The Guardian has a new section titled “The Web We Want.” It opened April 11 and currently has 11 articles running on it. Its face is festooned with images of gently smiling people from different ages, sexes and ethnic groups, making us think this is going to be a discussion about pluralism, inclusiveness – freedom.
And in a sense we’d be right. This is intended to be a discussion about all those things. Or rather about how to persuade people to give up the last named in some ill-defined “defence” of the other two.
It doesn’t say who the “we” referred to might be. The assumption is it means all of us. The readers. Members of the human race. But of course it doesn’t. There’s been no poll, no referendum to ascertain public opinion. The “we” in this sense is purely a gesture, or a rhetorical flourish toward democracy. The discussion that follows is neither democratic nor diverse. There are no shades of opinion on offer. No debates between those with different views on what the Web should be.
Oh sure, the different writers, persuaded or coerced into offering their variously begrudging support to this new campaign might notionally come from different backgrounds or ideologies, but their articles are – so far – diverse only in tone. They are all almost identical in message. All hit the same few, eerily repetitive, talking points:
1. Freedom of speech is actually elitist
2. An unregulated internet will discriminate against women and minorities
3. Free speech should maybe not include “abuse”.
So, who is this “we” that wants us to start contemplating a regulated internet in the name of vaguely worded generalities and truisms about inclusiveness? Since the Guardian is a transatlantic outlet for the US/British intelligence community, and through that many of the major policy think tanks in Washington and London, we know this whisper of softly modulated concern over “absolutist interpretations of free speech” is the authentic voice of the one-time liberal Establishment, now all but entirely co-opted on to the neo-liberal ideology of oh-so gentle, touchy-feely backdoor fascism, lamenting its failure to get its message across.
Like all fascists – even the smiley pink and green ones – these people dislike things they can’t control and sources of contrary opinion that might derail their dreams of lockstep “consensus.” The internet is the embodiment of both these thing and so, unsurprisingly, they hate it, and want to see it dead, or tamed at least. Curtailing the free web has been on the back burner for these people for many years. The new section in the Graun tells us it’s probably about to be moved to the front of the stove and have the heat turned right up.
With this in mind, we’re going to be opening a new section here titled “The web they want” where we can monitor this new Guardian venture.
Look out for it soon.