“Right to be Forgotten?” Fuhgeddaboudit.

RGBStock.com WWWLast May, the European Union Court of Justice asserted a “right to be forgotten,” ordering Google and other search engines to remove “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” personal information from search results on demand.

Glossing over the difficulty of objectively deciding what kind of information might be “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive,” Google promptly complied. The web search giant created an application process through which individuals could quickly and easily register their demands that EU web users be forcibly made a little dumber. Maybe even as dumb as European Union Court of Justice judges.

Or maybe not. Turns out the EU’s censors want Google to implement their Orwellian “memory hole” globally. After all, EU web users, who on average run smarter than European Union Court of Justice judges, know they can bypass Google.fr and go to Google.com for information their masters don’t want them to have.

To its credit, Google is resisting the idea, citing the recommendations of an “advisory board” it put together for the express purpose of recommending such resistance.

But I wish Google would take matters further and simply tell web censors and other bad Internet actors to go pound sand.

Some governments are better than others when it comes to respecting Internet freedom. Unless governments act to stop them, users in any given country can reach sites hosted in any other country. And a company boasting $60 billion annual revenues carries enough weight to make offers of substantial value.

Google should move its headquarters and main server farms to two countries (splitting its servers and running redundant backups across both sets) on an offer like this:

“We’ll double, maybe even triple, your national GDP, bring substantial information infrastructure improvements, follow your labor and environmental regulations, and pay a reasonable tax rate on our revenues. Only one condition. You don’t regulate our content or sign international treaties requiring you to let others regulate our content. Ever.”

Latvia and Jamaica, perhaps. Or Iceland and Paraguay. Two countries, so that if one regime tries to back out on the deal Google can back out as well without missing a beat.

After which, of course, Google could show its middle finger to the European Union Court of Justice and other tyrannical institutions and tell them “if you want to censor, do it yourself.”

Freedom of information is too valuable to let governments screw around with. Time for some tough love.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Joe Biden’s Dangerous Game

RGBStock.com WW2US vice-president Joe Biden put American exceptionalism on display in a big way Saturday (February 7), laying down a tough line of patter to the 2015 Munich Security Conference. Biden called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to “get out of Ukraine,” doubling down on US threats to escalate conflict in the Russia-Ukraine border region by arming Kiev’s forces.

“Too many times, President Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops and weapons,” quoth Biden, by way of promising peace and simultaneously promising to deliver tanks, weapons and possibly US troops.

At issue are two new “ethnically Russian” states — the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics — which seceded from Ukraine in the wake of last year’s US-backed coup and the installation in Kiev of a regime friendlier to the US and the European Union and more hostile toward Russia.

Biden’s newly minted opposition to ethnic secessionist movements rings hollow, given his enthusiastic backing of such movements in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He recalls his support for Bosnian and Kosovar secessionists — up to and including US bombing campaigns and ground troop interventions versus Serbia which  dwarf even the most inflated claims of Russian meddling in the current conflict — as his “proudest moment in public life.” Hypocrisy much, Mr. Vice-President?

Biden, US president Barack Obama, and the more hawkish contingent in Congress might also do well to reconsider the practicality of a counter-insurgency campaign in the region.  Given the complete failures and follow-on consequences of the 21st century’s first two such US campaigns — in Iraq and Afghanistan — a betting man would likely put long odds on success in a third such misadventure. Especially one which antagonizes a major military power with the capacity to, in extremis, take things nuclear. But that same gambler would put similarly long odds on the likelihood of such reconsideration.

It took 58,000 American deaths in Vietnam to raise even minor self-doubt among American politicians on their post-World War II conception of themselves as “leaders of the free world,” disposing of the military might to impose their will around the globe in, as George III put it to Britain’s rebellious colonies in 1775, “all cases whatsoever.”

The fall of the Soviet Union and the sugar high of victory in the first Gulf War dispelled that doubt. 9/11 put the War Party completely back in America’s driver’s seat. And we’ve been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ ever since.

If Joe Biden and Company can’t figure out a way to gracefully walk away from the mess they’ve made in Ukraine and let Russia, Ukraine, the breakaway states and the EU settle their own arguments, this conflict may very well turn out to  be that bruisin’.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Abolitionism Was, and Still Is, No Failure

RGBStock.com Rainbow WorldHistorian Jon Grinspan argues (“Was Abolitionism a Failure?” New York Times, February 1) against modern-day activists, from the Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint to MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who view abolitionism as a successful movement worth emulating. Grinspan credits slavery’s end not to abolitionists’ unbending ideals but to “the flexibility of … moderates.” Slavery died because its advocates were even less willing to compromise.

But all new ideas are the work of extremists. There’s no need to preemptively tone them down; that will happen with their implementation anyway. The Libertarian Party’s call for “the cessation of state oppression and harassment of homosexual men and women, that they, at last, be accorded their full rights as individuals” was extremist in 1976.

The unmatched sea change in views on gay rights since then was in spite of the realpolitik of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Voltairine de Cleyre summed up pre-Civil War attempts to impede slavery by political compromise as “one long record of ‘how-not-to-do-it.'” For both issues, the reshaping would, in Yale lawyer Charles Reich’s phrase, “originate with the individual and with culture, and … change the political structure only as its final act.”

Grinspan points out the slaveholders’ many strategic mistakes. But an abolitionist victory by default would have been Pyrrhic in the long run. Instead, they led a permanent shift in the range of acceptable public views.  Only thus could they put an institution granted respectability for millennia into the dustbin of history. To Grinspan, the sheer range of causes likened to abolitionism — DeMint’s Tea Party; Hayes’ climate change — is proof that such invoking is devoid of content. But the impact of abolitionism is visible: All those causes frame themselves as liberation movements. Slavery was unabashedly authoritarian.

The Liberty Party was the most uncompromising abolitionist political party. Grinspan notes its vote-getting was anemic. Yet it became the core around which dissidents from the mainstream Whig and Democratic parties formed the more successful Free Soil Party (whose slogan “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men” shows the natural interlock of liberations).

Grinspan downplays the main abolitionist publication, William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, because its circulation was less than 3,000. That happens to be the number of copies of the first edition of Karl Marx’s Capital sold in Russia. Garrison’s unyielding advocacy for full abolition forestalled Free Soil’s dissipation. The party in turn formed the basis for the Republican Party of Lincoln.

As Murray Rothbard explained, abolitionism is not just of “antiquarian interest.” Since “there are a great many analogues to slavery today … similar alternatives will have to be faced once more.” And similar tactics remain the most effective way to face them.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).