Does the Internet Have a Dark Side?04/05/2011 16:10
"The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom" is a book that has been attracting attention since its publication earlier this year. Reviews and summaries tell us that the authoritarian tools and oversight that the Internet supports are going to prove more useful to the powers-that-be than any other transformative effect. In this article, I want to use the book to help restate a main theme of ours that would tend to rebut this point of view. Let's start with a description of the book from Amazon.com:
In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder – not easier – to promote democracy. Buzzwords like "21st-century statecraft" sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that "digital diplomacy" requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.
Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of "Internet freedom" might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.
Reviews of The Net Delusion on Amazon.com tend to be positive and help us understand Morozov's position a little better (without having read the book). One review that seems fairly evenhanded is from a writer for the Technology Liberation Front Blog. This reviewer sums up Morozov's book as "one big wet blanket on the theory that technologies of freedom can help liberate humanity from the yoke of repressive government."
The reviewer explains that the portrait Morozov paints of technology and democracy is a dismal one in which the idea of the Internet-as-liberator is a dangerous fantasy. "He regards such "cyber-utopian" dreams as counter-productive, even dangerous, to the advance of democracy and human freedom."
Morozov is in fact actively negative about the Internet, believing it to be far more of "a great danger," and "a threat" to freedom than a positive force. For this reason, the reviewer concludes that Morozov is correct about the euphoria "currently surrounding the relationship of the 'Net to politics and regime change," but has gone "overboard" regarding the negatives of this new communication technology.
Now I don't think WE can be accused of going overboard on negatives when it comes to the Internet. We're positive about it and have actually coined a term to describe what is going on – Internet Reformation. Our take on all this would tend to apply the same labels to Morozov that he has applied to "Cyber Utopianists." We think he is being a tad naive.
Why naive? Because a sophisticated view of the Internet has to begin with the Gutenberg press, which stimulated great social change some 500 year ago. And much as the Gutenberg press reconfigured the texture of its times, so I believe the Internet will do the same – perhaps a quicker rate. This is far different than arguing that the cyber-power will give rise to movements that will overthrow this or that regime or even prove a particular destabilizing influence in short term.
But what can be argued is that over the longer term, the rise of a new information technology disperses new knowledge efficiently and this new knowledge is what eventually destabilizes old regimes. The Gutenberg press gave rise (eventually) to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, the New World, the American and French Revolutions (eventually) and one can argue – and I would – that the Internet has the capacity to do all the same, perhaps even more.
Again this is not the same as arguing that the Internet has some sort of one-to-one relationship with a particular regime change. It is obvious, as we have reported, that the color revolutions that have taken place recently are a cynical attempt by western powers-that-be to hijack the narrative. The idea is that Twitter or Facebook have galvanized massive social upheaval. In fact, this places the emphasis on exactly the wrong facilities. It is not the Internet's social networks – which may in fact be controlled by Western intelligence agencies – that will give rise to increased freedom but the gradual and inevitable circulation of suppressed information and the new thinking it engenders.
The Anglo-American power elites have retained their grip on power in part through the application of dominant social themes. These fear-based promotions frighten Western middle classes into giving up power and wealth to internationalist institutions that have been prepared for just that purpose. The Internet has been remarkably efficient at circulating information that counteracts and destabilizes such memes. And without the ability to promote such propaganda, the elites are left with authoritarian tools that substitute force for persuasion.
It is not, in my view, unsophisticated to argue that a new technology can circulate over time new information that gives rise to new thinking that destabilizes and reforms old institutions especially if such institutions are set up under false pretenses. Of course, one can watch the power elite set up false flags to take advantage of people's credulity regarding the current technologies and the color revolutions and WikiLeaks may be good examples. But what is far more frightening to the elites and far less easily managed is the spread of suppressed knowledge these technologies are fostering. That is where the real damage is being done and one could argue the elites can do little or nothing about it.
In fact, one can even argue that the current, manipulated color revolutions are spiraling out of control as confidence in the elite's pillars of control wanes. Rather than provide the conclusions sought after by Anglosphere elite, these revolutions may take on a life of their own much as the Protestant Reformation (also sponsored by the elites of its day) took off in new direction that the elites did not plan, did not promote and evidently did not like. One would have to argue that the rise of the New World was a positive occurrence for the elites of the time and yet obviously it was not.
Morozov and those like him are setting up a straw man and beating it to death. The changes that come from new information technologies have to do with the dissemination of information. It is this process that is subversive, not a social network or sort of information tool that means little in the larger scheme of things. It is KNOWLEDGE that undermines the elite promotional elements that are the social organizers of the day. It is the spread of knowledge that eventually proves corrosive to sociopolitical and economic control, as all power rests on depriving people of knowledge in an attempt to make them docile and supportive of the current regime.
It is difficult to say with any certainty what knowledge is being disseminated now that will result in tomorrow's destabilization or even how far that destabilization will go. We have argued in the past that such changes do not overthrow the power elite, merely cause it to take a step back. That process may be occurring now and people can analyze the potential impacts as they choose. Some may be obvious and others are not. But they are occurring. They are indisputable and over time they shall be evident, if they are not already.
For a fuller discussion of these issues see our definition of the Internet Reformation below (copied from the Daily Bell glossary).
The Internet Reformation is the culmination of the power and glory of Western civil society and free-market thinking. It is the apogee of all that is best in a sweep of history that began with the ancient Greeks and has culminated in the hearts and minds of millions of young men and women who industriously add to its impact every day via additional code, non-mainstream news or fundamental scientific commentary.
It is NOT an "Internet Revolution." The Internet Revolution is a standard "pat" phrase of the powers-that-be about the so-called empowering effects of technology. The Internet Reformation is a much more deeply disruptive concept. It is truly a revolutionary one, affecting every aspect of human society and human relationships with modern elites. It is focused around the insights generated by the Internet itself.
This concept is based on what happened during the era of the Gutenberg press. Almost from the beginning, the Gutenberg press was a revolutionary technology. As soon as people used the press to print Bibles, readers began to discover that the Holy Word differed considerably from what they'd been taught by the Catholic Church.
Until then, Bibles had been fairly rare. They were printed in Latin or Greek, and copied down by hand with elaborate engravings. The Catholic Church and its important functionaries and bureaucrats possessed Bibles. Priests performed Mass with their back to the congregation. The ceremony was a highly Romanized one, as the West had come to conceive of Rome within its most corrupt and centralizing phase, and highly controlled.
But printing Bibles in moveable type changed the power relationship entirely. Now, anyone could own a Bible and they were easily reproduced and increasingly inexpensive. Almost immediately, then Bibles began to be translated into "vulgate" and eventually the King James Version (English) would become a dominant variant. But in the meantime, the damage was done. First came the Renaissance and then the Reformation and finally the Age of Enlightenment, three powerful rolling waves of free-thinking that transformed the face of human society, first in the West and then around the world.
The changes ushered in by the Gutenberg press were fundamental. The Renaissance began the reconfiguration by allowing for the rediscovery of the scientific orientation of Greece and Rome. This set in motion a series of events that has not yet ceased to reverberate.
The fundamental motivating force of the Renaissance was to emphasize natural observation, and this can be seen in the obsession with great artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci who returned to the original source of knowledge whenever possible. This led both artists to dissect corpses rather than to rely on the standard anatomy books of the day, such as they were. Da Vinci's great scientific speculations were based on first-hand observation not sterile theory argued in debating halls.
The Reformation launched a second wave of attacks on the West's business as usual. But it actually involved the same animation. The Gutenberg press allowed readers to examine source material by making the sources available. This was the revolutionary act. The Renaissance emphasized conclusions derived from that fundamental inspiration. The Reformation in its way emphasized sources too. It sought, in its most radical incarnations, to strip out the interpretative layer of Church doctrine by emphasizing the Word of the Bible itself.
Martin Luther began this process in 1517 by publishing his Ninety-Five Theses attacking much of the ecclesiastical structure of Catholic Church. Interestingly, the Reformation's initial phase is seen as ending in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that put a stop to the religious wars by emphasizing the primacy of the nation state. The Treaty of Westphalia was overturned by the Security Council of the United Nations in 2005, when that body adopted R2P, which mandates that the "West" in aggregate interfere with a nation's sovereignty to "protect" citizens. The powers-that-be have therefore launched a counterattack on national sovereignty even as the Internet Reformation begins to gather power and undermines business as usual.
The Reformation was also known as the Protestant Reformation because despite its formal end-date of 1648, its ripples continue to spread and ultimately gave rise to the establishment of the New World, and the American and French Revolutions. Each wave of the so-called Protestant Revolt further deconstructed the formalized church and suggested doctrine that brought man closer in touch with God.
This process eventually led to the most radical sects such as the Quakers and "Shakers" that did away with Church trappings entirely and simply allowed the individual worshipper to communicate with God as he or she saw fit. The Quakers sometimes used to shed their clothes and worship nakedly in a penultimate effort to remove barriers to the spiritual conversation.
All across the world, the modern Internet Reformation is beginning to reshape the way people relate to power in the modern age. While it is not so obvious as during the era of the Gutenberg press, there is formal doctrine accepted by Western societies that is beginning to shatter. That formal doctrine may be termed regulatory democracy and it has been leavened with numerous assumptions that on closer inspection turn out not to be true. It is the Internet itself that allows for information to spread that undermines the various precepts of regulatory democracy.
Every social order needs a formal elite to organize and animate it. In the high Middle Ages, the hierarchy consisted of the Catholic Church leaders along with Royal families throughout Europe, as well as powerful merchants and bankers. In the modern era, the hierarchy is much less obvious and consists, from available evidence of the great banking, modern banking families led by the Rothschilds based in the City of London along with attendant Zionist influences and abetted by corporate interests and the so-called Dark Nobility and Dark Church.
It is this hierarchy that promulgates regulatory democracy and its various dominant social themes – the fear-based promotions that the Western power elite uses to control the conversation and to further centralize power and authority worldwide. Just as the Catholic church leaders dreamed of one Pax Romana around the world, so does today's power elite dream of one world order driven by regulatory democracy.
The fear-based themes are many and include many scarcity memes among them. The world is commonly held to be running out of food, water, oil and energy. It is in imminent danger of plagues, unusual weather and asteroid strikes. In these and many other instances, the solutions that are heralded are focused directly on additional governmental agencies, preferably global ones. An entire global infrastructure is gradually being erected that includes an international court, a global legislature (UN), a global military (NATO) and various international agencies to adjudicate trade disputes and the like.
At the center of the new global order is central bank itself, printing money-from-nothing, perpetually devastating the economies of nation states through monetary (and price inflation) and through its ruin, creating the necessity for a global currency and a single global central bank, presumably the IMF. Within this latter meme, gold and silver are held to be barbaric elements, not needed anymore in a fiat money world.
In fact, what the Internet is increasingly showing us is a way to return to basic freedoms. The Internet in its various incarnations has already distributed information showing many of the precepts of regulatory democracy to be false. There is likely plenty of oil and gas around the world and it may be abiotic and reoccurring as well; its availability has simply been manipulated by the powers that be. Alternative sources of energy have likely been suppressed, but over the next decades may become available. Global warming has been shown to be another elite promotion and does not exist as popularly promulgated. Food and water, also supposedly in short supply, are being manipulated by the power elite within its highly controlled global markets. The War on Terror that the elites have begun is an evident and obvious falsity and the Internet reveals this in various ways every day.
Like the radical information that spawned from the Gutenberg press, the impact of the information available to counteract elite modern memes is not immediately visible but over time has a devastating effect. Human beings do have a kind of Hive Mind (via intimate communications between families and friends and various cultural exchanges) and once additional information is made available, that Mind incorporates it.
There are downsides. The power elite profits from the centralizing effects of technology. Spymasters and dictators profit from aspects of technology as they always have. And yet the positive elements are likely unstoppable as well. There is little possibility at this point of the Internet being shut down as simplistic formulations might have it. Instead, as with the Reformation itself, the Internet Reformation will continue to advance, undermining the memes of the powers-that-be and even creating, perhaps, a critical mass of decentralizing influences.
It is decentralization that the modern power elite fears most because decentralized spheres of influence are impossible to control. Unfortunately the Renaissance and Reformation were all about the decentralization of control built on the availability of real knowledge and a return to primary sources that undermined the "experts" of church and state.
The same process is occurring today. It may not be that any one Martin Luther emerges to create a formal Reformation but the larger evolution continues. (There is apparently some evidence that Luther himself was sponsored by a Venetian banking faction of the day to split the power of the church.) Essentially, however the power of the information being unleashed is what will carry the day in numerous manifestations. It is impossible for power elite memes to stand against the availability of information now presented online. It is beyond control, beyond collecting, beyond dampening.
Tomorrow's knowledge base may look much different than todays – and in fundamental ways. Ironically, the 20th century so celebrated by the centralizers must at least to some degree give way to a decentralized Renaissance in the 21st. Yes, the powers-that-be will fight back as they already are via wars and social chaos, just as the Catholic Church responded with its Counter-Reformation; but eventually they may be forced to take a step back as they have before.
Ironically, the proverbial dye was likely cast when America's DARPA dark-technologists invented the Internet but did not foresee, apparently, the evolution of the personal computer that would utilize it to allow average individuals to gain access to all the knowledge of the world. This may stand as one of the great miscalculations of the modern elite. It helped create a second wave of modern information technology that has already begun to undo a myriad of world-centralizing plans.
A new city (predicted in ancient Indian prophecies) has been discovered underwater off the coast of India – though the news has been much suppressed. Humankind is thousands of years older than the Western powers-that-be maintain. The current apogee of human achievement may not be the current one and certainly not the best-of-all-possible worlds. As the underlying certainties crumble, so do the building blocks of the modern elite themes – and the certainty of ongoing centralization.
In fact, the European Union is failing, various serial wars of conquest are not going well, the fear-based memes of the elite are continually being debunked by an Internet that adds more to humankind's real knowledge base every day. It will take decades if not centuries to control the damage that has already been done (from an elite standpoint), and what has been done cannot be undone.
There is a new Reformation taking place throughout the world, led by electronic communication technology. It is not being commented on by the nightly news, nor written about in the mainstream medial. But if you understand the trends and look closely, you can see it playing out every day in every part of human culture. It is already convulsing the world. Out of these labor pains a new and freer society is being born.
A new enlightenment is taking place – a fundamental reforming of societies' knowledge base. It is far more important and fundamental than a "technology revolution." It is rewriting the basic relationship that human beings have with their knowledge base and with its impact on their lives. The centralizing architecture erected by the Anglo-American elites is even now being undermined. The darkness is lifting as it lifted long ago during the Renaissance. An Internet Reformation is coming. It will have numerous unpredictable ramifications. In fact, its dawn is already here.