Saturday, August 27, 2016


Interview: 'Authoritarian Governments Have Immensely Benefited From The Web,' Author Says

Evgeny Morozov, a noted specialist on the use of new communications technologies to promote democratic values, has a new book titled "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side Of Internet Freedom." In it, he argues that hype about "Twitter revolutions" and the enormous potential of the Internet to promote open societies and roll back authoritarianism is naive and overblown.

What's more, Morozov warns, authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran have adapted quickly to devise new ways -- often modeled on commercial Internet-monitoring tools used by Western corporations -- to track and neutralize Internet activism.

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson spoke with Morozov by telephone from London and asked him about the potential and the dangers that new information technologies present for democracy-promotion efforts around the world.

Morozov is a blogger, contributing editor to "Foreign Policy" and "Boston Review," and fellow at the New America Foundation.

RFE/RL: At the risk of asking you to tweet your book, what is the most important thing you want readers to take away from reading it?

Evgeny Morozov:
I wrote it mostly with policymakers in mind. So I really hope that people who are shaping foreign policy will get to read the book. And the main message that it contains for them, I think, is that the Internet is political, that everything done with regard to Internet policy has political consequences, and that many of the assumptions that policymakers, intellectuals, and journalists operate with when they think about the political power of the Internet are naive and need to be updated.

RFE/RL: One of your chapters is called "Why The KGB Wants You To Join Facebook." Why does the KGB want us to join Facebook?

Evgeny Morozov
Part of the argument I'm making in the book is that authoritarian governments have immensely benefited from the web, and I point to three features. One of them is propaganda; one of them is new ways of censorship; and one of them is increased surveillance, more sophisticated surveillance.

The reason why the KGB wants you to join Facebook is because it allows them to, first of all, learn more about you from afar. I mean, they don't have to come and interrogate you, and obviously you disclose quite a bit. It allows them to identify certain social graphs and social connections between activists. Many of these relationships are now self-disclosed by activists, by joining various groups. You can actually go and see which causes are more popular than others.
The reason why the KGB wants you to join Facebook is because it allows them to, first of all, learn more about you from afar.

But also, it is possible to start identifying trends on the macro level. You can actually go and, using data posted to social-media sites (not just Facebook -- I'm talking here more broadly about blogs and about tweets), you can actually start identifying which way social sentiment in a country is going. And that way you may get ahead of real developments.

If the Tunisian government had a sophisticated system of data-mining and analyzing everything that is happening in the country on social media, I bet they would have been much better prepared for what followed. Much of that outrage has been growing on Facebook early on and it was possible to go and check how angry people really were.

And I think many of these tools have already been developed by Western companies mostly, to do brand analysis. So there are a lot of interesting tools already to track consumer sentiment toward goods, and they can very easily be redeployed to study political sentiment. So this is one of the things which I think drives interest from governments in social media.

And not just authoritarian countries, but in the West as well. We have something called In-Q-Tel, which is the venture fund of the CIA, which has been investing in such social-media tracking and monitoring tools for several years now. It is definitely something that is attractive to all governments -- not just authoritarian ones.

iOpiate Of The Masses

RFE/RL: You argue that the new information technologies can weaken opposition to authoritarian regimes through the numbing or distracting effect of the entertainment opportunities they offer and by fragmenting the information space, making it difficult for movements to coalesce or leaders to emerge. Does the Internet present similar dangers to established Western democracies?

Sure. There is no question about that. I think that one danger here is to focus too much on the Internet itself as opposed to the kind of broader social, cultural, and political changes in capitalism, more or less. And I think this is also how you need to understand what is happening in authoritarian states, at least in some of them.

In places like Russia and China especially, which are undergoing a major transition to capitalism. Especially China, which is more or less almost a fully capitalistic state but without the democratic mind-set. And, of course, the media and the Internet especially are playing a similar role to the one they are playing in other capitalist countries.

I mean, here we do really need to look at how the public sphere is being reshaped in each of them -- both democratic and authoritarian ones. And if you look at what is happening in democratic public spheres, people are concerned with growing disengagement and the inability to accomplish anything and the growing apathy. All of those features have been identified by social theorists in the West, even before the Internet made a strong appearance.

A Pakistani painter prepares an anti-U.S. and anti-Facebook banner at a workshop in Karachi during protestst in May.
I think this is definitely running in parallel and we are -- by "we," I mean the analysts following these trends -- much better at identifying these effects actually in the Western context than we are in the authoritarian context. And if you look at the Western discourse about the power of the Internet and even if you listen to speeches by politicians such as [U.S. Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton or [U.S. President] Barack Obama, when they address domestic audiences they speak about the risks and threats that the Internet presents to citizenship and education and whatnot, much more often than they do when they speak to foreign audiences, when they only highlight the positive.

It is definitely present in the Western context as well and we are much better aware of it -- and I think we need to be as aware of it when we look to the context of authoritarian states.

Learning The Right Lessons From History

RFE/RL: You warn against being too facile in drawing lessons from the Cold War, but there's one I was wondering about. You say that the largely nonviolent change in Central Europe and the Soviet Union became possible largely because of the changed attitudes in the Kremlin. By implication, would you argue that undoing the rise of authoritarianism in the post-Soviet space over the last decade is likely only to happen if and when the leaders in Russia want it to happen, regardless of technology or the actions of oppositionists?

It would also be a very misleading use of history in this particular case to think that the situation in Russia now is similar to the situation in Russia in 1985 or 1986. I don't think that actually I highlight the role of leaders as the driving force. I mean, yes, they played a role in 1985, the new leadership.

But, again, they were constrained by a number of social factors, be it the oil price or the state of the Soviet economy or the growing debt that was accumulating or the inability to compete with NATO. And there are many other factors which determined how the Soviet leadership would or would not behave. All of them -- [Mikhail] Gorbachev or [Eduard] Shevardnadze -- were of a certain age and background, which also determined how much violence they were ready to use abroad and at home.

I'm not sure that the same conditions hold in Russia, and in no way do I want to minimize the role of agency here. Sure, the Russian people may also be able to influence what is happening, I won't deny that. I don't think I myself am comfortable with such deterministic explanations.

If you look at it through an academic lens, I'm not arguing that structural factors are always more determining than agency. It is just that in the particular case of the Soviet Union, it seemed that the structural factors probably bear much more explanatory value than the role of the people. I'm not sure it will be the case again if there is another uprising, if there is another revolt, if there is another overthrowing of the government. There is no guarantee that the same thing will repeat -- I don't think it has anything to do with the nature or the culture of the Russian people, so I kind of reject such explanations.

Looking Closer At Democracy Promotion

RFE/RL: I left your book, to be honest, uncertain about where you stand on whether or not democracy promotion is a possible or worthwhile goal in general, one that Western governments and NGOs should be pursuing in regard to authoritarian regimes?

I don't think, actually, it is that ambiguous in the book. I do several times mention that what I want is just to find a better way to use the Internet for promoting democracy, so to me that sounds like a very explicit endorsement of promoting democracy to begin with.

To answer even more directly, yes, I do think there are definitely things that foundations and governments can do to promote, if not the banner of democracy, then at least the banner of democratic values, freedom of expression, and human rights. So in no way do I want to reject or stop that work from happening.

RFE/RL: Perhaps what gave me that impression was that you so thoroughly discredit the cyberutopianism that has been so prevalent in recent years without offering anything else.

Well, you can also be rejecting the approaches the neoconservatives take to the promotion of the "freedom agenda" and still believe that we need to promote democracy and human rights. And the fact that I reject one particular approach to promoting Internet freedom doesn't in itself mean that I reject the parts that make up the Internet freedom agenda.

I mean, the problem with the Internet freedom agenda is that when you add up all its components, they end up much more harmful as a whole than they are when you look at them as just parts. So, by the way, that was also the problem with the freedom agenda, where, yes, there were some very good ideas and, yes, some of them were very benign and some of them were not, but when you mix it all up with military intervention and disrespect for the international community and many other things, you end up with a situation which is much worse.

And it is my fear that this may also happen with the Internet freedom agenda, where already you see that a lot of people feel that the U.S. government is hypocritical and duplicitous, simply because its response to WikiLeaks just contradicts so much what they have been saying internationally. So, again, it may potentially hurt the ability to do things in the future.

But, to answer your question, no, I do think that we should be engaged in promoting democracy. The means by which we've been doing it are up for debate, but when it comes to the Internet, my main concern is about the kind of procedural arrangements within institutions and, especially, within institutions like the [U.S.] State Department.

And it is a matter of who gets to set this policy -- whether it is people who are technology experts and know quite a bit about Silicon Valley, but may not necessarily be knowledgeable about the foreign-policy context, or whether it's people who are knowledgeable about the broader foreign-policy context, but may not be knowledgeable about the Internet.

To me, it is a really pragmatic question of whom do you empower and whether you actually want to sum up and aggregate all of these different kinds of ways to use the Internet in all the countries where American or European interests are present under the banner of something called "Internet freedom" or an "Internet freedom agenda." There is -- as I hope I identify in the book -- there is a danger to using terms like this because people in those countries and other governments do not always necessarily understand what exactly that means -- whether it means promoting freedom of the Internet or promoting freedom via the Internet. And that in itself, this uncertainty itself, often generates counterreactions to what the U.S. wants to do, which results in greater Internet unfreedom, if you wish.

So, to me the original question that the Internet should be used for democracy promotion and that there should be democracy promotion to begin with -- it is just that the exact way to do it, I think, needs to be rethought.

Should The Opposition Be Online?

RFE/RL: You talk a little in the book about your own evolution from a democracy activist in the post-Soviet space to an enthusiast about the revolutionary power of new information technologies to your current more cautionary cyberrealism. If you were an activist now in an authoritarian country, what, if anything, would you be doing on the Internet?

To me, this question doesn't make any sense asked in the abstract. All authoritarian countries are different. If I were in Russia, I would be doing things which are completely different from what I would be doing in Iran. To me, the assumption that authoritarian countries are alike and that all of them need more or less similar things which you can then reduce to the concept of Internet freedom is just simplistic and probably counterproductive.

In some countries there is a problem with Internet censorship where the government bans certain URLs. In other countries, that is not a problem -- the problem is cyberattacks or the growing use of social networks by the security services or it is the growing disengagement between the young, virtual crowd that wants to protest online and the more established, traditional opposition, which wants to campaign offline.

But all of those countries have different problems, so to me, to sort of come up with some generic silver bullet would be to suggest that the solution will be important across the board, which it never of course will be. I think this is one of the problems with Internet freedom [promotion] -- is that it claims that whatever leading component will emerge as the core of Internet freedom policy will be important in countries where it is actually not important at all.

And it is also blind to the kind of secondary effect that choosing anything as a primary component of Internet freedom policy will have. I mean, if you now start massively pouring money into censorship circumvention tools to make sure that all websites are accessible -- yes, that would be great, but do we know whether it might also push authoritarian governments to shift their means of Internet control to softer ways, so that they wouldn't be blocking websites by URLs but they would start punishing companies that allow access to them, or they will be punishing companies that publish this content or they will be beating up bloggers or they will be trying to buy companies that specialize in data-mining? There are all sorts of other ways by which to control the Internet which may actually get stronger and have a much worse effect on freedom of expression over the long term.

Again, I only give this as an example because there is very little experience of what kind of consequences might follow from not thinking about it as critically as we should. So I cannot really answer your question because the whole argument in my book is that we need to be much more attentive to the context of particular countries.

RFE/RL: Let me ask it in another way -- if you were an activist in Belarus, your home country, right now, would you have a Facebook account? Would you have a Twitter account, yourself personally?

I don't have a Facebook account now, although I'm not in Belarus…. If I were someone who was mobilizing people to participate in protests and whatnot and highlighting the work of the opposition, I think, yes. Again, I may be careful about who I select as my friends, maybe I wouldn't add anyone actually as my friend. WikiLeaks on Twitter doesn't follow anyone except one backup account -- I think for the good reason that if it starts following people, those people may actually get into trouble as we also have seen now, with the [U.S.] Department of Justice going after them.

I do think that in some cases, it helps. Social media definitely help to mobilize and to bring attention to issues. But that has to be balanced with security concerns. It has to be balanced with just being smart about what you do on Facebook. I mean, I wouldn't be installing third-party apps which may compromise my private data on Facebook.

There is definitely a point to using this technology, but there are different ways of going about it. And much here depends on to what extent I as a hypothetical activist in Belarus actually have existing connections to the offline opposition movement. If I'm kind of a lone wolf operating online, then maybe there is little point to being on Facebook and maybe it wouldn't make any sense to start off posting angry messages to Facebook -- I should instead go and hook up with the existing opposition and use the opposition movement's work of the existing offline opposition parties and whatnot.

Much here depends on the context and to answer this question, I need to know who this activist is and how he relates to the other political processes and how well aware he or she is of the security dimension here. That's always inevitable when we talk about social networking.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Aminullah A Lucman from: Mindanao, Philippines
January 22, 2011 16:08
For whatever the worth may be, I guess it may yet do more good for internet users to rightly track what we truly need regardless of whose interest it is refurbish, improve, on cataclysmic spying as had the debacle of Marxists following the collapse of the Berlin wall. If the idea of the argument internet use to be bad for the greater number because dictators could derisively compromise what I truly believe our civilization to have been already lost to terrorism and the drug war anyway, I certainly would like to ask what is there left to lose that is not already lost? When you're a man and a macho type, not gay, you don't frolic around screaming you just lost your virginity, no one will buy arguments of the sort. Let us continue to be connected and not worry too much, I guess it's the only way isn't it?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 24, 2011 17:47
Berlin wall? It's where the mind controll starts!
USSR and USA, by my advise to let Germans go,
To resurect as people - after half Century since War,
But mean geshefterers, instead East be also free or so,
Repossed Eastern Germany property, atacked the Wall,
East inslaved to Nazi expropriators of WW2 - to bow.
And now, dare not think otherwise - standing low,
Always quote lies like a parrot: "Berlin Wall fall",
Helping Germano-Austrian and Russian goal -
Annex all Eastern Europe and repopulate it all!

by: Aiden More from: Sydney
January 22, 2011 16:31

by: Arne Babenhauserheide from: Germany
January 22, 2011 21:05
On the long term I think that we can’t avoid the need of decentral anonymization services, in which we can create anonymous IDs for different kinds of activities.

My personal ID doesn’t have to be connected to my political one. Luckily a system to allow for this is already in production since 2000, and growing better and more secure every year. The system is freenet, which allows for anonymous information publishing and retrieval, including real darknets in which it is very hard to find out if someone uses freenet, because the node only connects to known trusted friends.

Freenet is free software (GPL), allowing anyone to inspect the source code and adapt it for his/her needs, and is funded entirely by donations – free speech and internet freedom enthusiasts have many good reasons to help it evolve.

Also it recently grew social networking functions with the Sone plugin, a real web of trust (WoT) for decentral spam prevention and integrated forums (FreeTalk) which are available as plugins.

More information — along with an easy way to install it — is available at

by: GregB from: Sydney
January 22, 2011 21:59
Evgeny has some good points to make but does not seem to understand one keep factor.

Governments cannot exist without someone to govern. Further, when those being governed perceive their rights have been reduced to a level where they no longer are willing to be governed, even when it means a fight to the death, they will overthrow the Government. The Government does not have this ability of ultimate control, it cannot overthrow the people.

When social media reveals information that is exceptionally damaging to the Government, people will rise up and rebel. Governments however can only ever use social media to monitor and control and thereby possibly extend their time in power, but only while they stay within acceptable boundaries. They are walking a fine line and had better not step over it.

The balance between personal freedom and Government control is different in every country and is constantly evolving.

People with low expectations will tolerate more control. People with high expectations will tolerate less control. So while citizens of open western democracies would never tolerate the restrictions that exist in mildly authoritarian countries, people in mildly authoritarian countries would also never tolerate the restrictions in complete dictatorships.

Further, when people are exposed to others in more open, less authoritarian countries, it changes their expectations keeping authoritarian Governments under constant and growing pressure to give up some control.

The North Korean people will eventually see that the dictatorship they currently have provides them with less rights and a lower standard-of-life than people in other nations and they will eventually rebel, people in authoritarian nations like Burma will also compare themselves against their neighbour's better standard-of-life and seek to correct the situation, people in supposedly democratic nations like Iran will compare against more truly democratic nations and also seek to correct the situation (this is what happened in Tunisia), and finally, even the people within the world's most democratic nations will see the way their leaders behave, acting as if they are above the law, and will rectify this imbalance within these nations.

Social media can help Governments be informed through spying on their citizens but the best they can achieve as a result is to temporarily keep the people from "making corrections". While social media used by people, especially when it reveals unacceptably damaging Government behaviour will bring about the Government's downfall or will cause the people to "make corrections".

The western democracies are seeing things as a result of WikiLeaks that WILL lead to corrections, the people in authoritarian countries are seeing things as a result of WikiLeaks that may cause Governments to be overthrown, the people in absolute dictatorships are not without ears. They too will eventually rise up.

This evolution for stronger democracy cannot be subverted by either religion or market forces. Democracy will eventually win out. The Tunisian's are saying they will not tolerate an Islamic state and no nation will tolerate a loss of democracy for absolute capitalism, especially if the capitalists who want to subvert their democracy are foreign nations!

by: eric d from: albuquerque NM USA
January 22, 2011 23:24
Stalin & Hitler would have loved the internet! The greatest danger, though, isn't that Big Brother Himself would be watching you. Instead, as in Eastern Europe under Soviet rule, the KGB will enlist the whole population in constantly surveillancing and persecuting political dissidents and dissenting minorities. And as the internet closes tighter & tighter around everybody, everywhere, the pressure to conform & submit to the tyranny of public opinion becomes intense. The regime then uses that pressure to target and attack dissidents, launch propaganda campaigns, & engage in constant psychological warfare and behavioral manipulation ("brainwashing:") against the opposition, with the complicity (& sometimes enthusiastic participation) of the whole population. And that's "the dark side" of so-called "internet democracy." This isn't to suggest that the internet media & electronic surveillance can succeed in completely extinguishing political dissent or subjective agency. At least not yet... But the prospect of Big Brother + Internet + plus Soviet-style secret police infiltration (plus show trials & purges etc.) is frightening, even in supposed "democratic" countries (like the US?...). What's to be done? I suppose only attempting to make sure that the electronic media & the internet can't be monopolized by any political faction, corporate body, or "public interest" group (whether left or right); and to try to keep the possibility for dissent ("dissensus") alive against the stifling pressure of conformity and "consensus" That's what J-F Lyotard called "attention to 'the differend'..."
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
January 23, 2011 13:57
Your view of man and his civic awareness are perhaps too optimistic. Similarly, your fear of government (big brother) is exaggerated. Most men are content to live in near squalor as long as there is plenty of bread and circus-type entertainment. The ultimate power of the Internet lies in its ability to distract. Much easier to play a video game, look at porn, or chat/complain with social-network friends than to actually work to improve one’s society.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 24, 2011 17:27
Eric and Ray have valid points, with main excepton,
The buck stoppes with individuals who bring the truth
To their people and to the World. As long as interceptions
By tirranies cannot get us all be quiet - or do their bettings
For evil in the World, like in Russia were reporters lost
To assasinations and other means - just reception,
By electronics and witchkraft cannot gain controll.

by: Human1 from: UK
January 23, 2011 05:50
No reason to believe that the US, or UK for that matter, both of them countries with aggressive interventionist international politics, are not using the same means of silent control that authoritarian countries implement. Information posted on social networks is potentially useful to Gov's and criminal organizations, so I guess they've been monitoring for some time now. What I wonder is to what an extent social networks such as the ones mentioned are their willing instruments. It is not charity/altruistic work what they do precisely, they mostly promote uniformity standards. The protest movement was accidental, I guess. A 'collateral' inconvenience.

by: KZBlog from: Kazakhstan
January 23, 2011 10:07
I know that he argues that authoritarian (or democractic) governments can use the Internet to track people. Is there evidence that they actually are using the Internet to watch people? Somewhere in Russia is there an agent looking at all 150 million Russians Facebook pages and Livejournals? It seems that if they were, they'd be getting far more garbage than useful information. And the people they might be watching would likely be more careful. Somehow I doubt Kasparov puts up on his blog, "Going off to US to get secret orders from Obama now."
In Response

by: eric d from: Albuquerque NM
January 23, 2011 23:17
Reply to Ray, Human, KZ: The point is, I think, that social control is now inside the electronic media (& inside the brains & nerves) of contemporary political systems. So "Big Brother" doesn't have to watch everybody. "Big Brother" only has to control the electronic medium (TV, video games, movies etc.) & its content (& the military, police, prison, & educational systems) to achieve a level of control greater than previous totalitarian systems. The majority population then doesn't even "know" they're being brainwashed & controlled. They simply "play along with" the system & "work as subjects" within the system, even stridently proclaiming their democratic freedoms freedoms whilst submitting to that nternalized control. The really chilling moment in Orwell's 1984 is when Winston realizes: "They can get inside your brain & control you from inside..". Political domination isn't just something external, but within the brain, nerves, & subconscious mind of "the subjects." And as Marshall McLuhan said: "1984 happened back in the 1930s, & nobody noticed!" How much more sophisticated & subtle are contemporary social controls; & how much more inescapable because they are omnipresent & ubiquitous: everybody, everywhere is now within the globalized electronic surveillance & observation system. I don't think it's exaggerated to expect that within a few decades, electronic microchips will actually be installed in the brains of "subjects"; and "subjects" will actually demand to have them installed, just to keep up with current technology! The corporate world will sell them to "consumers"; and everybody that wants to be competitive will buy them. And the democratic governments (the military, the secret police etc.) will, of course, take advantage of them. In fact, the US military has already (20 years ago) experimented with installing microchips in the brains of fighter pilots whose responses aren't rapid enough to keep up with the electronic warfare systems in contemporary fighter planes... So who knows what they're working on now? (Yes, that's a question!...)
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
January 24, 2011 13:57
Eric, Suggest you read some Dostoevsky, or perhaps Kurt Vonnegut. 'Big Brother' puts on his pants one leg at a time, has a problem-marriage, probably a bit over-weight, and is struggling with debt. Don't place the burden of your lack of fruition on 'him.' Even with all the latest electronic bells and whistles, you are FREE. The challenge is to exercise this freedom in responsible, creative and productive endeavors. Orwell did it, so can you.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 24, 2011 02:53
Several seconds!
USA supercomputer had files on 2 billion people about half centuries ago.
Modern supercomputer can make some billions bits per second,
that mean that it would take several hours create permanent
cross-reference directory and access any profile in few seconds,
for instance list of all Russian snipers and recruted by them once locals
in Kirgizia that wouldn't mind shoot Uzbeks and activate or recroute them
to do the job for Russian imperial resurectors...
Or sort out guys like you that so naive that they can be used to put sand
instead of oil in boll-bearing of Ivanovo factory "Red Lapot'", blocade Fergana cotton sale and accuse you in being Fergana Muslim terrorist...
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 24, 2011 17:15
Eric, you give to much permission to mind controll
To be, thought it exists, like it has right to do so!
Too much, also, credit to the corpos, the holes,
In human heads, aren't always as on the go.
Stalin answered telepathy threat, in 1930-th:
"If consiously understand, believing what's right,
How they can make you believe to make opposit?"
They made Soviets and all Europe fall to Nazi attack,
But Europe, USSR and USA wanted resist - and they did.
World will resist to Russia too, for lying and annexing lands.

In Response

by: KZBlog from: Astana
January 27, 2011 09:25
Morozov is arguing that public social networks are dangerous because the government can use them to identify and watch opposition and subversives. That means deep reading of people's profiles. For that matter, how many Russian snipers have that on their Facebook page or Twitter feed? To detect that requires human time. Let alone to identify someone who might have graffitied "Down with the Government" or written an anonymous comment on a blog protesting the leader of the nation.

Yes, it would take very little time to identify a ton of information on any one individual--but in terms of watching an entire population to identify threats, it would be impossible.

by: eric d from: Albuquerque NM USA
January 27, 2011 01:39
Just an amusing sideline. The Taipei Times today reports that Beijing is installing 17,000 more surveillance cameras in the troublesome province of Urumqi. According to the Times, Beijing itself has 400,000 cameras. And the Chinese were planning on installing 10 million cameras (Yes, that's 10,000,000!) cameras last year. Surveillance is "seamless" in the trouble spots of Urumqi (No blind spots!). They don't mention Tibet, but I'd guess there's pretty heavy candid camera coverage there, too. Obviously, the Chinese Communist Party are Big Believers in Big Brother. So to Chinese dissidents, let's just say: Smile, you're on candid camera! And remember... Wherever you are, whatever you do... We'll be watching you!

by: eric d from: Albuquerque NM
January 29, 2011 17:27
This is from Vasily Grossman's "Life & Fate":

But an invisible force was crushing him. He could feel its weight, its hypnotic power; it was forcing him to think as it wanted, to write as it dictated. This force was inside him; it could dissolve his will and cause his heart to stop beating... Only people who have never felt such a force themselves can be surprised that others submit to it. Those who have felt it, on the other hand, feel astonished that a man can rebel against it even for a moment---with one sudden word of anger, one timid gesture of protest.

Vasily Grossman was a Jewish Soviet war correspondent who covered the Battle of Stalingrad. Grossman lived through Stalin's Great Terror of the 1930s & the Soviet Gulag. And he also was one of the first press correspondents to visit the Nazi concentration camps. In "Life & Fate" he also describes the Soviet interrogation techniques used in the Lubyanka prison and the Soviet pogroms & the atrocities of collectivization (the starvation & cannibalism in the Ukraine & the Kuban etc.). In other words, Grossman knew what he was talking about...

Those who "haven't felt it" might consider reading Grossman's novel. It's beyond Orwell's "1984" & Koestler's "Darkness at Noon." All I say is, I've felt it, I can feel it...

by: Catherine Fitzpatrick from: New York
January 31, 2011 13:39
Another active measure from Zhenya.

This very long interview deserves a very long reply but time and space don't allow at the moment.

So let me leave you with just a few basics:

o Morozov ascribes to authoritarian states incredible powers with new technology which he is unable and unwilling to ascribe to individuals and organizations, including Western governments. That's very telling. He can never really explain why these technological marvels only work negatively in the wrong hands, and can't work positively in the right hands in fact to defeat wrongful use.

o Each time the U.S. or some organization in fact goes about using these new technologies for the right purpose, he begins to knock it -- and thus helps authoritarian governments, objectively.

o He does this while claiming to be for Internet freedom and human rights. Yet is is extremely selective about whose human rights he promotes and which figures he admires (Palestinians, Egyptians; Angela Davis, Julian Assange).

o As he said while he cynically tweeted about events in Belarus, he was 130 km. from the action (he implied then that the opposition is a creature of Washington).

Now he is 4,500 miles from the action.

And that's what it's all about for Mr. Freeze-Off. He is about stopping civic action, unless it's of a certain kind that is politically correct. So ultimately, if he isn't doing the work of authoritarian governments for them, he is working ardently to create a wired transnational stateless ruling class of geeks with very specific politics that aren't free and aren't pluralistic for the rest of us.

No thanks.

Most Popular

Editor's Picks