Law in the Internet Society
-- By NicholasSchaefer - 04 Nov 2016


One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Chesire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

To quote a children’s book is perhaps an inappropriate preamble to a law school essay. We are, after all, occupying the province of the Law—an ancient Institution so bound to precedent that change, when it comes, is rarely more than a reflection of the already-transformed surface of society.

That is not to say that legal remedies are of no consequence. Merely because an army lacks the strength to sortie means not that it should abandon the castle’s defenses; merely because Alice has not the perception needed to assert her future does not imply the Chesire wants for truth. But wisdom is lost on those unable to listen.

The accelerating social transformations and exponential population growth of the past century, together with the recent emergence of The Net, have brought upon us a turning. And though to me the future seems terrifyingly bleak,

… well, I can only say that it is in fact completely without hope.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 2

The judicial system, in theory, should construct some semblance of truth. Though at times it may succeed—to varying degrees—any resulting solutions are necessarily retrospective, particularly as concerns technology. The net is a rapidly shifting organism propelled in no small part by creativity, and is by nature unpredictable. Our legal system, in contrast, is built upon an incompatible framework wherein the ability most valued is that of coloring within the lines.

Consequently, the intrinsically reactive nature of the law is such that even when fixes are proffered they arrive only after the infliction of significant damage.

The Snowden saga exemplifies what occurs when shortcomings of law and societal indifference fall parallel. We, the masses, learned the truth, yet within minutes disregarded what was just discovered. The truth is simply that: the truth. It is only as a product of our collective response to the acquisition of knowledge that freedom may result. The conscious dismissal of revealed truth is an acceptance of the control over our lives ensconced in an international oligarchy.

Moglen promulgated the idea that once parents understand the privacy intrusions upon their children, they will “see the light” and fight against the onslaught of technology. I would argue the opposite. What parent, honestly, does not WANT to KNOW where their children are at all times? Few parents, I am sure, are concerned that their kids are apt to overthrow a government. No — instead, they worry about sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. To track one’s child at all times — that is every mother’s dream.

“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” 3

The net provides a means for a level of despotic social control previously unmatched; such is the society in which we now exist. The patterns of human history suggests that what comes next will be eerily familiar—differentiated from the past only in the ever-expanding scale of each cyclic revolution.

Subconscious targeting as a means to effect desired changes in public and political opinion has a remarkable history. Edward Bernays, visionary of mass behavioral manipulation, induced the US government through political pressure and the realignment of public opinion to covertly oust the democratically elected Guatemalan government. He did so on behalf of a single corporation; the coup served no interests whatsoever save those of this firm. The year was 1954.

Over sixty years later, modern behavioral engineering is most visible in its commercial applications, such that we concern ourselves with machinations affecting the impulses of consumer choice. Small, innocuous, easy to dismiss as harmless; aggregate, however, and the narrative rapidly transforms.

If you can influence the manner in which people think—and change what they accept—then you control what makes them happy. Define the parameters of happiness, and you truly walk on water.

Any revolution, intellectual or political or otherwise, cannot find momentum without impetus. A society consisting of a happy majority, and which effectively misdirects the anger of disparate minorities, is missing such an internal spark. Look to populist revolutions of the past and you find that without discontent there is nothing.

“It is easy, simplistic, and totally without value to merely curse the darkness...” 3

Indeed it is. Yet to even curse the darkness requires recognition that it exists. Instead, a brilliant light shines directly in our eyes and beats back the shadows, and we are happy. Ironic, then, that it is the physical overexposure to light—not darkness—that carries with it risk of blindness.

Without the understanding and desire of the masses to strike out against the incursions of despotism, all we can feasibly hope for at this point is to continue preserving the castle walls. To effect the sociopolitical repositioning crucial to our ability to correctly choose which path to follow—from the fork in the road at which we now find ourselves—requires more than just the Law, and more than high-level technological know-how.

Not until we understand where the paths before us lead are we ready to receive wisdom.

It is a shame, therefore, that we no longer have eyes to see.

So yes — this is epigram and nothing else. When speaking of the hopelessness of our future, what use are facts? We have passed the point of no return with respect to climate change. So it is with the internet. To use another famous quote: ignorance is bliss.

We are doomed. It is not a matter of IF. It is a matter of WHEN.

1 ...the one-eyed pig is king.

2 John VII

3 George Orwell (disputed)

4 Oscar Acosta

The best route to improvement of the draft, I think, is a major shift in the ratio of substance to style. The reader gets no information here, so the takeaway value is slight once admiration of your references is over. Analysis is mostly presented in the form of epigram, which is okay, but doesn't leave the reader much to do with the resulting ideas, except quote you herself the way you quote other people here.

I'm left with the feeling, after all the running and jumping, that the idea of the essay could be boiled down into one sentence, but that the resulting sentence wouldn't be very illuminating. Let's reverse the process for the next draft. Let's start with one sentence that really conveys a new idea. That could go first. Then in following paragraphs you could refer to some facts or provide some analytical description of current events that the reader could learn from, in the sense that she can say to herself, "I didn't know that until I read Schaefer." A conclusion would follow, which shows how your idea from up top could be taken further in a new direction by the reader herself, continuing the learning process. Then we would really be getting somewhere, because you told us from the beginning where we were going.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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r5 - 26 Dec 2016 - 05:04:41 - NicholasSchaefer
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