At the beginning of the month, the FBI tracked down and arrested the proprietor of a website called Silk Road. Silk Road was on a part of the internet known as the “deep web” or “dark web,” and was an online black market, offering everything from drugs to weapons. Naturally, some people are up in arms, saying that the FBI had no right to interfere with the Internet, calling their actions interfering with liberty, but really, there’s a much deeper issue here: what is freedom, really?
Some people are going to protest that Silk Road had every right to sell drugs and weapons, and that the people who purchased them had every right to do so and to use them. “Why should the government tell us what we can and can’t put in our bodies?” they say. “Why should they take away our freedom of choice like that?”
The problem is, the site didn’t just offer drugs and weaponry, but also sold child pornography and advertised the services of hit men and hookers. Using bitcoins, a web-only currency, people could abuse the freedom of the internet, and the freedom that the United States operates under: you have every right to do what you please, as long as it doesn’t hurt others.
That’s what pushes this from immoral to illegal.
The very existence of hit men, child porn and hookers on the website shows that the proprietor, Ross William Ulbricht (alias “Dread Pirate Roberts”), was perfectly willing to compromise and abuse the freedoms of others in order to make money. For every bitcoin transferred to his account, the victims were reduced to something less than human for him and his customers. They became commodities, not treated as people in their own right, but valued only for their services.
When someone ordered cocaine, people from Colombia to Colorado were killed either smuggling it, fighting the smugglers, or in gang wars between distributors. Innocent women and children were trapped in sexual slavery, forced into posing nude for cameras or to sleep with complete strangers, reduced to the pleasures their bodies could bring others. They were merely flesh, or pictures online, and they were stripped of their dignity; no longer people, but bodies. When hit men had their services paid for, blood stained the walls and carpets of suburban homes.
The things the website trafficked in yielded more than just money. They brought tears and grief. Children stripped of their innocence along with their clothing, women reduced to selling themselves in order to eat, families mourning sons and daughters gunned down in their homes or on their way to work, mothers weeping for sons imprisoned for trafficking.
All in the name of money. The website made millions profiting off others’ miseries and suffering.
People can call it liberty all they want, but it’s not. It involves tyranny and oppression over countless other people, people that they will never even know, but their lives will be infinitely worse because of their selfish desires.
Freedom? Liberty? This involves the abuse of thousands, and worsens their lives and lots because of it. That’s what makes the black market so damning. It’s not because the goods and services sold are illegal, but because before they ever get there, they are paid for in blood and tears. By the time you get your block of coke to snort, people have been imprisoned or killed because you just needed a fix.
The FBI had every right to do what they did, no matter what your stance on the morality of drugs, because too many lives were at stake. They weren’t just well within their rights to do it; they were obligated to do so. They had to protect the innocents, the women and children, the murdered victims, and anyone else who could not speak out for themselves. That is what the government is supposed to do. It is supposed to keep the strong from harming the weak and the powerful from oppressing the powerless. Just because you want money or power does not mean that you can hurt others to get it.
All too often, liberty is used to justify actions that are horrendous and evil. Trafficking in human flesh takes away their freedom, removing their agency and their choice from them. You may think you have a right to inject heroin into your bloodstream or to sell it to others, but the blood of the overdosed, the smuggler, and the police who died to stop them will be on your hands.
Allison Chase is a junior creative writing major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.