- - Monday, May 15, 2017


“Net neutrality” is often misunderstood, but it’s an issue that arouses passion on both sides of an important issue. One of President Trump’s first appointments was Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which imposed “net neutrality” in the Obama era, and Mr. Pai and conservatives generally want to reverse that decision.

In theory, net neutrality sounds like something everyone would think is a fair deal. It’s proponents say it’s needed to prevent internet Service Providers, like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from blocking or slowing down internet traffic, or suppressing politically controversial content. Who doesn’t want a faster internet? Who wants the government, and its heavy hand with a blue pencil, to have anything to do with what Americans see and read on the internet?

But government regulation can become a bad thing, and often does, and critics of net neutrality argue that free-market competition would prevent abuses, so why would anyone trust a government bureaucrat over the natural restraints imposed by competitors in the field? Consequently, Mr. Pai is expected to make repeal of net neutrality the first order of business when the FCC meets to consider his proposal later this week.

Urged on by John Oliver, an Englishman who hosts a program called “Last Week Tonight” on the Home Box Office channel, friends of net neutrality have filed 1.6 million comments with the FCC opposing Chairman Pai’s plan to repeal. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the democratic process at work. But so many of the comments are anonymous, pseudonymous, repetitive, obscene, or racist (Mr. Pai was born in Buffalo, N.Y., of Indian extraction) that Mr. Oliver warned such commenters to knock it off. “Stop it,” he said. “Do not do that.”

Over the past week leaflets, depicting Mr. Pai as a felon on a wanted poster, have flooded his neighborhood in Arlington, Va. Demonstrators have even yelled at his two young children, innocent of their father’s politics, and about 40 or so of them gathered in front of the Pai homeplace on Sunday for what the noisy left calls “direct action.”

This isn’t likely to change Thursday’s vote, one way or the other. The demonstrations are more of the politics of obstruction, destruction and delusion. John Oliver, the entertainer who’s sometimes entertaining, offered his followers good advice. There’s nothing neutral about the politics of abuse.

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