Monday, February 21, 2011

Excerpted from the 2011 Commencement Address, College of Tyranny

Here is a tip for the class of 2011 at the College of Tyranny: You can’t have WikiLeaks if you don’t have Internet. As the Times reported on Wednesday, “In a span of minutes just after midnight on January 28th, a technologically advanced, densely wired country with more than 20 million people online was essentially severed from the global Internet” (“Egypt Leaders Found ‘Off’ Switch for Internet,” NYT, 2/16/11). According to the Times, China has also created “an elaborate national filtering system known as the Golden Shield Project,” which enabled it in 2009 to “shut down cell phone and Internet service amidst unrest in the Muslim region of Xinjian.” In effect, the Internet has become a legislative body and news organization rolled into one, and you need a certain degree of freedom—say the equivalent of the conventional bomb that detonates a nuclear device—in order to pave the way for a full blown explosion of liberty. Now, letting a country roll back into darkness is not a terribly bad idea from a strategic point of view. Pol Pot did precisely that when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, and North Korea is almost Internet-free (although Kim Jong-il himself, according to his Wikipedia citation, loves “surfing the net”). A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a lot of knowledge is virtually useless if there is no one there to receive it. There would be something innocent and almost Rousseauesque about a world without leaks or pornography, a world where Eve was too afraid to reach for the forbidden fruit, if it weren’t for the fact that such a world could only be attained through the repression of thought. 

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