Internet Freedom or Colonization?
Google and Clinton claim they will no longer bow to Beijing’s and Iran’s army of internet censors. They might want to first un-bow to internalized and Americanized censors and learn more about China’s rich past, including Confucianism and Communism, and acquire more knowledge about Iran’s fascinating history, including Islam, the Ummah and jihad, says Dallas Darling.
Recently, when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened on behalf of Google and condemned China’s Internet censors, it was reminiscent of what Edward Said wrote about colonialism. Said believed colonialism was a historical phenomenon supported by the idea that certain territories and people require domination, as well as forms of information and knowledge affiliated with domination.(1) If this be the case, would the Internet constitute a type of knowledge and information in the possession of a colonial power that could be used to colonize a nation and its people?
Such advancements provided imperial powers with physical and economic advantages, allowing them to create their own empires. For example, steamships mounted with guns played an important role in subduing Latin America, Africa and Asia. They were used to penetrate deep into inland rivers, transport troops, bombard fortifications and cities, and restrict trade. Trains carried resources, products, soldiers, and weapons too. The telegraph and telephone not only increased commerce and business transactions, but aided in moving troops to suppress Indigenous rebellions.
These different types of technologies also imposed their own meaning, symbolism and values on Indigenous peoples. While many customs were either radically transformed or destroyed, colonizers often portrayed technology as having power over nature and local deities. One individual even referred to mass technology as the ?annihilation of time and space.?(2) One of the most important aspects of colonialism was how to use technology. Imperial powers spent enormous sums of money and energy in trying to prevent new innovations from being utilized by Indigenous peoples or popular resistant movements.
Concerning the Internet, it has a very long and complex history. However, it can be traced back to two elite agencies in the US Defense Department. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the RAND Corporation (a government think-tank) were the first to send messages and information over the Internet. Soon, the Internet became privatized and commercialized, controlled by major US corporations and their interests. Developing nations experienced the Digital Divide, meaning they were separated from the Internet and its knowledge and flow of information, which were controlled by the West.
A Digital Divide still exists today, specifically in regards to politics, economics and culture.
While Clinton and Google challenge both Beijing and Iran to end Internet censorship, one has to wonder just how free is on-line freedom? Most Internet managers are backed by US corporations that have contracted with the US Government. With five major firms controlling (censored) most of the news, commercialization, and flow of information, is on-line freedom really for the Few, or for those who can either buy it or own it? As Search Engines control the rate and speed of news and information on the Internet, Relevancy Rankings determines the importance of knowledge. Compared to the corporate-dominated Internet’s audience, Twitter, YouTube, Flidkr, Facebook, and blogs give only a facade of the free flow of information and news.
Since they are overshadowed by corporate commercialization and news (which includes values, beliefs and narratives) that reaches billions of people, has the corporate Internet become a tool for mass globalization? Money and political bias impact on-line freedom too. The US Senate just voted to spend $50 million to expand Farsi language broadcasts in support of Iranian opposition groups. Indigenous cultures, traditions, customs, beliefs, and political and economic goals still remain unknown to most of the world.
Accordingly, less industrialized countries are at a disadvantage as to the amount of knowledge and flow of information they can send or display to the rest of the world.
During the Age of Imperialism and Colonization, the Nemesis, a British gunboat and the first of its kind, was used to attack Canton, a Chinese town upriver.
This battle was part of a larger war known as the Opium Drug War. The cause of the war was that Britain, and much of the West, were unable to find a commodity the Chinese would buy in quantity – until they found opium and realized its addictive qualities. Although opium was damaging China’s public health and economy, it was exceedingly profitable for British and American merchants. Due to the Opium Drug War, China lost its sovereignty and was forced to trade with opium.
In the English language, a nemesis is an unbeatable opponent and bitter enemy.
It can also mean a source of harm or ruin. Has the Western and US corporate-dominated Internet become China’s and Iran’s nemesis? (One could also include the rest of the world.) In other words, is it a kind of neo-technology used for colonization? It is now estimated that 24 million Chinese are over-engaged with Internet chat sites and addicted to surfing the Internet. They have isolated themselves from family, work, or school and have acquired anti-social, anti-communal, or anti-cultural views. Some are even suffering from mental illnesses and severe depression, as they feel happier in cyberspace than in the real world.
Internet freedom is very important and valuable, if it is responsible and honors the customs and traditions of the host’s nation. The Internet should not be used as a tool to dominate, but to share information and news-an equal amount-and to learn from each other. Neither should empires use it to “push” their values and beliefs, nor should it be used as a tool to convert the world to secular consumerism. Google and Clinton claim they will no longer bow to Beijing’s and Iran’s army of internet censors. They might want to first un-bow to internalized and Americanized censors and learn more about China’s rich past, including Confucianism and Communism, and acquire more knowledge about Iran’s fascinating history, including Islam, the Ummah and jihad.
After all, depending on what one internalizes and emulates from the Internet, it might not only be the annihilation of time and space but the annihilation of the mind and soul.