The internet bomb
They’re going to tax the internet.
So okay, they don’t actually know it yet, but eventually it’s going to happen. It has to. And the sooner the better. As with all necessary commercial, industrial and social change, governments are invariably among the last to wake up to the bleedin’ obvious. Look at immigration. Or crime. Or the self-serving morons currently running the National Health service.
The fact is, the www, rather than liberate humanity from the scourge of ignorance, stupidity, social discord and unemployment, has actually fuelled it. Take a look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any number of forums. You’ve never read and heard so much b&%$£!*?s in your life, have you?
Or take a peek at the Middle East where a bunch of murdering self-styled low-lifes popularly referred to as Islamic State is contentedly sucking up the “oxygen of (online) publicity” and happily decapitating “evil westerners” and posting the footage for all the world to see (and, in many instances, enjoy).
Imagine if Joseph Goebbels had had broadband in 1939.
Elsewhere, we have news reporters standing at the forward edge of battlefields blithely telling the world and its enemies, via the ‘net, the details of the last fall of shot. Further east, notably in China and India, an army of spies is still frantically hacking global websites, ripping off intellectual property and producing their own cut-price, low-quality, straight-to-market-via-eBay junk thereby undermining jobs, services and the general quality of life here in the West.
Meanwhile, the entertainment industry is annually losing billions of pounds fighting a rearguard action in an effort to protect its films and music as freeloaders download and disseminate whatever is copyable, which is pretty much everything.
The publishing industry has much the same issues. Ditto any number of local traders who simply can’t compete with the like of Amazon and are now operating at barely subsistence levels. Ditto the printing industry, the news industry and a thousand other industries.
Privacy has been largely destroyed too inasmuch as you can’t even mow your front lawn anymore without sooner or later popping up as a not always indistinct smudge on Google Maps gawping at a passing motorised Dalek snapping away like David Bailey on a cocaine binge.
Overall, therefore, the information harvest reveals that it’s been a particularly good century so far. Good for them (the commercial giants), that is, but not so good for us (the little people).
"What the world has yet to wake up to is the fact that information is the most valuable commodity of all. Never mind gold, platinum, diamonds or rare earth metals. It’s information that keeps the planet spinning. It’s knowledge. Intelligence."
So okay, it’s not all bad. There’s a lot of positive and amusing stuff on the www. But most of it comes in the shape of short-term, instant fixes for information-junkies rather than meaningful intelligence for anyone with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together. And much of the web information is actually misinformation proliferating like weeds thereby blurring what little truths are left in the world.
John Lindsay, one-time mayor of New York was once asked what he thought of the mini skirt. He replied: “It’s a functional thing. It enables women to run faster, and because of it, they may have to.”
It’s the same principle with the ‘net. It’s functional, and we’re all running faster because of it. Moreover, we’re still kidding ourselves that this information revolution has improved the quality of our lives. But overall it hasn’t. We’re no happier now, as a nation, than we were forty-odd years ago in the relatively halcyon days of the 1960s and 70s.
What the world has yet to wake up to is the fact that information is the most valuable commodity of all. Never mind gold, platinum, diamonds or rare earth metals. It’s information that keeps the planet spinning. It’s knowledge. Intelligence.
And what have we done? We’ve flooded the market with it. We’ve dumped our greatest resource in a rapidly growing mountain of fact adulterated by the most outrageous fictions and ill-informed opinion and have thereby devalued veracity. Imagine a gold mountain on everyone’s doorstep. Or a diamond mountain. Or machines in domestic garages that print money.
Moreover, what the net has done is dump a lot of stuff into the hands of the hoi polloi that it never should have had access to. Such as how to make a bomb to carry onto the London Undergound, for instance. Or how to download the latest album by Damon Albarn and redistribute it globally, and gratis, via the usual virtual and actual mechanisms. Or how to ensure your child pornography collection is freely accessible to anyone with a similar bent. Or how to promulgate whatever medieval, third-world ideology you happen to have.
That’s the true price of the internet. Untrammelled “democratisation”. By irresponsibly disseminating knowledge, without any form of censorship, without any meaningful control, without any market limiting mechanisms, the web has forced down commercial differentials. Or, in electrical speak, it’s helped reduce the potential difference between everything. And without that potential difference, you’ve got no movement. No current flowing.
Ask your car battery.
Closer to home, the motorcycle industry has also has been seriously damaged by the www. There was a time, for instance, when you rode a bike thousands of miles each year in order to discover the world. Nowadays, you ride just a couple of miles to your nearest computer store and carry home the requisite world-watching hardware and software, park your wheels in the garage and settle down to a fat afternoon in front of the screen. Better still, why ride? Just have the hardware delivered by Amazon (which has moved into motorcycle sales too, note). Elsewhere, bike dealer livelihoods are being further corroded by the usual parts piranhas tearing chunks from the body of their business.
So much for the problem, which you’ve heard before ad nauseum. But what’s the answer?
Well ideally, the government needs to limit internet access in the form of ordinary taxation. Perhaps a pound a day. Or five quid a day. Or maybe more. What that would do is revalue information. It would help cut the waffle. It would allow serious enterprises to thrive, and help force the freeloaders, the thieves, the con artists and the digital loungers out of the game. It would force huge changes in social, commercial, political, industrial and even religious behaviour and perhaps restore some kind of trading equilibrium.
Except, the UK government can’t do it alone. It needs a global response, so we can forget China, India, Russia and the other usual suspects.
"However, there’s a Plan B. And this means helping build a bomb; a new kind of bomb the likes of which haven’t been seen before. It’s my own invention, but in a moment of rare magnanimity I’m donating it to the world."
It’s called an IDD, or Internet Doomsday Device (detailed instructions are downloadable right now on the www). But basically, it involves setting small charges of misinformation wherever possible on the world wide web. It means filling in forms inaccurately. It means randomly clicking on website adverts (especially anything relating to the Far East or Russia; that helps bugger up pay-per-click, bigtime). It means that occasionally, when using eBay, you should search for something totally irrelevant to your main interest. It means uploading inaccurately titled files to YouTube. It means completing online survey forms with even more b&%$£!*?s. It means guerrilla strikes at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and wherever. It means establishing fifth columns everywhere that information is being harvested. It means undermining what little credibility remains in the net and forcing a crisis.
Think of it as fighting fire with fire. Or nonsense with nonsense.
Paradoxically, my own websites would perhaps be damaged by this IDD; in the short term, anyway. But in the long term, it would damage thousands of other websites too, not least the sites of the really big boys who have cornered the market with massive information harvesting systems. And it would end the dominance of the general timewasters.
In short, this new digital Luddite revolution is going to cost us in one way or another. But to get your hands up this particular mini skirt, it would be a price worth paying, wouldn’t it?
— Danny DeFazio
Written for British Dealer News, 2013
Copyright Sump Publishing 2014