censor — Any person who controls or suppresses the behavior of others, usually on moral grounds .

corporation — an organization formed with state governmental approval to act as an artificial person to carry on business (or other activities), which can sue or be sued, and (unless it is non-profit) can issue shares of stock to raise funds with which to start a business or increase its capital.

Paypal way out of line

My reaction to the email I received from Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, regarding his decision to submit to PayPal’s ultimatum banning certain types of erotica was shock. I suppose I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.

This arrogance of power has been corrupting our society for quite some time now. All PayPal has done, is remove any subtlety via their blatant abuse of market control.

I have always felt fortunate to be born in a country where our first legal right is “Freedom of Expression.” I interpret said freedom as the extension of an even more fundamental right—the Freedom of Thought! All of other rights as human beings flow from this basic recognition of individuality.

The United States has been a hotbed of innovation and cultural creativity as a direct result of these freedoms. However, it is not my intent to write a love letter about America (another post!), rather to underscore the profound nature of my concerns over what is occurring in our society. This apprehension extends beyond the immediate issue of PayPal’s action. If anything, their ham-fisted attempt at censorship is a clarion call: Not of “Things-To-Come”, but rather “Things-That-Are-Here!”

Once we allow our rights to be taken away, we will never gain them back. –Marzio Ombra

As a society we have grown complacent and lazy minded. Instead of deliberate, involved participation in our governance, we have chosen the path of least effort. We cannot be bothered get off our asses to vote. Thus, we have career politicians who pander to donor dollars–their campaigns funded by the very foxes they are supposed to keep out of the coop!

The influence money has upon politicians is irresistible. Look at the housing crisis, or the GM bailout, or what we ‘discovered’ was going on after the BP oil spill. All these nefarious dealings are done under our noses. The media feeds us disingenuous sound bites and blame shifting, false promises and hand-wringing. Soon we are lulled into a sense of complacency, and the bastards keep on doing business as usual. Worse, they get Congress to pass various legislations designed to ‘protect’ the public interest.

Our rights are being eroded slowly but steadily. Driven by fear-mongering, we are allowing legislation that waters down the very tenets of our founding fathers. I find it reprehensible that we as a nation accept routine violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. A good example is the TSA’s fondling of passengers without just cause!

Once we allow our rights to be taken away, we will never gain them back. Our politicians have become spokespeople and apologists for the true power in this country—the corporations. “Artificial People!”

I find it ironic that the defenders of PayPal’s actions use the excuse that a corporation has the right to act in their business’ best interest. I won’t argue the legality of that. The fact that they are a bank in every sense of the word, except the regulatory, proves that the laws are a joke. I am certain that their lawyers have ensured they are well protected in their actions.

What about our best interest? What about our rights?

This is the crux of the issue. The First Amendment compels the GOVERNMENT to respect our right to free expression. PayPal is not the government.

Sorry, had to stop laughing after writing that last sentence.

Let me try this again.

PayPal is not the government.

On paper, in the Courts, sure. But PayPal has no problem acting on the government’s behalf. Wikileaks ring a bell?

Since PayPal is an Artificial Person with the rights to determine how they pursue their business (legally), there is really nothing to stop them from declaring “No Porn For You!” After all, there are alternatives, right? They aren’t a monopoly, right?

The reality is PayPal has every legal right to dictate what can be sold using their service. By extension, this means that when you use PayPal you agree to buy only what they approve.

I get it. It’s easy to sit back and say, “So what? We are talking about incest, rape and bestiality stories here. Only a pervert would get upset over a company saying it wants no part of that.” Perhaps, but it really isn’t about the content, it is about the implications. Consider this, where does that moral judgment end? At what point does PayPal’s moral edicts elicit outrage? When they ban BDSM fiction? Gay fiction? Political opinion?

It is not hyperbole to suggest that the projected arc of this corporate censorship will continue until you are blocked from buying a pizza because it’s unhealthy.

Is your right to the freedom of thought for sale? Do you feel comfortable allowing an “Artificial Person” to decide what legal choices in life with which you are presented?

Currently in the United States, there are no laws governing fictional crimes. –Narcisse Navarre (Read her comments here)