As anyone who watches television or movies knows, some things are outrageously funny because they hit the comedy bone just right. Other things are unintentionally funny. They come accross as so lame, so sad, so pathetic, that you can’t help but laugh.
Net Neutrality has produced some fine examples of both. No doubt I show my biases by finding many more examples of genuinely funny stuff in the pro-NN camp and many more examples of pathetically lame in the anti-NN camp. But two recent examplars absolutely stand out.
For rippingly funny as well as extremely informative on the pro-NN side you have the latest controbution from Jon Stewart and the gang at the Daily Show. You can view this on youtube here. The critical part comes a few minutes in, where Daily Show “Resident Expert” John Hodgman explains to John Stewart how the internet works right now by handing him various envelopes to represent packets and explaining that right now, the internet treats all these packets the same.
Hodgman: Under net neutrality all these packets, whether from a big company or a single citizen, are treated in the same way.
John Stewart: So what’s the debate? That actually seems quite fair.
Hodgman: Yes, almost too fair. It’s as if the richer companies have no advantage at all. That’s why the big telephone and cable companies are lobbying to create a nspecial class of service where, for example, this packet from Google [hand over envelop] and this packet from Amazon [hands over envelop] go through quickly, but this packet from fu–timewarner.org gets routed a little differently [rips of envelop and throws it away].
Stewart: So that packet will not get through?
Hodgeman: Oh no, they’ll get through. It’s just that they’ll travel through a “second tier” of the internet which, ironically, will be “a series of tubes.”
Stewart: You mean metaphorically . . .
Hodgeman: I said “ironically.”…All I’m saying is if the net neutrality act fails, get ready for the excitement of the “supertube.” Look, I got a pneumail!
Extremely funny but, more to the point from my perspective, probably the most straightforward easy to understand visual representation of why network neutrality matters I have seen to date.
Meanwhile, on the “hysterically funny because I can’t believe anyone could come up with something so lame” side, we have this anti-NN flash animation entitled “Royal Fable” and created by our good friends at SockPuppet Theater (Scott Clealand of netcompetition.org). Taking its place with such cautionary tales as “Refer Madness,” the cartoon portrays Ebay, Google and Microsoft as “Queen” ants ruling over the internet, as the “ants” (I guess that would be us, as a helpful pointer explains near the end) “go marching on.” Sadly, the evil Queens impose “net regulation” that prevents the ants from marching down the tunnel labeled “Innovation” (while what I’m pretty sure is supposed to be Vint Cerf as a bee or yellow jacket buzzes around for no reason I can figure out). For those too dense to get the point of this little parable, a combined voice over and scrolling narrative then explain that “net neutrality” is really about “net regulation” designed to keep evil Queens in power by preventing the noble ant eaters (aka Comcast and AT&T) from innovating and developing new means of snarfing ants. I mean clearing blockages. Or something. But you should definitely understand after this that “net neutrality” is bad because Google, Ebay and MS are behind it, laughing at you larvae and keeping all the royal jelly for themselves, or something.
To the extent innovation and humor of the humorous messages indicates anything about where innovation on the internet really sits, it’s clear that the pro-NN side has the funny innovative folks (Ask A Ninja, Moby, John Stewart) while the anti-NN side gives us lame offerings like “Royal Parable.” If this is what the cable cos and telcos have in mind for their “innovation” in a post-NN world, it’s time to be very afraid. Because while “funny pathetic” is o.k. for flash animation, it really sucks for the future of the internet.
Stay tuned . . . .