On July 12, Amazon and other major online businesses will hold a collective “day of action” to protest the Republican-led FCC’s recent attempts to overturn net neutrality — which Breitbart thinks could be part of a Communist plot to “fill the streets of America’s biggest cities with large and potentially violent protests.”
On Friday, the far-right propaganda site published an article titled “Amazon’s July 12 ‘Day of Action’ for Net Neutrality is Big Communist Anniversary,” alleging, among other things, that pro-net neutrality groups deliberately planned the day of action on the 96th anniversary of a report published by Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin in order to incite violence from modern-day anti-fascist protestors across the U.S. It’s uh… a bit of a stretch. Peddling cheap conspiracy theories isn’t really anything new from Breitbart, but what’s damaging is that the entire article is an attempt to cloak the bipartisan issue of net neutrality in the politicized shroud of hard-Left versus hard-Right.
In reality, net neutrality is a policy that has widespread support across both political parties (81 percent of Democrats! 73 percent of Republicans!). If it’s removed, internet service providers could create data “fast lanes” that punish poor people for not being able to shell out for the fastest speeds, throttle traffic to competitor websites, censor content, and more. It would hit rural, mostly Republican communities in particular — if you live in a remote area with only one or two major internet providers, without net neutrality, you’re going to be sucked dry for your last cent and bit of data. But the telecommunications lobby that funds mostly Republican candidates is doing everything it can to politicize the issue down party lines — which is exactly what the Breitbart story is trying to do.
Breitbart’s point, essentially, is summed up in one sentence that’s straight-up ISP/cable lobby talking points:
The Democrats’ regulatory regime [rules passed in 2015] gave the U.S. government the effective right to take control of the Internet, create new taxation authority, and regulate the “fairness” of political thought under rules that once applied to the old AT&T telephone monopoly.
The “regulation = taxes = bad” argument is pretty much all the cable/ ISP lobby has, and it’s highly unlikely that it will hold up in court. The rest of the article, however, gets pretty damn kooky, lumping in the issue of net neutrality with “hard-Left” publications and “social justice warriors.” It uses that to twist the issue into references to Communist insurrection and the suggestion that anti-fascist protestors will riot in the streets on July 12, drumming up fear of violent protest to support a political point that doesn’t really have a leg to stand on.
Instead, the “internet-wide day of action” will likely mean coordinated social media and web campaigns (banner ads, pop-up messages, etc.) by the major backers, which include Amazon, Reddit, and Kickstarter. In the non-digital world, it’s unlikely that any action will actually happen.
Fight for the Future, the internet advocacy group organizing the campaign, has orchestrated similar protests against the SOPA/ PIPA bills in Congress, during which websites like Reddit would hold “black outs” to spread awareness of the bill and encourage people to get involved. While in-person pro-net neutrality protests do happen, they’re rarely the kind of event that attracts antifa — the catch all term used to describe far-left or anarchist protestors that are comfortable using violent tactics to resist fascism. Silicon Valley protests, like the ones opposing big-data firm Palantir usually take the form of a bunch of tech nerds standing in the rain, rather than a militant showdown involving tear gas and riot gear.
Inverse reached out to Fight for the Future to ask if they picked July 12 as the day of action for communist reasons, and we’ll update this post when we hear back.Photos via Getty Images / Joe Raedle, Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images / Alex Wong