A spontaneous movement to boycott Amazon.com, the online retailer, has taken off in response to the company’s decision to kick WikiLeaks off its servers. We at Antiwar.com unequivocally endorse this effort. In spite of attempts by some to claim the company was subjected to a threat “at gunpoint,” in reality, no one put a gun to Amazon’s head. They were more than happy to join the attack on WikiLeaks, as their statement made all too clear:
“There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate.
“There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against.
“Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. … It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.”
“We’ve been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. Some of this data is controversial, and that’s perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.”
They couldn’t be clearer: although no doubt Lieberman’s direct intervention contained the threat of government action, this isn’t a case of a private company being bullied by Washington, and complying for fear of retribution. Amazon agrees with the government campaign to shut down WikiLeaks, and they want to do all they can to help.
Echoing the government-Big Media lie that WikiLeaks is purveying “stolen property,” Amazon is making propaganda for the regime and its efforts to take down WikiLeaks. Although it isn’t very convincing propaganda: after all, who “owns” those 250,000 diplomatic cables – or the “Collateral Murder” video, for that matter? Why, the people whose involuntary contributions paid for them, i.e. the American taxpayers. Now, instead of being kept in the dark about the often dangerous and provocative shenanigans our government is up to overseas, the American people have access to what is their property, not the government’s.
Far from stealing anything, WikiLeaks, in effect, returned stolen property to its rightful owners. To argue otherwise is to maintain a deeply statist and proto-authoritarian stance: that the state exercises sovereignty over the people, rather than vice versa.
Amazon’s ancillary argument – that WikiLeaks is releasing information that could conceivably “injure others – has been debunked by none other than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who admitted that not s single death can be traced back to information made accessible by WikiLeaks. Instead of “injuring” anyone, WikiLeaks has again and again exposed the vast injury done to the world’s peoples by US machinations worldwide.
Aside from that, the vagueness of this “injure others” doctrine recalls some of the more ridiculous – and repressive – aspects of political correctness, such as campus “speech codes,” effectively used to silence dissenters. During the Bush years, my good friend Lew Rockwell coined a very useful term, “red-state fascism,” to characterize the outlook and methods of the neoconservative-dominated Right,. It is a very useful category that puts the danger from the pro-war “conservative” movement in perspective. Today, however, in the age of Obama, we have a horse of an entirely different color, so to speak, which might usefully be described as Blue-State Fascism.
While the red-state fascist reaction to WikiLeaks has been outright savagery – Jonah Goldberg, to cite a relatively mild example, wonders why Julian Assange wasn’t garroted in his hotel room long ago – the methods of the blue-state fascists are more subtle, and no doubt more effective. Instead of kidnapping Assange and dragging him off to prison like the Israelis abducted Mordecai Vanunu right off a London street, the Obama-ites have launched a campaign to disrupt, de-legitimize, demonize, and destroy WikiLeaks, and deter others from following Assange’s heroic example.
Amazon’s action was a great victory for the blue-state fascists: let nothing “injurious” ever be posted by Amazon Web Services, or, indeed, by any other web host! This principle is being formalized and put into practice by Sen. Lieberman and his allies in the Senate with the introduction of legislation that would outlaw sites like WikiLeaks by amending the Woodrow Wilson-era “Espionage Act” – a statute originally used to jail antiwar activists and close down the anti-interventionist media during that other great war to “make the world safe for democracy.”
In seems fairly clear that Amazon is endorsing the War Party’s hate campaign against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange and yet some libertarians are busily inventing all kinds of complicated rationales for granting this particular outfit some kind of moral immunity: they’re a private company, they were threatened by Senator Joe Lieberman and the hint of government action (in spite of Amazon’s explicit statements to the contrary), they have cool stuff for sale at cheap prices, etc. ad nauseam.
I suspect this has more to do with admiration for Amazon’s business model, as an example of successful entrepreneurship, than with any of the above. When it comes to libertarians, the valorization of the entrepreneur is often taken to ridiculous extremes, exemplified by the title of Ayn Rand’s essay on “Big Business: America’s Persecuted Minority.” The reality is a bit more complicated, as was often the case with Rand’s historical analyses: as Murray Rothbard and others have shown, big business has consistently agitated for more government controls, all the better to cartelize the economy and divvy up the spoils among the big boys.
No one contests Amazon’s achievement in harnessing the power of the internet and revolutionizing retail sales in the US, and worldwide. However, that is separable from the wrong and downright evil political stance they have taken, which puts them on the wrong side of the barricades in the struggle for liberty against state power.
The threat to the Constitution, and what remains of our civil liberties, has never been greater. What’s needed now in the business community is not government cheerleaders, like Amazon, but fearless opponents of Blue-State and Red-State fascism, such as the heroic Sewell Avery.
Avery was the head of the great retailer of yesteryear, Montgomery Ward, who pointedly ignored the edicts of Roosevelt’s wartime dictatorship, refusing to sign a government-dictated contract with the union. Roosevelt sought to make an example out of him, seizing Montgomery Ward under the pretext of the “wartime emergency,” and sending armed troops to evict Avery from his office. When Roosevelt’s thugs came knocking at his door, Attorney General Francis Biddle had to order them to carry Avery out bodily, and as they did the defiant Avery yelled, “To hell with the government!”
This is precisely what every patriotic and liberty-loving American must say to the state and its agents when they come knocking on our doors: to hell with you! In short, we need less Jeff Bezoses, and more Sewell Averys.
The answer of every freedom-loving American to these attacks must be: To hell with Amazon and to hell with the government. You’re either for liberty, or you’re against it: there is no middle ground.
The controversy over WikiLeaks is a defining issue, one that separates the liberty-lovers from the lickspittles.
Which one are you?