Ted Cruz’s tweet on Net Neutrality was actually an endorsement of Obamacare

The following tweet needs no further introduction:

The Oatmeal took issue with this sentiment, and set out to explain what exactly Net Neutrality is, why it’s important, and why Ted Cruz is either ignorant or corrupt.

But I read Cruz’s original tweet quite differently than did Matthew Inman. And I think once we have a chance to take it apart, you might come to agree with my interpretation. (Fair warning: we’re about to get into the weeds, so please bear with me.)

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.

I read Cruz’s declaration as containing two definitions — one explicit, the other implicit — and one normative assertion:

Definition 1 (explicit): Net Neutrality = Obamacare for the Internet

Definition 2 (implicit): Speed of government = (speed undefined)

Normative assertion: The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.

The Normative Assertion can also be expressed, after incorporating Definition 2:

The Internet should not operate at (speed undefined).

Many of those outraged by Cruz’s comment — including the Oatmeal — began to interpret his tweet from the beginning, and superimposed their preconceived notions of what Ted Cruz would have to say over what he actually said.

But that exercise shoehorns an additional and — I would argue — unwarranted implicit definition into the tweet:

Definition 1.1 (implicit): Obamacare = (bad)

Revisiting Definition 1, the very first thing Cruz has to say is thus:

Net Neutrality = (bad) for the Internet.

Incidentally, “the Internet should not operate at the speed of government” — but we’re not sure why Cruz needed all 140 characters. We already learned everything we need to know from his first sentence.

But I think this reading gets Cruz precisely backwards. So rather than approaching Cruz’s tweet with preconceived notions of what you might have expected him to say, I decided to read along with an open mind. Additionally, I more sensibly (I think) began by solving first for the unresolved term of the equation. Overall, this process produced a far more charitable and coherent reading. Let’s begin:

Definition 2 (implicit): Speed of government = (speed undefined)

What do we know about this undefined speed? Well, that it runs at the speed of government. Given that Senator Cruz played a central role in last year’s government shutdown (to understate the matter), he certainly understands that the Federal government in Washington typically operates (quite slowly).

Solving Definition 2 allows us next to correctly parse Cruz’s Normative assertion: The Internet should not operate (quite slowly). In other words, slow internet is bad. Conversely, we may presume, fast internet is good.

And as it turns out — The Oatmeal explains — there is a direct link between Net Neutrality (sentence 1) and Internet speed (sentence 2). More specifically, without the protection provided by Net Neutrality, service providers can throttle their customers’ internet access to specific sites (e.g. Netflix) in an effort to extort additional payments. In other words, lack of Net Neutrality can lead to a slower internet. Conversely, the protection of Net Neutrality allows for faster internet speeds.

Combining these insights with those gleaned from Cruz’s second sentence, as deciphered two paragraphs above, we can produce the following definitional chains:

Lack of Net Neutrality = slower internet = bad

Net Neutrality = faster internet = good

And that additional insight crucially enables one final substitution that finally unlocks the meaning of Ted Cruz’s message in full:

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet

Net Neutrality (= faster internet = good) = Obamacare for the Internet

As we suspected all along, it turns out Ted Cruz is a fan of both Net Neutrality and Obamacare (at least for the Internet).

If he wants a shot at surviving the Republican Primaries and securing a run for the Presidency, Cruz is going to have to do a better job pandering to his base.

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