There are frayed nerves in Silicon Valley at the prospect of the United Nations asserting a growing role in internet governance. But why indeed should that be? The United Nations is generally beloved the further left of center you go by people who agree that American power, wealth, productivity and decision making should be turned over to international bodies, most notably the UN. And if the UN is so wonderful and so much better than any government chosen by the American people could ever be, why not turn over the internet to it?
Close your eyes and point a finger at a map. Then open your eyes. The odds are that you're pointing at a dictatorship. (No, Washington D.C. doesn't count.) Go down a list of countries, and the majority of that list will have limited political and civil freedoms. Most of them will have leaders who are not chosen in open elections. Many of them will have repressive state security apparatuses and political prisoners. And yet almost all of them will be signatories to dozens of UN conventions on human rights, women's rights, children's rights and rights without end. Conventions that the United States is typically criticized for not signing on to.
Squash together China, the Middle East, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan and you have between 1/3 and 1/4 of the world's population living in horrible poverty with few legal rights. You can't redistribute power to them, because they're not free agents. They're prisoners of their political power structures. And what's worse is that in many cases they like it that way. Or rather it's the only way they know.
Tyranny isn't just a man with a gun telling you what you and can't do. It's also a population which supports that man with the gun. They may not always stand behind him. But even when they do overthrow him, it's only to replace him with another man holding another gun. Because that's how they're used to being governed. Give them democracy and you'll get quarreling factions, violent mobs and eventually one man who steps forward, picks up a gun and brings order. He may kill millions doing it, but those who survive will generally approve. Because even if they lost their loved ones to the revolution, they'll still grateful for the tyrant's order as they remember a time when there seemed to be no laws and no food. Not everyone will think that way, but the majority will. No dictatorship could survive for long without either a constant state of terror or foreign troops to maintain its rule. And neither condition can usually be sustained over the long run. Terror collapses and foreign troops sooner or later go home. But the internalized tyranny of the mind is forever.
Take the people away from the tyrant, and you haven't necessarily fixed the problem. Muslim immigrants in Europe poll for Sharia law, an Islamic state and even the right to kill anyone who opposes them. This should be surprising to no one... because that's the way it works in their home countries. The native born second generationers who were supposed to be integrated British Muslims, Franco Muslims and German Muslims are often worse than their parents, because they have no idea what things are really like at home. If their parents were at least passingly grateful for NHS and the ability to get a job without having to pay a fifth of their income to someone's cousin, their sons and daughters just want to sweep away all the anarchy of whatever freedoms there are into the rubbish bin, and replace it with the brilliant gleam of a 7th century inspired Islamic caliphate.
It's not lunacy. It's culture. Crossing a border does mean being the recipient of a magic wand pass from the Good Fairy whose secret name is Integration. It does not change who you are, it changes your context. Bring a dozen Pakistanis to London and in two generations, they might well be dark-skinned Britons. But bring 200,000 of them to London and you've created a mini-Pakistan in the middle of London with most of the social, religious and cultural problems of the old. The children who grow up in mini-Pakistan will be caught between two worlds.
Unsurprisingly this is exactly what has happened. 1/3rd of British Muslims favor killing in the name of Islam. And really why wouldn't they? The Imams claim they have the formula for the perfect society. And the political and cultural leaders who represent the best of British society agree. After that the only thing to argue is legalities, and no one has ever stopped a revolution by convincing everyone involved that killing people is immoral. It's a dead end, in more ways than one. Once you've ceded your ideals and aspirations to strangers, you've given them implicit consent to rule over you.
Tyranny is not a political problem, it's a cultural problem. Englishmen under King George III had more rights, than a citizen of Pakistan or the People's Republic of China does today. The difference isn't in time, but in cultural development. Tyranny is a symptom of cultural backwardness or cultural decline. A citizenry that is confident and individualistic can only be temporarily enslaved at gunpoint. They can be forced to follow orders, but they will never enjoy it. They will never love the tyrant. Never feel that godlike awe for Big Brother that is the symptom of the worst tyrannies.
Silicon Valley technocrats have long believed that global communications can save the world from tyranny. The tyranny of men and the tyranny of ideas both. And they might be right. But we may never find out. Not if we redistribute and internationalize the internet in the name of neutering American power.
The accusation most often hurled at the Bush Administration in the neighborhood of 2003 was "unilateral". The outrage was that America had invaded and overthrown a mass murdering dictator without the consent of his peers at the UN. But what is the UN except a thousand Saddams, the representatives of Putin, Ahmadinejad, King Abdullah, Qaddafi, the Chinese Communist Party, Chavez, Lukashenko, Kim Jong Il, Omar al Bashir, Castro, Mugabe, Than Shwe, Bashar Assad, Compaore, Mubarak, Deby, Lee Hsien Loong, Afwerki, Razak, Sheikh Zayed, Jammeh, Erdogan, Yudhoyono, Kagame and all the rest of that sorry lot... who between them rule over nearly half the human race.
Redistributing power to political and cultural tyrannies, whether it's the People's Republic of China or Islam, only snuffs out the candle of freedom before it's even hard a chance to burn. And though much of the left may be in denial about that, even they understand what will happen if the dictatorships of the world control internet governance.
At the UN hearing on the internet, the Iranian representative called for a power shift. "The few developed countries are either monopolizing policymaking on such issues or entering into exclusive treaties among themselves, while further marginalizing other countries, mainly developing ones," he accused. This is leftist speak learned by the representatives of dictatorships who know exactly where to poke civilization's underbelly. Turn over power to the tyrants of "developing countries" along with your freedoms in the name of redistribution. And if we keep falling for it, then we'll lose not just the internet, but everything else too. Protecting our freedom and keeping hope alive for the rest of the world, means protecting the integrity of our country and our culture from the export of our accomplishments and the import of cultures of tyranny.