Towards a New Conservatism
Copyright (c) 1999 Jay Fenello -- All Rights
Over the last several years, a fight has been raging over the very
future of Internet. Those who have been following it closely, know
that this fight is really about the establishment of Global Internet
The story begins with the phenomenal success of the Internet. What
was once a sleepy, little research experiment funded by the U.S.
Government, the Internet has grown to become a world-wide frontier of
freedom, ideas, education, entertainment and commerce.
Along the way, the informal processes used to govern the Internet became
obsolete. And when governments and organizations tried to address the
issues that required world-wide decisions, they realized that no-one was in
To address this situation, a couple of alternatives were possible.
One involved getting legislation passed in over 200 countries throughout
the world! Not very likely, and certainly not very efficient.
Instead, the Clinton administration proposed a U.S. based, non-profit
corporation to assume the management of the coordinated technical functions
of the Internet. This new organization would use "flow down"
contracts that would specify every right, as well as every obligation, for
anyone wishing to use the Internet.
Last year, the Commerce Department decided that ICANN was to be this
organization. It has been embroiled in controversy ever since.
According to Commerce, ICANN was to be "a globally and functionally
representative organization, operated on the basis of sound and transparent
processes that protect against capture by self-interested factions, and
that provides robust, professional management. ICANN's processes need to be
fair, open, and pro- competitive. And ICANN needs to have a mechanism
for evolving to reflect changes in the constituency of Internet
Instead of these lofty ideals, ICANN has devolved into the worst kind of
power grab. Here is a description of recent ICANN Board activities,
as reported by Ken Freed, a technology writer who has been closely
following this debate
"Tally the Board's closed-door meetings, the Board's stealth
appointments of questionable players to key postings, the Board
gerrymandering membership in advisory committees and supporting
organizations and its at-large council to favor "gTLD" players,
the Board rewriting its ICANN Bylaws as suits its needs, the Board funding
itself through taxation without representation by declaring a fee (tax) on
every domain name registration, the Board's self-destructive streak, shown
by alienating Network Solutions, the Board backing reactionary censorship
plans, the Board stonewalling all attempts to organize true independent
review, and this just a sampling. Each new week seems to bring some fresh
cause for complaint."
So what is actually at stake? Here's a summary as reported in
"After all the talk over the past few years about how difficult it
will be to regulate conduct on the Internet," says David Post, a
cyberlaw specialist at Temple University School of Law, "the domain
name system looks like the Holy Grail, the one place where enforceable
Internet policy can be promulgated without any of the messy
Thankfully, ICANN has yet to complete its power grab. Not only have
diverse organizations like Ralph Nader's CPT and Americans for Tax Reform
gotten involved, but Congress has held two hearings, and launched an
investigation into possible collusion at the Justice Department, and
illegal fundraising by the Clinton administration.
Unfortunately, though, ICANN is *very* close to fulfilling its mission.
One of the reasons for its impending success is the lack of an organized
opposition. Not to say that an opposition does not exist. Some
say that there is no need for ICANN, nor anything like it. Anarchy,
they argue, has worked well for the Internet, why must we change it.
Others say that ICANN needs to have unlimited power, for its mission is
too complicated to be bothered with rules and procedures, especially when
its role is nothing less than providing "adult supervision" for
the unwashed masses.
But perhaps the most damaging of the ICANN critics, are those who
complain about the blatant abuses of ICANN, while they continue to support
it because "ICANN is the best of the alternatives available."
So what does all this have to do with Newt Gingrich?
Everything . . . for the fight over Internet Governance is the same as
the fight for conservative values that has been raging in the United States
ever since the Reagan Revolution, and even before.
For the benefit of our oversea's friends, Newt is one of the visionary
leaders of the American conservative movement. This movement was
responsible for the Reagan Revolution, as well as the Republican
"Contract with America".
To get an idea of just how powerfully and profoundly these efforts have
affected our present reality, it is necessary to revisit the state of the
union that existed before the Reagan Revolution changed everything
Newt on Liberalism:
Ronald Reagan took a country in malaise, whose elites were shattered, at
a time when democracy was demoralized, when the Soviet Union had invaded
Afghanistan, the Iranians had seized American hostages, we were a weak,
pathetic country. Our economy was falling apart, inflation was
running amuck, we were entering the worst recession since the Great
Depression. We had a government out of control. And in three short
years, Reagan led the American people to reestablish their sense of being
American, to revalue the principles that made this country great, to cut
taxes and de-bureaucratize, to launch the entrepreneurial economy we now
live in, to reestablish the faith in technology and science which he had
personally lived through in his lifetime, to create the military which
contained the Soviet empire, and to design the strategy which defeated the
Soviet Union without a war.
After hearing these words, I realized how profoundly different the world
is today because of a man named Ronald Reagan, because of visionaries like
Newt Gingrich, and because of a set of principles known as conservatism.
In some ways, the Internet is a direct result of Reagan policies.
And in many ways, the Internet is the embodiment of Reagan ideology.
To adopt an authoritarian despotic council to rule the Internet today will
have just as profound an effect on our future world as Reagan had on ours.
And just like conservatism vastly changed our current reality, the
decisions we are about to make about ICANN will vastly change our future
reality. It is for these reasons that conservatives *must* get
involved in the Internet Governance debate.
Newt on the Conservative Agenda:
What I'm suggesting to you is, in the tradition of Reagan in 1970, that
what we really need is to focus on vision and values and principles,
because that's where we win. We lose tactical fights over details,
because we don't control the news media, the left does. And because
we represent an alternative to the way people are taught in public
schools. I mean, we're talking about a much freer society, with much
greater entrepreneurship, with much more volunteerism, with a much leaner
Over the last several weeks, I have made extensive use of the Internet
to expose the extreme bias the press has exhibited in their coverage of the
ICANN fracas. Due to the power of the Internet, these efforts have
apparently worked. Here are some recent articles exposing the ICANN