“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself………….. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.” – H. L. Mencken – December 1919
Despite the fact that Mencken wrote those words almost 100 years ago – he might well have been describing current views held by “the man who is able to think things out for himself.” – Generally, governments are increasingly being seen as dishonest, and corrupt.
In recent years, particularly through events loosely termed “The Arab Spring”, we’ve been witness to the inevitable clash between those who’s views run counter to the status quo (the thinking man), who stood in defiance of corrupt governments who’s very existence relied on violating the most basic tenets of human rights. Dishonest, insane and intolerable governments.
The Internet played some role, in broadcasting the desperate voices of those engaged in violent encounters against regimes who were intent on eliminating those who fought for the right to condemn the repugnant conditions of their existence. How much of a role, is the subject of continuing discussion.
At the height of those conflicts, countermeasures taken by these repressive regimes included, cutting off access to the Internet in an attempt to slam the door on the free flow of information. Information which, to some extent, ultimately led to the “the people”overthrowing unsustainable governments in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
There are of course, an accumulation of lessons learned (and, still to be learned), by the successful outcomes of the Arab Spring. One rather obvious lesson it seems to me is – those who cherish the right to freedom of expression, and the right to have those views disseminated, will continue on a collision course with the undercurrent of repression circling the Globe.
Attempts are now underway, in Canada, the US and theUK, to limit, by way of regulatory controls (repression by any other name), the rights and freedoms we’ve come to expect when connected to the Internet.
Controls which effectively reduce, or in some cases, obliterate freedom of choice. Controls which could conceivably be used to slam the door on the free exchange of ideas, and political dissent. In a word – censorship.
It might surprise you to learn just how much Internet censorship is already in place world wide. The following graphic from Wikipedia is illuminating.
The graphic is based on 2009 data.
It’s a fantasy, in my view, to believe that governments will learn to self regulate their persistent push to impose restrictions on how users travel the Internet. That, they will take the high road – based on an understanding that there is an undercurrent of hostility to interference with what many Internet users now believe is a basic human right. The right to surf the Internet without obstruction.
Instead, it’s much more likely that we will see a progression toward increased censorship and surveillance. Governments just never seem to “get it” – that there’s always a point beyond which people will push back. And, there are those who are pushing back against government Internet control – in a technical manner.
A recent article in Scientific American Magazine – Internet Freedom Fighters Build a Shadow Web – describes one such “push back”.
“Governments and corporations have more control over the Internet than ever. Now digital activists want to build an alternative network that can never be blocked, filtered or shut down.”
I’m neither a romantic (as Mencken suggest one might need to be to effect change), nor do I have a Don Quixote complex – but, I’m convinced, that in order to safeguard freedom of though and expression, the transmission of information without government interference and restriction – then, the creation of a decentralized mesh network (as described in the Scientific American article), that can’t be blocked, filtered, or silenced, is in our best interest.