In her book, Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil, author Elisa Larkin Nascimento suggests it is crisis that sets the stage for social change. Nascimento writes, “While criticism induces the articulation of paradigms, it is crisis – criticism made tangible by social agents and movements and their impact – that creates the impulse for change in society and cultural movements” (13). Nascimento’s words set the context for my proposition, that a discussion of Internet Freedom is a discussion about crisis. Another template for a discussion on “Internet Freedom” is 1930s Great Depression-Era Brazil, which positioned cabaret and carnivale culture as an antidote to the alienation experienced by marginalized groups. The Internet is not unlike the commonplace of the 1930s Brazilian Lapa neighborhood with its proliferation of cabaret, carnivale, and spectacle in the midst of social turmoil.
The cabaret provided an alternative to alienating societal institutions of the time that excluded individuals based on class and other factors including sexuality and colorsim. Using the past to reflect upon the present, I see the Internet as an antidote to forms of social exclusion with neutrality being the mainstay of the Internet.
Questions we who are concerned about “Internet Freedom” may ask include:
- How is the Internet a political tool?
- To what extent is the Internet a politicized discourse?
I see the Internet as an effective tool for democratizing humanitarian action. Through the Internet, we send aid to victims of natural disasters. Twitter provides updates on news out of Ferguson, MO. Although the Internet reveals the best and the worst of humanity, what remains unclear is the extent to which the Internet can transmit acts of beneficence and reciprocity for diverse groups of people, and individuals. We must keep the Internet free and neutral in order to explore the limits of human potential.
Nascimento, Elisa Larkin. Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007.