The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it would ban access to websites offering “controversial” opinions on Transportation Security Agency computers. That move made some national headlines and provoked a debate about what is “controversial” and what is not.
Fair enough. But, the truth is that for a few years now, websites and blogs, such as this one, have been blocked by some government agencies. Government agencies simply do not want to allow access to websites or blogs that criticize their activities. It is human nature to deny people access to something that is against stated policy.
Those in favor of such government bans on websites and blogs point out that private companies do the same. That is true. However, private companies are funded with private money. If the ACME Corporation wants to block access to a certain website from its privately funded computers, so be it. But, government agency computers are funded by the public. To block publically funded computers from access to websites or blogs with “controversial” opinions is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.
Further, from the published reports of the TSA ‘s new computer guidelines, access to pornography is not blocked. So, the government will decide which websites and blogs offer “controversial” opinions and block access to them by their employees. Apparently, checking out the latest sex video online remains okay; as long as the actors involved espouse no “controversial” opinions.
Perhaps that is a cheap shot at the government agencies that ban websites and blogs. But, the real cheap shot is the fact that the taxpayers of the United States will pay the salary of some bureaucrat to decide which websites and blogs have “controversial” opinions. Then, the taxpayers of the United States will pay for those websites and blogs with “controversial” opinions to be blocked on computers paid for by them. With no open standards for judging such, politicos in power are free to ban from the public’s employees any opinion they seem uneasy with.
Though we live in the modern age with the internet, banning people from opinions that are contrary to the ruling politicians is nothing new. History is filled with dictators and monarchs who used the levers of government power to try to silence opposing opinions. In the past, it was banning certain newspapers from government buildings. Now, it is banning websites and blogs with “controversial” opinions. It is the same old story in a different venue. Those in power, even in a democracy, hate being opposed. They work to silence those who disagree. But, it is in the fire of disagreement that the best of government can be molded in a democracy. Chilling dissent leads to tyranny and eventual ruin. For that reason, VUI will be proud to be banned from any government agency that thinks our opinions are “controversial.”