Dateline: WASHINGTON—Millions of underemployed or out-of-work citizens of Canada, Europe, and the United States took to the streets to protest the internet as a vast communist conspiracy. Moreover, many Westerners are flocking to China, praising its pervasive censorship of the internet as instrumental to that country’s economic boom.
Calling themselves the new proletariats, because of their powerlessness in the information-based economies, they’re made up of journalists, musicians, visual artists, authors, film-makers, comedians, teachers, and everyone else whose work can be digitized.
They maintain that people have badly misunderstood the ethos of those who invented the computer and the internet. As one musician who sleeps on his friend’s couch says, “The computer geeks declared that information needs to be free. That right there should have been a warning sign that those so-called libertarians were actually full-blown commies. They were commies of the hippie variety, with their long hair, their science fiction-fuelled dreams of utopia, and their social alienation.
“Answer me this: If information is free and we have an information-based economy, how are we supposed to make any money? How are we supposed to earn a living?”
“It began with the libraries,” says a journalist whose newspaper went bankrupt. “Those were the vanguard organizations that got everyone used to the idea of getting things for free. Yeah, why don’t we all just share our books and songs and movies? That way we consume the content and pass it along without paying a dime. Well, some of our taxes go to sustaining the libraries, but we don’t pay the content-producers.
“So what becomes of those entertainments we love? They go bye-bye and you wind up in a communist gulag with Pravda-like propaganda on all the billboards, telling you everyone’s happy and the nation’s glorious; meanwhile, the richest 10% control 75% of the nation’s wealth and you’re working for peanuts while pampered kids in China are enjoying your work for free on the internet. And what about the totalitarian rule of silence in the library? Shush me, indeed!”
The new proletariats blame digitization as the source of their woes. Content that can be reduced to a series of ones and zeroes loses its value and becomes disposable, they say, so that consumers come to expect content to be free of charge. “Pirating on the internet is rampant,” says a freelance writer working half a dozen day jobs in the service sector, “because that’s what the internet is designed to do: it turns everything into mere information which no one but the author thinks is worth any money. Cultural content now is like an ugly kid with a face only its mother can love.”
The starving new proletariats have called on Western governments to censor the internet, to make it so annoying to use that people stop doing business on it.
Asked how she accounts for the fact that some people, such as the founders of Google, have gotten rich off of the internet, a teacher who lost her job because of competition from free online educational videos said, “Just like in communist Russia there’s a minority that profits by adding to the communist bureaucracy. For them the internet is an end in itself, not a means. They don’t foolishly try to do business on the internet; the internet is their business.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is appalled that Western, so-called capitalistic countries would dare to compete with China by using an uncensored internet to turn those countries into communist utopias. “We’ve been down that road,” said China’s premier, “and it’s not pretty.”
Defenders of the internet wonder why artists expect to earn a living. According to pop culture expert, Loretta Killjoy, “Artists are expected to die before their work is discovered, so that parasites in the art world can profit from it. That’s because the artists who have the audacity to keep living after their work becomes valuable immediately start producing inferior art. They become spoiled and complacent, and they lose their creative vision. Great art is usually the result of great suffering.
“The internet, then, is a boon for art. More and more great art will be produced, but no one will know about it until decades later when the disposable vessels, the artists, are long gone. Computers are currently storing all of this content so that future generations will have an embarrassment of riches.
“This isn’t communism, it’s human sacrifice: artists must suffer and die as quickly as possible so their work can live forever. The internet is a haven—but only for the texts and pictures and sounds that make up a culture. The content alone is immortal. We consumers of that content are mere voyeurs, peeping through the windows of our computer screens to behold our idols.”