First of all Sirius XM radio is hardly an island of freedom outside of government influence. It may not have the same heavy hand of the FCC on its shoulder that AM radio does, but with the merger of Sirius and XM radio, two things happened.
Second of all the merger, widely considered illegal, puts Sirius XM thoroughly under government control, which can choose to crack down on it at any time by re-opening an anti-trust investigation against it. Even the threat of such action would easily make Sirius XM extremely vulnerable to any dictates from the Justice Department, currently controlled by Eric Holder, a corrupt Pardongate figure who was criticized in a congressional report for abusing his office, and who answers to Obama.
With Sirius XM technically already in violation of the FCC agreement that allowed the two companies to merge, the company knows quite well how vulnerable it is to any action against it. And if Sirius XM already wasn't vulnerable enough, satellite radio is closely tied in with the automobile industry, and GM, recently a recepient of Federal funds, holds a major stake.
And then there are the political loyalties of the men behind Sirius XM. Gary Parsons, chairman of the board of Sirius XM, donated 2300 dollars to Barack Obama. So did Nathaniel Davis, its President and COO, Jeff Blattner its Senior VP, along with Sirius XM's executive VP, and numerous other company executives.
What all that adds up to is that if the knife comes down, Sirius XM may not be the solution. Realistic alternatives to such censorship will have to be focused primarily on the internet. Designed to continue functioning even in the event of a nuclear war, controlling the internet remains difficult.
Censorship usually begins at the top, and the internet lacks a true "top". The cultural decentralization of ideas that the internet makes possible can be ugly, but it also assures a kind of independence. So does the virtual anonymity of much of the system. That however can quickly begin to change. As I wrote a month ago, plans are underway to create government controlled forms of secure access in the name of fighting identity fraud.
Controlling the internet would require both closely monitoring and regulating the internet. The Clinton Administration had opened the door to regulating speech on the internet with the Communications Decency Act. Both such attempts were shot down by the Supreme Court for being poorly worded. It is not certain that they will be reintroduced, but current Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked under Janet Reno and her efforts at internet censorship, had called previously for internet censorship.
The court has really struck down every government effort to try to regulate it. We tried with regard to pornography. It is gonna be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at. - May 28, 1999 NPR Morning Edition
Whatever restrictions come into play, they likely will be "reasonable". This time out Holder may not try the pornography approach. Fighting Identity Theft or controlling extremism may serve as the justifications for restricting the internet. New York Governor Spitzer had already begun the dismantling of the internet as a state tax refuge, a process that has now gone nationwide. Dismantling the internet as a free speech haven would be a more complex matter.
Additionally Google has emerged as a powerful force for centralization, gobbling up emerging companies such as YouTube and Feedburner, and demonstrating a clear political bias in its dealings. Google's dominance of the search market gives it a great deal of control over what customers can and can't see, and as Google's agreement with the People's Republic of China has demonstrated, Google is willing to censor to accomodate governments.
As Google emerges as a larger player, its lobbying has become more aggressive, and it needs government to promote the policies it favors, while restraining the sort of anti-trust investigations that scuttled the Google-Yahoo ad deal. With Google's notoriously data hungry ways and ultra-liberal politics, it could well serve as a vital ally in any internet censorship scheme.
However the attempts by totalitarian regimes such as China to control internet traffic has in turn generated a variety of tools to bypass censorship that may come in handy should the domestic picture turn ugly. Additionally the tensions between the internet's centralization and decentralization trends create a constant friction that is innately hostile to any form of permanent control.
Such actions could occur in the shadows, disguised by language that emphasizies the positive and avoids any mention of censorship, and yet would spread the shadow of censorship nonetheless. And the best way to avoid it is to research and be educated about the alternative options. Censorship begins at the top, which means that bigger companies will begin implementing it first. Bloggers in totalitarian countries such as Iran and China have managed to stay online, despite vigorous censorship. We can and should learn from them. Finally it is important to closely monitor any moves toward censorship. Censorship is much easier to stop before it becomes custom or law, then once people have become used to it. Awareness is the key to resisting the creeping totalitaranism coming down the road from D.C. By being aware we can stay free.