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by Arielle Johnson, author of the column “Straight No Chaser”

It was many moons ago when I heard about the great big “Information Highway” better known as the internet. I was an undergrad at Northwood University in Cedar Hill, Texas and got my introduction to the internet by way of necessity. My professor gave my class an assignment and paired us up with each other to complete the task. Immediately I began to freak out, as I tried to calculate in my head when I would have time to coordinate my schedule with someone else’s. Also, who was going to watch my toddler while I went out to conduct my research. Luckily, I was paired with a young lady who had already been on the “Information Highway” and knew her way around. My question then, as we gained access to a search engine called “Hotbot”, through the library computer was, “We have access to all of this information, for free???!!!”

Nowadays, instead of using keystrokes to obtain the information we need, our electronic devices respond to our voices. “Siri, how do I get to Sesame Street,” or “Alexa, what is the temperature outside?” If your question is too far-fetched, for example, “Siri, is my husband cheating on me?,” her response may be, “I am sorry, but I have no way of being able to tell if he is cheating or not.” Heaven knows her politeness is on a whole ‘notha’ level, even when the questions are asinine.

A couple of weeks ago, on December 14, 2017, a major game changer in the world of the world wide web took place. The net neutrality act was repealed. It is only fair for me to stop for a moment and define net neutrality before we go a step further, otherwise I may lose you. According to wikipedia, net neutrality sort of dictated to internet service providers that all web content was to be treated equally. That means if you subscribe to Time Warner Cable for your internet, there should be no problem whatsoever with you being able to check out the Comcast website to see whether or not their rates are more competitive. In other words, under net neutrality, Time Warner cannot block your access to Comcast, or “throttle”, which means slow down the loading time of a particular webpage. As recent as July of this year, Verizon was accused of “throttling” their subscribers’ access to Youtube and Netflix, but referred to the slower speeds as video optimization. Of course the users did not agree.

In my opinion, that was just a warning sign for users. There was no mass exodus of subscribers. They just accepted it without protesting it. A month after the “throttling” or “video optimization” incident, Verizon announced its unlimited data plans would be slowing down speeds.

Look…the big companies have been pulling you in for years by making you think all of what you were getting was free. But going back to what I mentioned earlier, my first experience with the worldwide web had me wondering who was going to pay for all of this information in the end. You see, these big companies have deep pockets; pockets so deep they are seemingly bottomless. And when you have pockets that deep, you can afford to lose in some areas, while you are prospering in others. Or maybe as Verizon would probably say behind closed doors, delay “revenue optimization” of the sale of certain products until it was appropriate to unveil the masterplan.

Look guys and gals, here’s what is looming ahead. We need to get ourselves ready for the “cablelization” of the internet. These isp’s are getting ready to start coming up with packages similar to the cable stations. For example, let’s just say you subscribe to Frontier Communications and their base package is $20 dollars per month, which includes access to email, and the isp’s search engine. If you want a social media package that will include Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, let’s just say unlimited access is $10 dollars a month. Hey…maybe you are more interested in having unlimited access to worldwide news media sites and the cost for this package is $10. I’m being modest with the packaging of these products, but the rate may be much higher than what I’m guessing.

I really don’t believe we’ve stopped to consider the implications of what is about to take place. To put it bluntly, “Expect to start seeing things through someone else’s filter.” But when you stop to think about it, to a certain degree, that is already taking place. Dr. Umar Johnson, a very popular African-American activist who has become popular by way of Youtube, is being threatened with having his Psychology credentials pulled. And another black African-American activist, Tariq Nasheed has already lost his Youtube uploading privileges. I suspect they along with many others have awakened too many people’s consciousness. So let’s bid farewell to discovering new content, and new activists who have something to say that resonates with us. It all makes sense if you recall back in October the FBI saying Black Identity Extremists pose a threat to law enforcement.

After the September 2017 London terrorist attack, 45 is quoted as saying, “Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better.” Well what about the Las Vegas, Nevada shooting and Texas church shooting we had this year by our domestic terrorists? No one has mentioned anything about either one of them being recruited via the internet. So what about White identity extremists groups? I can see such a thing. We usually see them written as White Supremacy groups, but if the two groups were in opposition against each other, just by looking at the name, you would think the Supremacy group was on a higher level than the Black Identity Extremists. What about a Black Supremacy group? Never heard of it have you? Me either.

45 has made it very clear, by the inordinate amounts of time he spends typing his heart out on Twitter, that he cannot deal with opposing views. He has attacked the news channels, which by the way have become a joke, but really, which President has ever stooped so low as to directly attack a particular media outlet? However, thanks to FCC Chairman appointment of Ajit Pai, by 45, once again opposing views are being struck down. In the Spring of this year, he made it possible for folks with deep pockets to gobble up as many television stations as they possibly could, once he rescinded former restrictions which were designed to prevent people from having a monopoly on public opinion. Congratulations Sinclair Media Group for gaining access to 70 percent of all homes by merging with Tribune Media. Mr. Pai stated, it is too costly for broadcast/media companies to operate a main studio in each locality.

As we ease into 2018, I would like to remind everyone to #STAYWOKE. Don’t allow yourselves to be hypnotized into the sunken place by what is being fed to you. It’s time to access a higher level of consciousness. And in order to reach that level, I’m sorry to say, you are going to have to make a conscious effort to start reading up on your history. I found a message in a Fortune cookie last week that I absolutely fell in love with that states, “Don’t pursue happiness-create it.” But that also goes for your reality. You don’t have to accept someone else’s REALITY, create your own.

We have allowed the internet to formulate our opinions by becoming data sucking whores. We are constantly jumping on the bandwagon with the people with the most likes. Hell, some of us are even arguing with ghosts. They have no pictures or content on their social media pages, but have a whole lot of negativity to spread from their newly created accounts. You have got to turn that -ish off in 2018. Stop allowing the wrong things to have access to you and your home. I know it’s scary, but start looking within and seeking answers from the person in the mirror. Let’s make meditation a part of our daily routine and follow it up with prayer. And let’s read. Find you some books to gain better understanding of yourself and your history and anything else you have ever wanted to know more about. Get your mind right and maintain your focus in 2018. Now let’s get it!!!