The Power of the Internet
(The New American) -- by Thomas R. Eddlem --
...The Internet has become the natural outgrowth of the power of the free press that has continued to accelerate that change in the world. One recent example of how the free press — supercharged with the power of the Internet — continues to change the world is the story of the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.org essentially overturning a corrupt Kenyan government in 2007. WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange explained how it happened to TED TV’s Chris Anderson:
Julian Assange: The Kroll Report. This was a secret intelligence report commissioned by the Kenyan government after its election in 2004. Prior to 2004, Kenya was ruled by Daniel arap Moi for about 18 years. He was a soft dictator of Kenya. And when Kibaki got into power — through a coalition of forces that were trying to clean up corruption in Kenya — they commissioned this report, spent about two million pounds on this and an associated report. And then the government sat on it and used it for political leverage on Moi, who was the richest man — still is the richest man — in Kenya. It’s the Holy Grail of Kenyan journalism. So I went there in 2007, and we managed to get hold of this just prior to the election — the national election, December 28. When we released that report, we did so three days after the new President, Kibaki, had decided to pal up with the man that he was going to clean out, Daniel arap Moi. So this report then became a dead albatross around President Kibaki’s neck.In 2009, WikiLeaks again demonstrated the power of the Internet when it revealed causes of the Icelandic banking crisis in a leaked government document. The WikiLeaks exposure had uncovered that the private bank Kaupthing — then in government receivership to prevent bankruptcy — had loaned billions of dollars in risky ventures to its shareholders. Though the Icelandic government tried to censor the document, procuring a court injunction to block discussion of the report in the Iceland state press, the report was widely distributed through the Internet anyway and the government was so thoroughly discredited that the Icelandic Althing (parliament) passed a sweeping free press haven law to prevent government censorship in the future.
The Internet is certainly a powerful magnification of the might of the free press — arguably more powerful than the U.S. government. Today, 250 billion e-mails are sent daily (of which 200 billion are spam). And there are 250 million websites (125 million blogs), nearly 30 million tweets from Twitter.com daily, and more than 35 trillion page views per year on Facebook alone (from a population of more than 400 million Facebook users). YouTube.com has more than one billion videos in its online library, where 12.2 billion videos are viewed every month. No longer does a person have to have a printing press to make his views known to the whole world; the strength of the message now determines its reach.
If the Internet were a country, with nearly two billion “netizens,” it would be by far the most populous nation on Earth. It would also be the fastest growing country, with some 40-percent increase in population every year...
But perhaps the most important indication of the power of the Internet over governments is the fact that often governments can do nothing about citizen Internet journalism. A single video- and cellphone-equipped “netizen” has become a dangerous weapon to wage war against government repression on both the individual and national policy levels.
A Great Equalizer
One example of this is the unprovoked Prince George’s County, Maryland, police attack on John McKenna after a Maryland-Duke basketball game earlier this year. McKenna, peacefully reveling in the aftermath of the game, was charged with disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer in a falsified report by the police officer. But an anonymous cellphone user had captured the video of the “disorderly conduct” — which was in actuality an unprovoked attack by a police officer against McKenna — and submitted the video to YouTube, where it became an Internet sensation.
The video resulted in the dismissal of the officer from the police force, as well as the dismissal of charges against McKenna...
Thus, it’s no surprise that some police officers' unions are campaigning to outlaw citizen videography of police brutality. In Massachusetts — one of a dozen states where filming a police officer is a felony — citizen video-journalists are often arrested, even if they are rarely convicted. Jon Surmacz, a part-time producer at the Boston Globe’s website, Boston.com, was arrested in 2008 for filming Brighton, Massachusetts police breaking up a Christmas party. The charges were eventually dropped, Surmacz argued, “because I didn’t do anything wrong.” He added: “Had I recorded an officer saving someone’s life, I almost guarantee you that they wouldn’t have come up to me and [said], '‘Hey, you just recorded me saving that person’s life. You’re under arrest.’”
In short, corruption hates the light of exposure. The political reality is that citizen video-journalism is a far more powerful medium than the legal statutes of any American state attempting to curb the First Amendment protections of free speech. And citizen video-journalists usually don’t need court decisions to protect them. Massachusetts and other states may declare video-journalism of police brutality a felony, but it’s difficult to find a jury to convict a person documenting official abuse, or to support a government official’s “right” to privacy while that official is engaging in a corrupt practice on the taxpayers’ dime. Most citizens decide to follow the advice of James Madison — that the very purpose of the First Amendment was to expose government corruption...
The Internet even has the power to defy the U.S. government, as another WikiLeaks case reveals. The website’s release on July 25 of some 90,000 “secret” documents on the Afghan war exposed to the world that our so-called War on Terror includes aiding and abetting, even to the extent of providing military intelligence to, a regime (Pakistan) that is guiding the insurgency against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Naturally, the defenders of our interventionist foreign policy want to keep the people ignorant of such things, so they have clamored for prosecuting those responsible for the leaks — which they claim harm our national security.
Of course, no one has explained how national security could possibly be damaged by demonstrating to the world that the United States is effectively helping both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan. Those who use American wherewithal to wage attacks against Americans already know what they are doing; shouldn’t the American people know as well, despite our government not wanting this information to be known?...
Thus, it’s not surprising that many governments have decided to try to censor the Internet. But they have had only limited success. China has forced search engines and computer manufacturers to install its censorship software, called Green Dam-Youth Escort, in order to prevent its citizens from hearing negative information about the government. The so-called “Great Firewall of China” was nominally erected to stop Chinese from viewing pornography, but the real purpose has been to stop the kind of Internet revolution that happened in Kenya. As China becomes more wired, however, the Chinese people will only become more adept at circumventing the censor’s knife, something that the Iranian and other Islamic governments are already learning.
Internet censorship across the Islamic world is pervasive, officially to stop pornography that conflicts with the doctrines of Islam, but another key reason for censorship is for political reasons in nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. The OpenNet Initiative explains: “The [area of the] Middle East and North Africa is one of the most heavily censored regions in the world. Human rights watchdogs and free speech advocacy groups continue to criticize the media restrictions and repressive legal regimes, and over the past few years, a great number of bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been jailed.”...
The Internet is the new global public square where free speech and free press are merged; ultimately no government can control it — and hopefully never will. Despite the seedy side of the Internet — with its pornography, rumor-mongering, spam, and viruses — it has become a powerful force against government repression of all kinds. It’s an electronic proof that truth is a more powerful weapon than the raw weaponry of government...MORE...LINK
Chris Moore comments:
And let's not forget the loathsome and corrupt statist authoritarian Senator Joe Lieberman's efforts to set up an Internet "kill" switch and a totalitarian surveillance state in the U.S. apparently modeled on Cheka and Stasi tactics. Maidhc Ó Cathail writing in Khaleej Times Online:
It would be hard to think of anyone who has done more to undermine American freedoms than Joseph Lieberman.-------------------------
Since 9/11, the Independent senator from Connecticut has introduced a raft of legislation in the name of the “global war on terror” which has steadily eroded constitutional rights. If the United States looks increasingly like a police state, Senator Lieberman has to take much of the credit for it.
On October 11, 2001, exactly one month after 9/11, Lieberman introduced S. 1534, a bill to establish a Department of Homeland Security. Since then, he has been the main mover behind such draconian legislation as the Protect America Act of 2007, the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010, and the proposed Terrorist Expatriation Act, which would revoke the citizenship of Americans suspected of terrorism. And now the senator from Connecticut wants to kill the Internet.
According to the bill he recently proposed in the Senate, the entire global Internet is to be claimed as a “national asset” of the United States. If Congress passes the bill, the US President would be given the power to “kill” the Internet in the event of a “national cyber-emergency.” Supporters of the legislation say this is necessary to prevent a “cyber 9/11” – yet another myth from the fearmongers who brought us tales of “Iraqi WMD” and “Iranian nukes.”