The pen is mightier than the sword, and words are very powerful things. Although the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, allowing the wrong people access to this power is clearly a threat to public safety. Some reasonable restrictions are in order. Am I right?
I am, of course, talking about the internet. After all, haven’t we seen how easy access to the high-speed, unrestricted exchange of information has made it possible for ISIS to recruit, or to allow other terrorists to access bomb-making information? It’s time for some common sense restrictions here, don’t you think?
So first of all, you will need to be licensed by the government in order to subscribe to internet services. But before you can apply for your internet license, you will need to go take an 8-hour training class from a government approved instructor which will cost you about $100. If you pass the mandatory class, you can then take your certificate of training to your sheriff’s office where you will be photographed, fingerprinted, and submitted for a federal background check. Oh, and don’t forget to pay the licensing fee, which will probably be about $75. Then, in a month or two, you will get your internet permit…if you live in a shall-issue state. In some states you will have to prove that you need internet access to the government’s satisfaction, and they have the prerogative to deny your license.
But let’s be positive and say you got your shiny new internet license, and off you go to Amazon to order your new laptop or tablet. Not so fast, Sparky! No online sales of internet-capable devices are allowed…too dangerous! (Besides, you just got your license. How are you going to be ordering stuff on the internet, anyway?)
But you do need to set up your internet service, so you call up your local provider, and give them your internet license number, pay your money, and they arrange to connect your house to the ‘net. We’re in business now! Time to go get a device!
So you get in your car and drive to your local federally licensed dealer of internet devices to pick out your new gadget. You spot a nice laptop computer, and decide to take the plunge. But don’t forget…for these compact, easily portable devices, you have to be 21 years old. They’ll sell you a desktop PC if you’re 18, but for anything you can tote around in public, you’ve got to be 21. (You can’t just go around freely exchanging information in public unless you’re at least as mature as a 21 year old, you know?)
Fortunately, you meet that requirement, so the clerk gathers up your new laptop and sits you down at the counter to fill out the Bureau of Tablet and Computer Harmony (BOTCH) Form 4473, so that he can submit your background check to the FBI. Yeah, I know you already got a background check to get your internet license, but you can’t be too careful! Let’s do another one. But don’t worry, it’s only $25. And as long as you aren’t a convicted felon or under indictment, drug or alcohol abuser, mentally ill, domestic abuser you’re probably good to go. Just hope that the clerk doesn’t fat finger your middle initial, or that you don’t have the same name as some criminal somewhere. Oh, and you can’t be on the terror watch list or the no-fly list, either…
Congratulations! Your background check came back all clear! Let’s get this thing home and start blogging about freedom! The clerk rings up the sale, takes your money, and hands you a receipt. “Don’t lose that,” he says as he boxes up your laptop and your paperwork and sticks it in the safe and adds, “See you next week.” That’s because you have to wait…oh, I don’t know…let’s say five days before you can take it home. Why five days you ask? Well, we can’t have people just going and getting on the internet half-cocked and writing things out of anger. So you’ll need to cool off a bit first. And don’t ask me why five days again…or I’ll make it ten.
Anyway, the happy day arrives and you return to the shop with your receipt and pick up your laptop. Hey! They have the latest new lightweight tablet on sale, so you ask the clerk if you could take a look. He says sure…but you can only buy one device every 30 days, so he can’t sell it to you until next month. Yeah, the sale will be over by then.
Oh well, at least you have your laptop! On the way home, you decide to stop at Starbucks with your new laptop, get a latte and some free public wifi to start your new freedom blog. Hold on just a dang minute! First of all, this internet stuff requires a license, so there is no such thing as free public wifi anymore. You can’t let just anybody have access to that kind of power. Besides, Starbucks doesn’t allow people to carry internet capable devices into their stores, because just knowing that there are people with that sort of power on their person frightens their customers. If you as much as want to play solitaire on that laptop, you’re going to have to do it somewhere else, buddy. Can’t you see the sign? We don’t want you people in here.
Kind of a bummer, I know…but at least you still get to enjoy the freedom that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution guarantees, right? I mean, inside your house, behind closed doors. That’s got to feel pretty good, exercising your rights like that. I mean, sure…we infringed on it a little, but that’s OK. It’s reasonable to use common sense to ensure that all that free speech out there is well regulated and all that, right?
The point here is that if you have to ask permission from the government, then the government has the option to say no. If the government gets to decide whether you have access to the internet…or to a gun…then it isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. Never mind that when it comes to firearms, it isn’t a simple, one-time ask, either. It is layer over layer of government created checkpoints which must be passed in order to keep and bear arms. And they want more. Apply those same infringements to another right, and it doesn’t seem like much of a right, does it?
(Oh, and don’t forget to lock up that laptop in a safe when you get home. You don’t have a safe? Back to the store, sucker…)
— Dave Cole
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