Russell's Blog

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Purify the Internets!

Posted by Russell on April 23, 2007 at 7:48 p.m.
Hu Jintao wants to cleanse the Internet of objectionable material. Evidently, the Internet is full of foul language, pornography, and worst of all, upsetting politics and strange spiritual stuff. On one hand, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Chinese people, who will see their hard-earned cash wasted on an initiative that will only serve to brutalize them.

China's Internet policy is already responsible for the political incarceration of large numbers of Chinese citizens, most of whom are probably staunch patriots (perhaps with unpopular opinions, though). Expanding state control over the Internet will only accelerate this. To some extent, human nature is irreducibly subversive. It is a necessary part of healthy human psychology to be somewhat resentful of authority. Resentment of authority is a necessary aspect of self-preservation. Increasing state surveillance will of course turn up more subversive thinking. Perfect surveillance would reveal that all of us are subversives, and the remaining few who are not suffer from serious cognitive disabilities. So, if Hu Jintao wants to lock down the Internet, he's going to have to lock up an awful lot of people.

On the other hand, as a patriot of my own country, Hu Jintao's calls to "purify" the Internet bring a smile to my face. If China is successful in its efforts, which is no certain thing, they will destroy their own patch of the Internet. Sure, they will still have a high-tech national computer network, but it won't be the Internet with a capital "I." It will be something else -- something much, much less valuable. No interesting services will survive on this "purified" Internet. The content will be just as interesting and as valuable as Party-controlled television. Meanwhile, Americans can continue building new and interesting things.

America has ceded its dominance in industry after industry to China. Hu Jintao's "purified" Internet is a guarantee that America will keep its dominance of Internet technologies. Unless, of course, our indigenous Internet purifiers succeed.

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