Opinion

My Final Post for The RoundUp

58,981 words and counting. To many this may appear to be a random number pulled out of thin air. To me personally, it is something much more. At the moment, (according to WordPress) that is the exact amount of words I have written for The Roundup. I believe that I could have written more during my brief two years of writing for The Roundup and I should have begun writing earlier as well. Whether through writing about video games, Net Neutrality, Civil Rights regarding technology, or the ‘White-Washing’ of Ghost in the Shell, I have always attempted to provide the very best for the readers of The Roundup and VGHunter. Of course, the majority of the content I write for The Roundup is video game related. Nonetheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed broadening my perspective horizons via the topics at hand and their respected thematic devices.

If I were to have informed myself freshmen year that I would be attending college after four years at Jesuit in pursuit of a degree in Journalism, I would have called myself crazy. Four years ago I was determined to be a lawyer like my father or enter the petroleum industry to the likes of my biological mother. Obviously, I have changed. People in general change. I credit Jesuit and The Roundup in general for setting me on my current path.

Jesuit College Prep in general has done a tremendous amount of work into forming my individual graduating class not only into young men but also into respected graduated alumni. As a doubtful and incredibly cynical freshman, the thought of transforming my fellow Jesuit brother’s felt like a lost cause. We were funneled in from a variety of schools, public and private, Catholic and Protestant. Therefore it seemed like an arduous task to unite these 270+ young men into a single cohesive family, let alone into an established community. I applaud the countless individuals that head and take part in this community for altering the paths not only for me, but also for my Jesuit brethren as well.

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In retrospect, these past fours years have helped my class attempt to figure out who they wanted to be. Jesuit has gone about conducting this transformation through a plethora of organizations. The Medical Society, to name one of the many organizations, has gone above and beyond by exposing individuals that share interest in the medicine field to societies across the globe that are in need for help and comfort. One can easily put two and two together that one’s interests in following up Medical Society with a path through Pre-Med in college makes absolute sense. Jesuit cultivates a student’s ambitions and gifts and then diverts the product towards the next step in obtaining one’s goals. Another example being it is safe to assume that the individuals in Jesuit Engineering Society will more than likely continue down the path to becoming engineers through more advanced studies and projects after Jesuit.

 

This of course would not be possible had Jesuit not offered so many organizations to foster a student’s core interests and goals. Getting to the organization, however, can require a gentle hand of guidance or at times a brutish shove if times are dire. At the end of my sophomore year at Jesuit I had still yet to find my niche at Jesuit when it came to student organizations. While attending my Art Appreciation class a Junior asked me my opinion, whether BioShock Infinite was better than The Last of Us. I firmly explained my stance as to how The Last of Us took the average use of the video game medium’s story and for all intensive purposes blew it out of the water into a cinematic narrative un-paralleled at the time. Although he did not full-heartedly agree with my opinion, Enrique Berrios ’15, jokingly said “you should write about it.” Over time I learned that Enrique wrote for The Roundup. I had previously seen other students write about games on the website but the majority of the articles simply did not care to elaborate on the advantages of telling stories or experiences through an interactive narrative. I approached Dr. Degen in the following August, the beginning of my Junior year and expressed my planned initiative to write about games for The Roundup. If only the two of us knew what that would bring.

It is almost as if when he allowed me to begin writing for the paper that he unknowingly opened the floodgates of my mind. Obviously, my first articles were sub-par and amateurish, to say the least. However, as time went on, my criticisms and praises of various games began to actually read like actual cohesive thoughts bundled into ludicrous amounts of paragraphs that, I can only imagine, got on the nerves of the editors who had to decipher their content. At this time, the idea of possibly writing professionally seemed far-fetched; the only writer in my family is my biological grandfather who worked at various papers including The Houston Chronicle. I was still gung-ho and set on being a lawyer. I can safely assume that this all changed with one article.

I have never been one to enjoy reading about politics, although I consume a variety of reports on varies topical issues, the idea of writing about a politically-charged news point seemed even more far fetched than the idea of being a writer. I think that is why (when I actually wrote my first viewpoint piece) it ended up being one that lacked a lot of political charge or power behind it.

The topic: Net Neutrality. I can safely that up until that point I had yet to write about something so incredibly impactful on our overall society. The origins of this piece are quite simple. I walked near Dr. Degen’s office one morning and he asked for my opinion on the subject, he probably thought that the Junior that enjoys typing away about video games would more than likely have a thoughtful opinion on the matter. One thing led to another and I wrote the article. In it, I criticized Internet Service Providers for capping speeds and charging exponentially higher prices compared to that of other developed nations (not to mention dolling out abysmal download speeds and marketing them as if they were cutting edge). In the end I felt pleased and proud of the piece I had crafted. For the first time in my entire life I felt as if I was truly onto something that could take me down a path of possible success while remaining content. I have nothing but Jesuit College Prep and, by process, The Roundup for helping me discover this.

In between writing compelling articles such as Net Neutrality and how the San-Bernadino phone should either be unlocked or left locked, I obviously kept busy with more gaming articles. It is worth pointing out that I must thank the conglomerate of editors at The Roundup who took time to edit incredibly long articles that probably bored them to death at times. Sure, critiquing content and grammar is a foundation to being an editor but the articles they have cleaned up for the most part are practical compendiums of knowledge for a single game at times. For their hard work, I am incredibly thankful for.

Finally, it is worth thanking the man who decided to give me such a “long leash” to work with: Dr. Degen. He put up with my at times overly-energetic attitude and even sanctioned that The Roundup had permission to secure press passes to several gaming conventions, one being RTX 2015 (received some splendid free press passes for that one). In addition to allowing me to better sharpen my craft as a writer in a school affiliated website, I will eternally be thankful. The overall networking with other professional writers through those conventions or through asking actual entertainments websites for advice for articles would not have been possible had Dr. Degen not bestowed upon me a place to publish my reviews, news tid-bits, and opinions. Which in turn wouldn’t have let me meet certain mentors who then helped me decide to go to Mizzou in pursuit of a degree pertaining to Journalism.

I have no doubts that Editor-in-Chief Alex Motter could have picked a better leader for The Roundup next year than Martin Flores. Alex plainly stated that Martin’s “innate ability to come up with creative innovations and inspire his peers makes me ecstatic to see the amazing things next year’s staff will accomplish.” I could not agree more with this statement. The Roundup can only grow through his leadership and that of the moderators, editors and especially the writers.

Although personally writing this article seems like an end to something that I cherished so much, I can only look forward to what Jesuit and what The Roundup has made possible for me as a writer. I have had a remarkable and memorable time writing for The Roundup, a time period filled to the cusp by splendid memories and collaborations with fellow colleagues. I have no doubts that I would write all 60,509 words again if need be.

Find Your Passion. I know I did.

– Hunter Gilbert

2014-2016 Writer

‘White-Washing’ Ghost in the Shell

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Connor Thomas wrote a phenomenal piece about “Racism in Film: Movies and Society Part 8.” In it he mentioned that “in no other place can racism project itself across so many people’s minds” so blatantly. He provided an excellent analysis of the history and overall trends set in Hollywood and some harrowing statistics. For that, I respect him even more as a writer and a person.

The interesting thing is the timing and release of his article. As some may already be aware, further controversy has been sparked by the promotional picture of Scarlett Johansson portraying Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming live action version ofGhost in the Shell. I personally can both defend and attack the studio’s decision to cast Scarlett Johansson (and I will) in this adaption of the 1995 animated film. It is worth mentioning that I do not watch a lot of anime (the majority of what I watch is the Ghost in the Shell franchise because of its cyberpunk nature). In fact, I do not consume a lot of TV or film altogether; rather I play an inordinate amount of video games (Just check my article history on The Roundup). Ghost in the Shell however is in my top three movies of all time (The other two being The Departed Good Will Hunting). To further understand the significance of this animated film, I will attempt to explain the premise so the larger implications for Scarlett Johansson’s casting can be understood.

According to the Google film synopsis Ghost in the Shell is described as a “Japanese animation (in which), cyborg federal agent Maj. Motoko Kusanagi trails “The Puppet Master,” who illegally hacks into the minds of cyborg-human hybrids. Kusanagi’s pursuit of a man who can modify the identity of strangers leaves her pondering her own makeup, and what life might be like if she had more human traits. With her partner, Kusanagi corners the hacker, but her curiosity about her identity sends the case in an unforeseen direction.”

Ghost in the Shell, the intellectual property as a whole constantly bombards the viewer with incredibly philosophical dilemmas and situations. It makes the viewer question possible outcomes of further cybernetic and neurological breakthroughs. The symbolism and message that was intended to be told by the creator is encompassed by a thought provoking action film. In my opinion it succeeds in doing so. This mainly conveyed through the protagonists, Motoko Kusanagi’s monologues and actions about her own interpretation of her very existence as a full body cyborg.

For the uniformed reader or critic the idea of Scarlett Johansson playing the lead for a remake of a Japanese anime seems like blatant “whitewashing.” Yet, out of all cases of whitewashing this one actually has some defend-able points (I am presenting them; I do not support them). Let me be clear though, Hollywood needs to absolutely be more open to casting Asian actors in more roles, preferably not roles that are stereotypical interpretations of Asian culture. For example, why not cast an Asian actor for an ethnically ambiguous character (a role that isn’t defined by facial structure or specific race)? There are plenty of roles that do not have to be played by mainstream Caucasian actors. Let it also be worth mentioning that more races should be cast in mainstream film as a whole (please do not feel as if I am catering to one specific race).

Here is how I will be devil’s advocate and defend the decision for the casting of Scarlet Johansson(I will argue against it later). In the original film,  the Major is a full body cyborg. In 2027, when the film takes place, everything that arguably makes a human can be replaced by cybernetics including one’s brain. Motoko Kusanagi is for all intensive purposes literally a ghost (soul) in a shell (body). She lacks any actual ‘natural’ body parts, even her own hair. Although her complete backstory is argued by viewers, she is by no means a ‘normal’ human. In the society that the series takes place in, however, this is accepted (for the most part). The populace can place their soul or ghost into an artificial body or shell if they choose. In this society race isn’t really an issue because one’s race can be altered by merely obtaining a new shell (if they have the physical capital to buy one). The Major operates out of Japan and is arguably Japanese, yet in nearly every portrayal of the character, she appears ethnically androgynous. In some iterations she appears more ‘Caucasian’ in others such as the ARISE ova; she dawns a more ‘Asian’ appearance. Note this is all relative to the viewer.

Essentially in the case of the original Ghost in the Shell, the Major has a Japanese name but certainly not a typical ‘Asian’ appearance. This is because of the entire cyborg-cyberpunk world that the characters live in. This is not our world. It is important to mention that the Major is not the sole Japanese character who simply does not appear to have Japanese origins. Batou (pictured to the above) is a near full body cyborg and colleague of the Major. Like her, in each iteration of the series as a whole his appearance differs. These characters’ roles are so ethnically ambiguous that in my opinion the live action portrayal of the characters as a whole is unimportant if the sole goal is to get the main message across. The focus for the entire film isn’t really as much about the characters as it is about what it means to be human. More specifically, something that is synthesized in a lab can feel and be accepted as being human. This is accomplished by using the Major as a vessel for doing so. The film especially touches on deep analyses of humanity and life after death. I will explain why Scarlett Johansson is seemingly ‘perfect’ for this in a bit.

GITS2Personally, the plot for Ghost in the Shell depends so little on race  it could be adapted to fit any kind of futuristic metropolitan setting whether it be in North America, Europe, the Middle East, etc. Once again this is due to the cyberpunk setting and the technological level that society in a whole has advanced to globally. Other successful animes that have made their way from Japan to become mainstream franchises, such asAttack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemists, Dragon Ball Z,  for the most part do not focus on the specific race of the characters but instead more on the environment and issue at hand. I give this choice in creative design credit for their success in the West. Basically, just because it is an anime does not always mean that all of the characters have to be Asian. You would be surprised by how many people believe this to be true. These plots do not have to cater to race to be successful; they transcend that entire barrier as a whole. Anyone who has never watched Ghost in the Shell, however, just sees the Japanese name, in this case Motoko Kusanagi, and freaks out before understanding the plot and reasoning as to why Scarlett Johansson could possibly make sense when it comes to casting. This kind of assumption proves that the individual that is criticizing this decision has no understanding of the plot in the slightest degree.

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SPOILER. The Major kind of dies in a sense near the end of Ghost in the Shell. Well, her body that had been acting as a vessel for her very soul is destroyed. She eventually ends up in a cybernetic body of a young girl but that isn’t the point because before that she bonds her very ‘mind’ with an artificial intelligence and possibly the internet as a whole. This may be a lot to fathom at once but just listen to where I am going with this. The Major at this specific point in the film lacks any physical presence in the actual world. She has transcended into the very cloud of data that flows throughout the world. This philosophical commentary for a cyborgs life after her apparent death (she actually doesn’t end up dying for good) is the main focus for the entire 82 minute long film. NOT RACE, nor any kind of IDEOLOGY or POLITICAL AGENDA. The film’s purpose is to propose various possible theories and revelations about life after death for something that arguably was never truly alive. The Major after questioning her humanity and whether she even is human literally becomes a part of the internet, something an actual human more than likely can’t. From this viewers have argued over the years if she was ever even human at one point or merely an artificial intelligence that was given bodies that reflect her supposed age.

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Scarlett Johansson has played several roles that make her a suitable choice to play the Major (except you know being white). From a physical standpoint she has already learned the choreography and has portrayed a character who uses the same kind of combat style as the Major: Black Widow in various Marvel films. She has already proven that she can portray a convincing artificial intelligence in Her. The entire concept and her acting abilities to portray the Major in sequences that lack a body or physical form is corroborated by her performance in this film. In Lucy she was able to not only provide believable combat skills, but she also proved to be able to commentate on higher states of consciousness; not to mention deep analysis of the brain and its potential. Off the top of my head, I cannot name an actress who is more qualified to portray the Major based off of past performances. This in itself is intriguing and disappointing, but I will mention why eventually.

The last thing that is a ‘good’ thing that Scarlett brings to the film is her appearance and name. Personally, I would argue that if a mainstream actress was not attached to this live action film few would be interested in it to begin with. The source material is by no means new; the original movie is over 20 years old. There is also a stigma in Hollywood that films with foreign origins for the most part won’t be successful because the general public doesn’t accept them or they will not understand them. My opinions on this and my overall disapproval could be an article on its own. Basically without a major A list celebrities involvement, I could not see this film ever being pitched to audiences and studios, let alone be successful.

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To further quell blind hatred towards the casting of Scarlett Johansson, it is noteworthy to say that the manga publisher for the original Ghost in the Shell, Kodansha was impressed with the amount of respect being given to the manga. In an interview withThe Hollywood Reporter, Kodansha’s chief international business director, Sam Yoshiba stated, “Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast.  She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place. This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world.”

If the original publishers of the source material have no issue with the Major being portrayed by a non-Japanese actress then I cannot see any further reason to detest the idea of Scarlott being the Major (besides her being white). It is also important to mention that the audiences in Japan do not feel offended by the casting of Scarlett in the role either.  One commenter from this cached thread of comments even points out that, “Even though in the Attack on Titan manga, the characters were foreigners, the movie version was all Japanese people, so I’m not going to complain.” The issue that should make people mad that was hinted at earlier is the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

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A large portion of people online have been demanding that Rinko Kikuchi, a Japanese national (she was in Pacific Rim) be cast as the Major instead. I personally think this makes sense as well. Especially if you want to cast a quality Japanese actress for a film that requires a wide skill set. I blame yet again the lack of a wide range of Japanese actresses (that would appeal to mainstream audiences) specifically to play this role. What I am trying to get at is if Hollywood finally decided to cast more Asian actors and actresses then there would be a larger selection of people to cast for the role of the Major in this live action adaptation. For this film to succeed at all it needs an actress that has a proven skill set and is a household name. I am not saying at all that white actresses are better by any means; the crummy thing is that the majority of the current actresses that fulfill these two requirements are Caucasian (mainly the second requirement). Plenty of Asian actresses have the skill set for the Major; they just lack something they cannot control. The characteristic that also works against the whole whitewashing idea is the previously mentioned fact that this role could be played by anyone of any race that meets the prerequisites. It just so happens thanks to the ill nature of Hollywood that this happens to be Scarlett Johansson.

When it comes to the whole idea of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi I can personally understand the pros and cons of casting her and as to why she was chosen. This still does not excuse everything else Hollywood has whitewashed in the past and inevitable future but I feel as if this movie isn’t the best example of whitewashing. Rather society as a whole does have an issue with whitewashing but in this case directed its frustration toward a single film instead of a wider pattern in Hollywood. To further understand this struggle in Hollywood for diversity I will once again direct you to Connor’s piece mentioned in the beginning.

Questionable Intentions? Apple VS The Fed

Many Americans may sadly be desensitized to mass shootings in the United States. This can be corroborated by the lack of surprise when the news of an additional mass shooting occurred this past December in San Bernadino, California. Ironically, the largest backlash against the handling of this shooting stems not from gun control but instead the handling of personal storage and data on devices. Two months later the public interpretation of this tragedy is not focused on the weapons utilized or even the potential “religious” factors to the incident (it is worth stating this attack does not reflect the teachings of Islam in the slightest degree). This was a cruel attack potentially “justified” by extreme interpretations of Islamic scripture – i.e ISIS.

Instead, the majority of the public uproar is revolving around the handling of a single iPhone, in this case the personal cellular device of one of the attacks perpetrators, Syed Rizwan Farook. This began when a US federal magistrate ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock the now deceased Syed’s iPhone. This was ultimately the result of the FBI’s inability to unlock the phone. FBI director, James Comey pointed out that federal agents have been unable to unlock the phone which could potentially shed light on the extent of influence on the two perpetrators by radical Islamic terrorist groups. The difficulty to unlock Syed’s iPhone can be traced to the encryption software that Apple began to support on their phones back in 2014.

For those uninformed on encryption, it is “the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties.” Apple noted that they could not unlock the phone/software even when potentially faced with a court order. Apple had consumers’ privacy in consideration when this software was initiated. The FBI and the majority of Federal investigative agencies have been in disagreement with Apple ever since this software was implemented. The FBI argues that Apple is “obstructing justice” to a degree by not providing the Fed with a back door which would be used to bypass the encryption. This argument has been brought up multiple times which makes this specific request for access to the phone’s memory the most recent attempt by the Fed in their struggle to gain an advantage over consumers privacy. In other words, what is not only the rights of this single deceased individual but also the rights to privacy for the average American citizen are at stake.

Image: Apple Introduces Two New iPhone Models At Product Launch

This court order from the federal judge essentially was an order for Apple to provide access to the phone as stated earlier. The point of contention is the fact that Apple “declined to provide voluntary” help to the federal investigators. The 40-page filing stated, “Despite … a warrant authorizing the search, the government has been unable to complete the search because it cannot access the iPhone’s encrypted content. Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily.” In my opinion, the fact that the FBI is incapable of decrypting the device is either a preposterous lie, or the FBI is far more incapable than many have perceived when it comes to cyber forensics and data surveillance. Both warrant a need for distress. On one hand, the FBI does have the potential to gain access to the phone but instead seeks to have legislation written that would allow them access to all Apple devices that have this encryption software through a “back door.” This could, in turn, lead to the beginning of a slippery slope form of legislation that would potentially allow the Fed to be given “back doors” to all encrypted devices regardless of manufacturer. In other words, it would be the first step towards greater restraints on the data privacy of American citizens.

Personally, the more frightening alternative is the idea that the FBI along with every other investigative agency (I.E. – NSA, CIA, DOD Cyber Warfare Teams) lack the ability to truly unlock this device. This, of course, would be embarrassing if proven true in my opinion. The Fed prides itself that these agencies have the best minds and equipment at their disposal when it comes to retrieving information. This is substantiated by the Edward Snowden leaks regarding the NSA and its questionable forms of action and surveillance. If the Fed is unable to crack the encryption on an iPhone 5C, which is what they are claiming, shouldn’t Americans be a little more worried about threats to national security via cyber attacks? I am not claiming that the process of bypassing this encryption is easy by any means, but the Fed wants me to believe that they are giving up after about 2 months of investigation? If that is indeed the truth and the Fed isn’t attempting to infringe on American’s rights then there is a larger issue at hand. Just last week the Director of National Intelligence delivered the yearly threat assessment. He stressed that “China continues to have success in cyber espionage against the U.S. government, our allies, and U.S. companies,” Clapper emphasized. “Beijing also selectively uses cyber attacks against targets [and] its beliefs threaten Chinese domestic stability or regime legitimacy.” Potentially this whole case is supplementing the idea that the United States is increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. While at the same time the U.S. claimed it “planned the major cyber attack(s) on Iran if nuclear talks failed.” Yet, I continue to digress from the main point of debate, the fate of Sayed’s phones data and potential the right to American’s own personal data.

Apple is fighting back against this call for “back doors” on their user’s devices. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote and published an open letter late this past Tuesday (2/16) “pledging to fight a judge;s ruling that it should give FBI investigators access to encrypted data on the device.” He stated, “The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals.”

This addresses the idea that by unlocking this one device Apple would then be held responsible for unlocking additional phones if asked. Cook added “Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government. We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.”

 

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Some have criticized Apple for taking this approach to handling the investigation including Donald Trump who said he “would ‘force’ Apple to hack” the iPhone. From an outside and ill-informed perspective, this may seem as if Apple is working against the Fed. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai stated that Apple by “helping the FBI try to get into the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook would sabotage the security of tens of millions of American citizens.” Opinions echoing this view towards the case and investigation were also expressed by executive members of Twitter and Facebook. The tech and online information community as a whole have somewhat agreed that unwanted consequences would result if Apple provided this “back door.”

Cook pointed directly at the same point I made earlier about additional legislation regarding surveillance. He “suggested that the government could use the same legislation cited in Tuesday’s ruling to demand that tech companies build surveillance software to intercept customers’ messages. ”  This potential domino effect of evasive legislation against Americans could entail lasting negative aspects on the average innocent American’s everyday life. Simply put “the implications of the government’s demands are chilling.” Cook like every other individual that sees the negative potential of these “back doors” is somewhat afraid of the results. Lastly, Tim Cook attempted to explain the overall idea of the situation in more simple terms. “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices,” Cook said. “In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.” 

I personally am not afraid of any of my personal data or private communications going public or be monitored by the Fed. I express my opinions and will gladly answer or be the victim of the repercussions that mindset may entail. In other words, I have nothing to hide. Essentially, I am not ashamed of anything I have said in the past. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything I discuss online is without a bias or negative tone/implication, but I am not one to hide behind a screen or anonymously harass people or deal with illegal actions/situations.

Simply put I couldn’t care less if the Fed had access to my phone. They would have access to the conversations I partake in my average, uneventful life. This, however, is my prerogative and my opinion does not reflect society as a whole, nor do I expect people to feel the same way about this topic. Americans have a right to the protection and privacy of their data. Whether they utilize this right is completely up to them. I personally derive this thought process to the right to bear arms in the second amendment: you have the right to have a gun but you by no means have to have one. This opinion regarding privacy in my OWN OPINION reflects how privacy is handled by the Fed. If an American does not wish to have their data monitored or tagged then they have the right to that. In my case it doesn’t matter, I am very transparent and blatant with my actions and doings.

If the FBI is given the opportunity to create or be allowed to have these “back doors,” as referenced in this case, Americans would be one step closer to losing their privacy rights. A right that each individual has to a degree. We as a society cannot allow for this man’s rights, regardless of what awful crime he committed, to be set aside because in the end all Americans will be affected. Is additional surveillance needed to make you feel safe? I would argue not, I feel safe as is. In the end, the ends simply are not justified. So what if the Fed gains some more intelligence regarding an attack that already occurred? This probably won’t be the last radicalized terrorist attack to hit the United States, so are losing your privacy rights really worth it when it will have little effect on the grand scale of terrorism? My answer no. Americans have the right to freedom of information and privacy. I applaud Apple’s display of conviction against the Fed which is kind of ironic considering I am a Microsoft/PC guy myself. Needless to say, I am against the “back door” method proposed by the FBI.

 

Still Loading: Net Neutrality

Still Loading: Net Neutrality

Our Constitution, which acts as the standard for political and social policies, states, “We the people,” and is followed by the rest of the preamble describing a basic understanding as to how our nation as a whole should be run. It focuses on the idea that the common people of the United States of America have the right to dictate and control their government, thereby insuring them the hope of obtaining and keeping basic rights that are thought to be insured to them by our founding fathers. One would argue that since humanity is in an age of information, two people from different sides of our planet holding a face to face conversation is a given right that should be insured to every American. The Internet acts as a highway of knowledge and opinions, not to mention entertainment and leisure. It has brought out and led, in my opinion, to some of the best innovations in the past decade. So let me ask the average American one question: Do you believe the government has the right to cap and/or take away this right that acts as the doorway to a greater understanding and connection to the rest of the world?

Net Neutrality, a term coined near the dawn of the Internet, states: that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, or mode of communication. This has been the standard and backbone to the Internet when it comes to providers and consumers of their services. Yet recently, this ideal, and in some aspects this right to a free Internet, has come under attack from corporations and politicians’ political agendas.

Some Internet providers and politicians who are supported by such providers claim that data can be used to discriminate and differentiate from user to user. In other words my data and Internet required to play a match of Halo or binge watch a series on Netflix will cost more than a person who is emailing a friend or reading a politically-biased news source. In other words, what you are doing on the Internet will effect and raise the cost for you as a consumer.

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Some Internet service providers claim this will allow for what they are describing as fast and slow lanes on the Internet: fast ones for highly-demanding activities such as watching Netflix or doming your friends in a match of slayer on Halo. The slow ones would be for people who aren’t demanding as much bandwidth, people who might be sending emails or reading their poetry or whatever. The thing is this would be understandable if, as a nation, we actually had high-quality Internet. According to a recent study by Ookla Speedtest the strong and proud United States ranks 31st in the world in terms of average download speeds. Quite shocking when many Americans are thought to believe we get the best “everything” while other countries such as Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and even Uruguay have better averages than the U.S.’s measly 20.77 Mbps. The statistics are even worse on the upload side of America’s Internet speeds, which clock in at a sluggish 6.31 Mbps—a speed beaten by Lesotho, Belarus and other countries you have probably never heard of because the U.S. comes in at 42nd in the world.

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As one can see, this justification of giving consumers fast and reliable Internet through fast and slow lanes would be great if it were possible with the standards Internet providers are already giving us. We already pay unreasonable prices for crummy Internet: for example users in Seoul, South Korea, pay the equivalent of $30 a month for 1 Gigabit Internet which is 50 times faster than the national average! The price for obtaining this fast of a connection costs U.S. consumers around $300 in Los Angeles or New York according to the annual report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. This is the outcome of a market dominated by large corporations who have a stranglehold on consumers. And after all of this, they expect us to pay more?

Some politicians, such as Ted Cruz, who just so happened to accept $47,000 in campaign funds from the telecom industry, including AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and the NCTA, believe this to be justified. He claims that “‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of the government.” (Taken from his tweet on November 10, 2014.)

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He is right when it comes to the fact that the Internet shouldn’t operate at the speed of the government; it should operate faster. This would be impossible if providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others got what they wanted. In reality these corporations fear the thought of the average American consumer discovering that the rest of the developed world has better services than them. They are attempting to coerce politicians to eliminate Net Neutrality under the radar before common people realize what is happening.

Yet not all politicians are against it. President Obama came out recently supporting Net Neutrality, and since I don’t always agree with his policies this was a pleasant surprise. He advised the FCC to reclassify Internet service as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. So in summary, the government as a whole isn’t out trying to cap our Internet speeds; it turns out the only ones who support this are the ones who directly benefit from funds from these corporations. The citizens also shouldn’t look at this topic from a liberal or conservative perspective; issues such as Net Neutrality can’t be observed from a political lens. Instead, the average consumer and citizen of the United States should think from an individual perspective as to how this will affect their lifestyle and budget.

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Net Neutrality to me personally would greatly hurt my hopes and dreams of becoming a journalist for a company that reviews or discusses entertainment and other forms of media. I would more than likely have to take down my website I currently run and would have to pay fees for subpar Internet. The Internet provides writers, including many other students and recent college graduates, a place to voice their opinion to the masses. It allows one to be heard, or at least have a place to speak and give their two cents on an issue. By capping Internet speeds these certain politicians and Internet providers would be stunting and killing off the dreams and intentions of the younger generation. These same politicians say they are supporting this with the intentions of helping our generation, a generation that, let me remind you, is fueled by knowledge and the ease of connectivity on the Net.

Why should they be capping and controlling the very thing that has brought about and led to the most innovation in the past 10 years? What could possibly be the other morally right answer to this? The fact is there isn’t. This attempt to kill Net Neutrality benefits no one except the Internet service providers who essentially have a monopoly on the service, as well as the politicians who line their wallets with funds from these companies. It’s easy to agree to something when you have no idea what they are arguing and or seeking. This is why since Ted Cruz is from Texas I would actually very much enjoy sharing some coffee or tea with him so he can hear my opinion as someone who would be affected by this. This seems reasonable since I myself can’t be heard in politics since I myself as a 17 year old can’t vote. I, myself, and the young rising generation of our nation should have the right to voice our opinions on something that would damage our future so much since the Internet and technology is the future. If more young individuals were aware that this was even happening—if they knew what would be taken from them—they would surely stand up in large protests against this political agenda.

As a final note, no other countries have this sort of differentiating between data in order to charge for Internet services. They also have far faster Internet speeds than we do in the United States. So please someone explain to me as to why we as a nation must pay so much for honestly some of the worst service there is out there? The answer is simply monopolies and their stranglehold they have on consumers in our nation. They should be put in their place and checked because there is no freedom behind killing Net Neutrality. Isn’t this the land of the free?