There's lots of very cool electoral, political, and organizational news on the net neutrality front, including more public humiliation of net neutrality opponents. The video above is just one local story from Save the Internet's nationwide set of rallies over the past few days. Here's where we are in the fight.
In September and October, we're going to see a massive push by telecom companies on net neutrality. They've been doing quiet lobbying through astroturf groups, but it's going to heat up dramatically. Included in this PR campaign will be a push by the Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras to talk about the issue in a way that's favorable to telecom companies. Majoras is a Bush crony and comes from big business, a sort of Michael Brown of the internet, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of backlash this potential move from the Bush administration provokes. One thing to note is that the Bush administration is apparently going to unmask itself as a net neutrality opponent. I imagine the telecom companies don't realize what they're doing here, and that Deborah Platt Majoras doesn't understand that she's putting herself in a very very public spotlight. But then, political insight hasn't been a strong suit of the telecom lobby.
On our side, there have been grassroots lobbying efforts throughout August. There were rallies around the country today and yesterday in front of Senate offices, and four Senators came out in favor of net neutrality (Schumer, Jeffords, Harkin, and Dayton) this week. Tim Karr runs down the rallies. There was great local coverage of the incredible events in Detroit, New York, Buffalo, Fayetteville, Denver, Boston, Newark, Providence, Baltimore, Portland (ME), Seattle, Eau Claire and Milwaukee, Montpelier, Wilmington, Orlando, Honolulu, Louisville, Columbus, Madison, Spokane, Charleston, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. Our Senate tally is updated here, so you can see where your Senator stands. Note all the waffling by the R's. That's not an accident.
And now we get to the most fun part of the fight, which is how the internet is taking its revenge on bad characters. This time, it's Ted Stevens and George Allen. When we set out on this fight, it wasn't a progressive issue, but based on the people who have unmasked themselves as opponents of net neutrality, it is becoming a fight over the progressive nature of the internet. And what's interesting when we're fighting over progressive values is how multiple fights always seem to converge at key points among key personalities. Take George Allen, for instance.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Allen, in his perch on the Commerce Committee, voted against net neutrality. The internet has practically destroyed his Presidential prospects in 2008, and may cause him to lose his Senate seat. Ironically, Allen is now running running TV ads touting his high technology work in Virginia, evasively avoiding discussion of his vote against net neutrality. At the time, Allen had $10 million on hand, and was considered a leading Presidential contender for the Republicans in 2008.
Since that vote, the internet has hit back, hard. It's well-known by now that George Allen's campaign is being ruined by the Macaca comment, a racist jab that flew all over the internet because of youtube and blogs, and then all over Virginia through local and national media. Allen still can't escape it, and his polling numbers have crumbled. But what's less well-known is how an internet draft campaign recruited his opponent, Former Reagan administration official Jim Webb. Moreover, internet sleuths have linked Allen with the KKK descended group the Conservative Citizens Council, circulating pictures of Allen with the group's leadership online.
So I'll just point out that net neutrality, internet politics, and electoral work are all converging on Allen. A candidate drafted by activists on the internet, Jim Webb, is now challenging Allen, an internet foe. There is just a very bright and stark line, and a real race, where before the Senate reelection was seen as a cakewalk and prep time for 2008. Earlier this year, Allen was hanging out in Iowa and talking about how bored he was in the Senate. Now he's hanging on for his political life.
Another character getting smacked is Ted Stevens, who recently placed a secret hold on a bill to prevent a searchable database of earmarks, supposedly as revenge against the Senator trying to prevent Stevens' pet pork 'bridge to nowhere' from being funded. Citizen journalists on the internet forced Stevens and his secret hold to come to light by querying every Senator about whether they had used the tricky legislative maneurver. Stevens of course is the force behind eviscerating net neutrality in the Senate. Stevens hasn't yet lived down his series of tubes moment, when he solidified his image as a cranky old man who either hangs out in haunted amusement parks or yells at pigeons.
Lead actors involved in the net neutrality fight on the other side have seen a massive loss of prestige and substantial public embarrassment. Al Wynn is facing a real primary challenge in Donna Edwards. George Allen got torched by internet activists, and saw his political career and influence reduced dramatically. And George Allen, Ted Stevens, and Mike McCurry are all to varying degrees objects of public ridicule.
There were rallies all around the country yesterday and today to save the internet, to save net neutrality. This train is leaving the station. I wouldn't want to be in its way.