net neutrality

In case you missed it, the FCC voted along party lines last week to roll back its net neutrality protections. Put simply, net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Without robust enforcement of net neutrality, internet service providers are free  to engage in an array of anti-consumer practices, including paid prioritization (wherein an established company – say, Amazon – could pay a fee to have their traffic sorted into a so-called “internet fast lane,” giving them an advantage over a startup competitor) and the throttling (deliberately slowing down) of traffic from content providers in order to extort payments (as Comcast did to Netflix in 2013/2014). With the rollback of its net neutrality protections, the FCC has rendered itself unable to act against these sorts of abusive and exploitative practices and has fundamentally undermined any notion of the internet as either a level playing field or a free market.

While the official vote came just a few days ago, the FCC’s intentions had been clear for months. During that time, a bipartisan coalition (recent polling shows that some 83% of Americans favor some form of net neutrality protection) of activists emerged, staging protests, contacting their representatives, and generally coordinating their efforts to save net neutrality. At the same time, FCC Chairman (and chief architect of the rollback) Ajit Pai began to take a noted interest in needling (one might even say trolling) net neutrality activists. Perhaps the most notable (or at least the most in your face) example of this came in the form of a video released in the aftermath of Thursday’s FCC vote in which Pai, with all the elegance you might expect of a middle aged man trying desperately to appear hip, appropriated every meme and cultural reference point he could think of, from the ‘Harlem Shake’ to fidget spinners, even a lightsaber. All this in the name of extending one last middle finger to 83% of the country.

But it wasn’t just the usual array of activists that Pai managed to tick off with that little video. It seems Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, took exception both to Pai’s use of a lightsaber and the ‘Star Wars’ theme music. Accordingly, Hamill responded on Twitter:

And that would have been the end of it but for Ted Cruz, a Senator notably loathed by many within his own party and a man without an intellectually honest bone in his body. Likely looking to score some cheap political points with his base by scolding an actor for daring to express a political opinion, Cruz took the opportunity to demonstrate that his understanding of ‘Star Wars’ is about as tenuous as his grasp of net neutrality:

As befits a man who was once ranked among the most punchable faces in America, Cruz managed, either out of malice or sheer ignorance, to utterly misrepresent the entire concept of net neutrality. As I explained earlier, net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equal – that Verizon can’t artificially cause Netflix to buffer more often and deliver a poorer video quality than Hulu. Cruz instead tries to paint the Open Internet Order – the Obama-era FCC rule that enabled the agency to enforce net neutrality – as some sort of draconian plot to regulate the internet itself, including content on the network. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Open Internet Order allowed the FCC a more robust regulatory authority over the companies charged with delivery that content, not the content itself. Put another way, it was akin to a regulation preventing the Post Office from opening your mail and deciding – simply because they can – that delivering a thank you note to your aunt is more important than delivering your rent check.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems it was Cruz’s characteristically smarmy tone that really got under Hamill’s skin. And so he replied, referencing a certain incident from earlier this year and demonstrating once again why you don’t screw with the Jedi Master:

And that would seem to be the end of it, at least for now. If the Senator from Texas can’t be bothered to formulate an argument based on facts, we can at least hope that he’s found something better to do with his time.

Mark Hamill is currently appearing in ‘The Last Jedi’, the latest installment of the epic ‘Star Wars’ saga. That film, which also stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Carrie Fisher is now playing in theaters.