I really could not believe it. The same organization that has called net neutrality the civil rights issue of the new century has created a strategy to take advantage of the minorities it claims to protect. The New York Times and The Hill, reported that advocacy group Free Press and the Pacific Foundation joined forces with the Harmony Institute to develop a report on how to change our minds on net neutrality… at the movies.
After overcoming the initial shock, and coming to terms with the fact that Free Press had actually paid for a report that suggests people can be persuaded to support their own version of net neutrality I dove in for the details.
By this time, I must admit, I had become desensitized to Free Press’ overly dramatic style (for example, the panel they planned and sponsored at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Convention in Denver, Colorado carried the title “The end of the Internet as we know it”). But reading the report made feelings of outrage rush back to the surface. The report suggests using movies and television shows with stories of innocent children failing math because they do not have an Internet connection.
The report titled, “Net Neutrality for the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet” establishes guidelines on how to manipulate a particular group of Americans they identify as the “persuadables” to adopt their own brand of net-neutrality message. Here is where Free Press, the self-proclaimed champion of civil rights, shows its true colors. You guessed it; the “persuadables” are minorities, poor women and America’s Southern, rural poor. They even included a cartoon reminiscent of the “separate but equal” days, showing two separate drinking fountains. All of this is part of an effort to have minorities reject the positions taken by the NAACP, LULAC, and other time-honored civil rights organizations, and to support a cause that (according to the same report) is supported (almost exclusively) by rich, white males.
As if the selection of minorities as prime targets for their manipulation was not enough, the way they wanted to deliver their message was even worse. Instead of addressing the issue via clear information showing the pros and cons of the debate, they want to gather support via subliminal messaging. If you have something to say, tell it to my face. The selection of using underhanded methods of communications reveals not only a weakness in their arguments, but a damned if I care attitude.
Why do they need to deliver their message in such an underhanded manner to minorities? Because, the report states that most Americans think the Internet is working fine and do not want the government fooling around with it. The goal is to convince the persuadables, that their perception is wrong, and that they have to substitute their reality with Free Press’ (page 16). (Have you watched Inception?)
Net Neutrality proponents don’t care about minorities. Every time, a well-established civil rights group comes out and voices an opinion contrary to their position, they insult them by calling them sell-outs or “Astroturf”. The report is further proof of this. It states that minorities have concerns about the Internet: access and affordability. However, the entire goal of the report is to move minorities away from their very real (and important) concerns, and towards Free Press’ concerns.
Let met sum up their strategy. Free Press wants to manipulate this group into forgetting their issues, accepting ours and then based on this lie, on this fiendish scheme go “for the win.” By doing so, Free Press ignores the fact that once we “win”, broadband access to minorities will be severely hampered.
I am deeply disturbed by this strategy, and its planned method of execution. It’s racist, sexist, and morally impure. Minorities lag behind whites in access to broadband Internet, and are suffering the economic consequences of not being plugged into the net. These issues should be discussed openly, and not through behavioral sciences, subliminal messaging, or plain old style lying.
If Free Press truly believes that net neutrality is the civil rights issue of this decade, then they need to move away from what benefits affluent whites want (this is pursuant to their own report) and to focus on the issues identified by the minorities: affordability and access.
The fact that net neutrality proponents have to resort to these tactics reflects their desperation, that their message is not taking hold on its own weight. But, don’t take my word for it, if you care about net neutrality read the Harmony Institute report <savemyinternet.com/index> and the tactics it recommends.
Note: After the news reports came out, References to Free Press on the site and in the report have been removed or toned down. However, I have the before and after screen shots for anyone interested.
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