The implication is that this will provide cover for the regime to brutalize and control the populace without word of the atrocities spreading as much or as quickly. It would also impact the protesters and their ability to coordinate their efforts.
This development comes on the heels of numerous central governments around the world pushing private communication and data network providers to filter or otherwise give ultimate control over their content to the central governments in question. Whether it's initially asked for in the name of protecting the public morality (as in Indonesia) or defending the people from the scourge of terrorism, the potential for further abuse during times of social unrest is obvious and being demonstrated right now in Egypt.
Today, Gary North penned a column at LRC in which he opined:
There is no national leader who commands the charisma of a Hitler, a Churchill, or a Roosevelt. The Web makes it unlikely that anyone like those men will appear again. If they do, the Web will take them down several notches. The Web pops messianic bubbles very fast. The economy pops any who survive the Web's assault. This is positive.
Unfortunately for Gary, whose thoughts and writings I otherwise greatly respect and enjoy, his timing couldn't be worse.
What we're seeing in Egypt is that the internet is useless as a deterrent against tyrannical violence when the tyrants in question have the ability to just shut it down when they're ready to start acting ruthlessly. What good is a wireless nation and its mighty internet-wall when, on the eve of the revolution, its tablets and smartphones go blank?
And the flip side of Gary's viewpoint is perhaps even more threatening. I'm not about to lower the credibility of my own analysis by comparing Obama to Hitler, but while he's certainly no Churchill either -- that's not a compliment to any of the parties in question, by the way -- it's a well known fact that Obama hopes to emulate FDR, presidentially and politically, along with his grim fascination with other American stalwart tyrants like Lincoln. Did the internet stop Obama?
Nay, in fact, many claim it was the tool most useful in bringing him to power! The NYTimes claimed that in a JFK-esque fashion, Obama's internet campaign changed politics. The website InformationWeek claims Obama's election ushered in the first internet presidency. The UK's Guardian carried an opinion piece asserting that Obama's triumph was the first election the internet won (whatever the hell that means). And this isn't even a recent phenomenon-- as Wired observed, much of the excitement around Howard Dean had to do with his campaign's ability to harness the power of the internet for fund-raising and community organizing efforts on the campaign trail.
I don't mean to bad-mouth North, but I don't know how he missed this. Politicians control other people for a living. They work hard everyday to find newer, better and more efficient ways to control people. They didn't ignore the gun, the newspaper, the internal combustion engine, the radio, money or any other human technology that was originally developed to make our lives better and they won't and aren't ignoring the internet. Believing that we can all sit back, relax and never have to worry about the rise of tyrants and demagogues because we're in the New Era of the messianic-bubble popping internet is wishful thinking, at best.
And if your response to that is, "This is America, it can't happen here," I hate to be the one to pop your bubble of ignorance (gee, been on the internet lately?) but it already is:
President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said, according to CBS News TechTalk.
It's [the Commerce Department] "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government" to centralize efforts toward creating an "identity ecosystem" for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.
The Obama administration is currently drafting what it's calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months.
CBS goes on, "We are not talking about a national ID card," Locke said at the Stanford event. "We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities."
Don't believe this for a nanosecond.
More from Robert Wenzel on the subject here.
This is a trend, it's developing and it's a big one. You need to be wise to it. You better believe that if and when the revolution cometh, it will not be televised, radioed, YouTube'd, blogged, BlackBerry'd, iPhone'd or in any other way mass communicated without some serious lever-pulling intervention from the authorities along the way.
North's "have no fear" reasoning is unsound. His ultimate conclusion is not and I certainly think it's worth heeding:
Get out your map. Get out a pencil and a sheet of paper. Go through the exercise of Map-n-Go.