without the internet and these individuals’ resulting exposure to ISIS’ message, we would not be experiencing this epidemic of “home-grown” violence.  This is an indisputable fact.

Ergo, the U.S. government has every justification, for security purposes, of somehow jamming ISIS’ message on the internet.  I am not a technical person and so I do not know how or if that is possible.  But there is no question in my mind that we will not experience any peace or security until we find a way to stop the internet from being used to wage war against us.  

This is not a question of free speech or the exchange of ideas protected by our Constitution.  This is a matter of war; make no mistake about it.