Beware of the Restrict Act: Patriot Act for the Internet on Steroids
Can a Left/Right Civil Libertarian Coalition defeat the Restrict Act?
There is a new bill to ban TikTok, that is not really about banning TikTok, that has gone under the radar until recently. The very Orwellian worded, "Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology," or RESTRICT act, has some very dangerous provisions. For instance, the act grants the Secretary of Commerce and Director of National Intelligence, the authority to label any foreign group or individual, an adversary of the United States, target any US citizen with associations to a particular foreign adversary as a threat to the “national interest,” and grants the State discretion to ban software and apps from nations deemed adversaries. The act would also criminalize the use of VPNs to access banned foreign apps, allows the Feds access to all online data without a warrant, and is worded so that the Freedom of Information act and congressional oversight would not apply to Restrict act cases and investigations, so no due process. Also any violations of this act would be tried exclusively in DC Appeals Court, which is one of the most partisan and politically biased courts in the nation.
The Restrict act is a blatant violation of both the 1st and 4th Amendments, with very broad and vague language and draconian penalties. For instance, if one causes undue "risk" to US interests or persons, broadly defined, or if one engages in election interference, they are subjected to fines of up to $1million, civil asset forfeiture, and/or up to a 20 year prison sentence. Basically, it is the Patriot Act on steroids or the Patriot Act for the internet, and grants the government total power over regulating communications, grants the Executive branch dictatorial powers, including wartime powers, and formalizes the Fed Intelligence and Law Enforcement relationships across the digital sphere, as we saw with the exposure of the Twitter files, rather than just farming out tech censorship to the private sector.
The Restrict act is bi-partisan legislation, sponsored by Democratic Senator, Mark Warner, and Republican, John Thune, and co-sponsored by 11 Democrats including, Joe Manchin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Kelly, Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine, and Richard Blumenthal, and 13 Republicans, including Mitt Romney, Sue Collins, Chuck Grassley, and Lindsay Graham, as well as Independent, Angus King. Co-sponsor, Lindsay Graham, played dumb in response to questions about the bill’s threats to civil liberties from Fox News’ Jesse Waters. House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, also expressed support for moving legislation forwards to ban TikTok, though he was vague as to whether he would support the Restrict act, or another bill proposed by Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, that is an outright ban of TikTok. Basically, the act is supported by the establishment wings of both parties, and of course the Biden administration is in favor. This legislation was likely crafted by an alliance of K-Street lawyers (DHS Lawfare types), Deep State interests, and Silicon Valley, to suppress any competition to Big Tech. Obviously Big Tech has no high ground, in regards to protecting user data.
Opposition to the Restrict act is gaining traction, with a coalition of unlikely opponents across the spectrum. Tucker Carlson and journalist, Glenn Greenwald, were at the forefront of speaking out against the bill, and more recently the ACLU issued a press release expressing concern. Rand Paul is probably the most outspoken opponent of the bill in the Senate, and both Ilhan Omar and AOC have expressed concern, with AOC pointing out that congress had not been briefed on the nature of the bill. The Restrict act is so atrocious that it has united AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rand Paul, and Tucker Carlson in opposition.
While the Restrict act is targeted against foreign adversaries, explicitly listing nations such as Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and China, the bill’s text is crafted to grant discretion to the government to label and target any entity, as an adversary of the “national interest.” So the State can decide, willy nilly, who and what constitutes an adversary, without informing Congress or the public. Those targeted could include, those who use foreign webhosts to evade censorship, someone communicating with someone on social media from an adversarial nation, and potentially even someone who just clicks on a link or downloads software, linked to a hostile foreign nation.
The main targets likely include those accused of spreading Russian or Chinese propaganda, but the act has the potential to be applied to an opposition political party or organization in a nation that is an ally to the US. Both those on the right with ties to nationalists and populists in Europe, and leftists with ties to anti-imperialist movements in the Third World could be potential targets. This bill especially poses a threat to independent journalism, such as targeting anti-establishment journalists who interview foreign leaders. The bill is also so vague in how it targets and criminalizes steering opinion in favor of a foreign regime, election interference, and undermining “democratic processes and institutions,” which could apply to questioning election results. Expect more cases like, Douglass Mackey, who was just found guilty of Federal Election Interference, for a meme he tweeted during the 2016 election. The act could also endanger immigrant communities and diasporas from nations targeted, such as immigrants who send money home to their families, or Chinese immigrants who use Chinese social media.
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The narrative about countering Russia has strong appeal to a lot of boomers, who still have a Cold War mentality, and has also been linked to the woke or blue tribe culture war, with attempts to link Russia to American political opposition. For instance, Democratic Congressman, Jamie Raskin, stating that Moscow "is a world center of antifeminist, antigay, anti-trans hatred, as well as the homeland of replacement theory for export." However, the anti-China angle is more effective at winning over conservative Republicans, even those who are softer towards Russia or dismissive of Russia-gate. There is also moral blackmail of, “If you’re not for the Restrict act, you’re with the CCP,” much like how in the Bush era, it was “If you’re not for the Patriot Act, you’re with the terrorists.”
With this impending Cold War with China, there is a delicate balancing act of exploiting xenophobic sentiment about China while also appearing sensitive to Asian American concerns (eg. Stop AAIP Hate). While there is a lot of Neo-McCarthyite and Jingoistic American Imperialist language in the bill, many of the same people supporting this bill have accused the nationalist populist right of stoking anti-Asian xenophobia and racism. Wars and conflicts usually involve demonizing the other nation, which entails some degree of racism. While much of the political elite and managerial class are very woke, for the most part, those with power just want to strengthen their power, so they will be globalists or anti-racists when it suits them, but also xenophobic or nationalistic when it suits them.
While China is not exactly a friend of America and the CCP are authoritarian, those behind the Restrict act want to make America like China to protect America from China. For instance, protecting Americans’ data from the CCP, by permitting the US government to control everyone’s data, and to create an American version of China’s firewall. Not to mention that the VPN ban has more draconian penalties than even China has. Even with major problems like outsourcing and fentanyl pouring across the border, blaming China detracts from the culpability of America’s political elite. I could see some MAGA pundit saying that Democrat politicians, who sold out the US economy and infrastructure to China, should be eligible for prosecution under the act. While it is true that Clinton, Bush, and Obama, were much friendlier towards China, the current antagonism towards China is not so much about Trump, but rather that US foreign policy priorities have shifted from viewing China as just a supplier of cheap goods, to an actual threat to US global hegemony.
Whatever one thinks about TikTok, as far as being Chinese spyware, a negative influence on the culture, and just overall cringe, the Restrict act’s purpose is to strengthen the US security state, suppress civil liberties, consolidate state power with social media, and suppress free speech and political discourse. The act fits in with a techno dystopia, and other policy proposals such as biometric IDs to access the internet and a Central Bank Digital Currency. It is part of a broader attempt at total institutional capture, consolidation of wealth and political power, and the suppression of parallels systems, economies, and forms of communication. For instance, the act also has the potential to prohibit cryptocurrencies.
Whatever you think about Trump as a president, his election was a shock to the system, that caused those in power to take their masks off. The system has traditionally relied more upon soft power, but recently there has been a major shift towards hard power. Basically, seeking to cripple any future anti-establishment movements from either the left or right, as late stage empires have historically turned inwards against their own people. However, the idea that the elites’ power is severely threatened, and any expectations of the masses as a sleeping giant arising, can be a cope, as the masses have shown themselves to be conformists, ambivalent, complacent, and compliant. Overall political opposition is pathetic, and I have noticed many dissidents falling back into the partisan trap. For instance rightwing populists saying that you have to vote GOP or Biden and the woke democrats will take away our freedom. The same applies to Bernie supporters, who got morally blackmailed into “vote blue no matter who,” because Trump was a fascist. Culture war wedge issues, such as the Trans issue, and even CRT, are distractions compared to the Restrict act’s existential threat to civil liberties. There is also speculation that the recent indictment of Trump was intended as a distraction from the bill.
With Tucker Carlson on the same page as AOC, a left/right coalition could be the only thing that defeats this dangerous bill. I really hate how the term Centrist is used to describe the corrupt Uniparty, but there is a horseshoe trend where there are civil libertarian strains on both the right and left, but it is the bi-partisan “moderates” of both parties, who work together to screw over the people. While much of the left has abandoned their principles on civil liberties, the obvious reason that many leftists are outspoken against the bill, is because leftists, especially zoomers, love TikTok. The alliance between the corporate/deep state establishment and the left has been fairly effective at crushing the nationalist populist right, but the system is really overreaching in potentially alienating a demographic of woke TikTok users, who have been good useful idiots for the system. I have even noticed woke people on Twitter saying that, imagine the Restrict act in the hands of a president DeSantis, oppressing LGBTQ or racial minorities. While it is good to see those on the left and right, who usually hate each other’s guts, speaking out against this bill, there are limitations to the people uniting as part of some broad coalition of both the populist left and right. However, hyper polarization could end up being good, if it stifles bipartisan legislation, and gridlock might just be the best case scenario. The plan was to rush the Restrict act through, under the radar, but there is enough growing scrutiny that there is a good chance that it gets voted down.