Sarah Kendzior is an expert on authoritarian regimes. She’s an anthropologist who got her doctorate studying authoritarianism in Central Asian regimes. She wrote her dissertation, as she describes, “on how exiled groups use the internet for political opposition. [...] I studied how the internet can bring forbidden and controversial content that's censored by the government to the fore, but also how it can instigate infighting.”
That’s the background to keep in mind when you read this warning from her:
The FCC's proposed rollback of net neutrality arrives with two other measures that mark the beginning of a more abjectly fascist phase for the United States—a systemic transformation that will likely endure after Trump leaves office. Along with the loss of a free internet, we face the packing of the courts with conservative extremists who legal scholars worry will decimate constitutional rights. Many of these judicial appointments are for a lifetime, curbing civil liberties for generations to come.
Americans also face a serious threat to the integrity of elections, with gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, a bogus "voter fraud" commission, insecure voting machines, and foreign interference that is not only unchallenged but is sometimes encouraged by Republicans all adding up to the likelihood that the 2018 midterm elections will not be free or fair. Voter suppression will likely be rampant, with non-white and immigrant Americans the primary targets of disenfranchisement.
And here we lie at the interconnected horror of the Trump administration's autocratic manoeuvres. Consider this scenario for 2018: The repeal of net neutrality will stem the flow of information, making voter suppression harder to document. The packing of the courts will make the voter suppression that is documented harder to challenge. And the long-standing solution to purveyors of unpopular policies—vote them out—will be, by definition, impossible, since the election is rigged and the rigging uncontestable. This carefully constructed web of repression is how democracy dies.
So what do we do about it? “Talk about it—while we still can. Call our representatives, organize in our community, and have a plan for what we'll do should these repressive initiatives pass.”
Time is running out before Trump's FCC and Big Cable destroy net neutrality—but we can still stop them. Tell Congress to oppose Trump FCC's plan to destroy net neutrality and the open internet.