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Colin Kaepernick, Nike, and Pat Tillman

Two days ago, Nike made headlines with a new advertising campaign featuring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t worked in professional sports for several years due to being blacklisted for his protest of police violence against minorities during the pregame rendition of the national anthem.

A day after the unveiling of the campaign, a response using the image of Pat Tillman, an NFL player who left his NFL career behind in order to enlist in the military, and who died fighting in Afghanistan, in an attempt to mock and discredit the Nike campaign, and to make a statement seemingly in opposition to the protest against police violence.

Opponents of justice and phony patriots have attempted for years to cast Kaepernick’s protest as unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans.

See, here’s the thing about that. If you wanted to cast Pat Tillman’s death in the most flattering possible light, you would say that Pat Tillman walked away from a multi-million dollar career to selflessly give his life defending American freedom. There’s a lot of problems with that, but for the moment let’s grant it, to give pro-Tillman/anti-Kaepernick advocates their strongest argument.

For the freedom that Tillman died defending to be worth anything, it must be freedom for all Americans. Wrapped up in the concept of freedom are the rights that, although enshrined in our Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence, are routinely denied to black and brown people without due process or recourse.

This is at the very heart of Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem. If Pat Tillman died to protect the rights and freedoms of Americans, that must include those rights and freedoms that are denied to Americans whom Colin Kaepernick is speaking for through his protest. And if so, then using Pat Tillman’s sacrifice to denigrate Colin Kaepernick also denigrates Pat Tillman.

Kaepernick has stood on principle for his right to express his views and to make peaceful protest against injustice, which is a right guaranteed to him by the Constitution, and has done so at the cost of his NFL career, representing tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Nike would contract with Kaepernick, paying him money to endorse their products does not in any way negate this, any more than the act of resigning in protest from a job for reasons of principle would be negated by finding other employment.

Kaepernick may not have died in a foreign battlefield, but his sacrifice is nonetheless real. Death is not the only sacrifice, and though people be willing to give their lives, none should ask or require this as the only measure for “true” sacrifice.

Using Tillman’s image and sacrifice in this way is an attempt to drive a wedge between Tillman’s life and the highest, most sacred principles that the nation he died serving was founded upon, and an attempt to drive a wedge between Americans. Recognizing this, I am able to recognize the sacrifices of both men as being for the same cause.

Save Network Neutrality Again

The arguments are no different than they were the last time.

Network Neutrality is the bedrock of freedom in the Internet Age. Network neutrality is an essential requirement to protect freedom of speech in the Internet Age.

Network neutrality means that the network shall treat traffic passing through it the same, regardless of source or destination. A neutral network does not favor one customer over another, giving priority to the one favored by the network while blocking or reducing access to others.

It doesn’t mean a company can’t create service tiers and sell more bandwidth for more money. ISPs already do this. Companies that need to use a lot of network traffic pay for the capacity already.

Network neutrality is the way the internet has worked since the very beginning. Over the years, there have been a number of efforts made to end network neutrality. ISPs have relentlessly tried to end network neutrality because doing so will give them a huge amount of power over the internet, which they will use to make themselves very rich and control the world’s data traffic. The consequences of this would be drastic and dystopian.

Internet Service Providers should be treated as a utility and as a common carrier. We need this put into law so that it does not come up every few years when regulatory appointees change. That will not happen with our current congress or president.

But as I write this, the freedoms protected by network neutrality are once again under assault by the FCC. Current FCC Chair Ajit Pai is a former executive with Verizon, and in his current role is a fox guarding the hen house. He clearly is working in the interest of large ISPs and against the public good. If he and two others vote yes to end network neutrality, it’s all over.

All we can do is tell them we don’t want that. Contact the FCC right now and leave a comment. Call, write, fax, and email.

While you’re at it, tell Congress that you want legislation that will protect network neutrality.

Network Neutrality struck down

I’ve just learned that a Washington court of appeals has struck down the FCC’s Network Neutrality rules. This is incredibly bad news.

“Its ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies—and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.”

If you care about freedom on the internet, you must be in favor of network neutrality. Contact your representatives in congress and demand that they act to strengthen and restore network neutrality and establish that all ISPs are common carriers.

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