It’s All in a Name

Sometime we name things so poorly that we forget what to do with them and get screwed for it.

Right now, the government is making decisions about the way we get our precious Internet, because we can’t get a handle on the subject. We’re destroying our planet, and while evil men and their credulous lackeys are denying its happening, we can’t even describe the problem. We’ve got to get our words right and get them stronger, or we’ll lose all the worthwhile fights.

Take “net neutrality.” Say you’ve got an idea for a website that takes all the dialogue from your favorite television shows and has it delivered by talking dogs. Once you get a programmer to code it all up for you, and hire a dog wrangler, the investment money should come rolling in. . . .

Not so fast. It turns out that Verizon, or another company rich enough to pay Verizon’s fees, might want to someday run its CSI: Talking Dogs Unit channel, and now it sees you as a competitor. If you don’t pay Verizon’s fees (or the fees of whoever’s your Internet service provider), your program is going to run slo-o-ow and choppy. It’s not going to get the backing because investors are steering clear of start-ups that require high-performance speed.

Even if you’re not some computer start-up, this is bad business. Because your local servers are pecuniary, vindictive bastards. Some of the videos you want to watch might run slower than they already do. If you think you hate your service provider now, just wait.

Why is all this happening? Because of “net neutrality.” Don’t get me wrong, I like net neutrality, what I don’t like is “net neutrality.” It’s a horrible term.

We don’t truly understand these fancy computer boxes, which is why they’re going ahead and screwing us. What we do understand is quality. If Internet providers have a financial incentive to lower the quality of their streaming in order to shake down content-makers, then our content is going to be slowed down and more expensive. We should be upset, but how can you get upset about net neutrality?

We don’t want to be “neutral.” What are we, computer Switzerland? We should be “free.” We want start-ups to start up and entertain us. We don’t want a system of blatant institutionalized payola. We want a system that has incentives to be fast and fee-free. I’d say we should call net neutrality “fee-free” but it sounds like I’m calling my poodle, so we need something else. “Fast and free” sounds like a children’s book about a horse. “No kickback” is too negative. What the local providers are doing is setting up a turnpike on a highway we don’t want people putting tollbooths on. We want to be toll-free.

A bad name can ruin your cause. Look at global warming. Hey, wait, it isn’t always warm! Okay, we’ll call it global weirding. You’re going to call it what? Okay, global climate change. That sounds like a euphemism for menopause. We should call it the Great Weather Choke. We are choking the world with carbon emissions. The whole weather system is going into spasms because we’re choking ourselves to death.

Get the name right. We have to fight for these causes, and you can’t fight for a mouthful of mush. A good name turns words into things, and people can fight for things.

Fight for a toll-free Internet here.