Neutrality is under fire, or, at minimum, “not finalized” (whatever that means), possibly, even dead. I am surprised, in light of discussions of postmodernism over the intervening decades, that we humor the metanarrative of human emancipation embedded in “net neutrality” in the first place.
Is neutrality over? Maybe Tim Wu’s hopes will not last so long after all. Alternatively, if we’re talking about “political neutrality” amidst news outlets, again in the US, that bird also appears to have flown the coop (that, or the bias is so deep we cannot even tell anymore). Maybe neutrality was always something of a modern dream. Maybe it was always just a hypothetical philosophical position. Maybe only “neutral countries” Switzerland have it figured out.
For our guest, Andrew Russell, there are a couple issues worthy of consideration, namely, that “[a]s a political slogan, “net neutrality” has proven to be enormously effective” and also that “fundamental human values that are obscured with the self-righteous rhetoric of “neutrality.” It is a smokescreen, neutrality, and we are probably ostensibly better off without it, and, to wit, well aided by acknowledging the basic reality that neutrality is, at best, a farce, and this apparently applies to wireline and wireless internet service providers (ISPs).
While most of this discussion is about ISPs, could another argument be made — not necessarily on a grander stage — for content of internet sites? I am primarily thinking of this in postmodern terms, probably Jean-François Lyotard above all, with his sweeping commentary and re-assessment of the role of truth and truth production circa 1984-ish. With incredulity for metanarratives and grand, over-arching theories, I wonder what Lyotard would have categorized Wu’s notion of “net neutrality” as an essentially unquestioned good. Whether called “language-games” or “phrase-regimes,” the rise of (let’s say) micro or nano-narratives has taken the place of grand narratives, and reflect a multiplicity of meaning-making in diverse, incommensurate, and incompatible systems of meaning, truth, and propaganda. While it is going to seem “quaint” to some, the notion of “net neutrality” seems an awful lot like a metanarrative, and none more a match than the old (useful, but rusty) metanarrative associated with human emancipation. One of the base justifications for net neutrality in the first place is that its alternative would stifle the emancipatory — whether it be economic, political, personal, or other — potential of unfettered access to and ability to share information.
As the status of truth positions scientists as less prominent purveyors of truth as compared to yesteryear, and as the “filter bubble” looms large, descending voices that this can be circumvented or, at minimum, nothing to get too worried about seem like no less quaint or neutral when the neutrality of the net is held as a gold standard among ISPs . In the end, that we humor the metanarrative of human emancipation embedded in “net neutrality” discourse in the first place surprises me. Post-neutrality in post-modern times should raise plenty of eyebrows, although alternatives to emancipation as a justification for neutrality may provide much-needed utility, because, apparently, neoliberal wags seeking to destroy net neutrality read Lyotard…