The Dark Side Of The Web, Ctd

A reader writes:

You have quite clearly mischaracterized Morozo's argument.  Morozo's point is that technology does not INHERENTLY lead to democracy.  It may well be that technology helps enabled people with reformist and democratic ideals to organize and communicate.  That is not the same thing as what many people presume, that technology will free people.

Morozo's presentation actually missed the most devastating argument available to him, which is the juncture of two of his other arguments.  Repressive regimes may have a favored lever of control, but they certainly have no compunction about using any and every tool available to them.  The most devious thing that a regime like china can do is to *both* cultivate blog networks and subcultures which agree with the regime, *and* use the networking property of the internet to identify and shut down networks which are critical.

In doing so, they can claim that there is a legitimate and independent community which they had no hand in creating (literally true), and the predominance of those voices will eventually develop a self-sustaining critical mass, if they are the only voice available to hear.  This is about incubating your own virulent crazies by protecting them from counter-arguments.  

This is a modus operandi that should look familiar.  It's about controlling the means of distribution, and you can still do it in the age of the internet.

In fact, that is exactly what the USA is trying to do to combat Islamic extremism.  They are trying to identify and target extremist networks online, and, in the middle east, prop up and promote organizations and politicians who purport to have ideals concordant with our own.

Technology is just a tool.  We, the users, provide its values.  There are many aphorisms that are appropriate to this situation.  First, that the strongest cage is the one which you build for yourself.  Second that Technology may change the terrain upon which we do battle, but the real war is waged within the hearts and minds of men.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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