A Bear Constrained by a Cage of Bubbles
The Internet is a crazy concept. It’s like a bear, constrained in a cage made of bubbles; immensely dangerous, and contained in a flimsy attempt at restraint masquerading as effective management. But because it looks like a cage, everyone thinks it’s perfectly restricted and nothing could possibly go wrong. For the record, I am wholly aware of what an odd analogy that is, but it’s a fairly mundane result of the thing known to me as my mind. Earlier today I likened a large quantity of milk and sugar in tea to marijuana in the fact that it’s a gateway to stronger, less sweet tea as marijuana is a gateway drug. Slightly laboured, but you may see where it came from. Anyway, bear with me on this Internet analogy.
Throughout many years, across many countries, under many political systems, censorship has been used. Censorship being, basically, a reduction of freedom of speech. It tends to be most prevalent in fascist dictatorships, where the dictator is portrayed as being kind, wonderful and godly, etc. For example, Stalin’s censorship was so extensive he was affectionately known as ‘Uncle Joe’ and was voted the 3rd greatest Russian of all time in a 21st century poll. Censorship these days can take different forms, one being banned from club penguin for saying ‘Lettuce’, for example.
Maybe there’s some sort of anti-lettuce indoctrination happening on Club Penguin and even saying the word is viewed as some sort of blasphemy. It’s possible that the creators have noticed some people who have never got over the sinking of the Titanic and want to protect them from the distress they could experience from a six-degrees-of-separation-style link from Lettuce to Iceberg Lettuce, to Icebergs, to the Titanic. Maybe ‘Lettuce’ is some sort of code word indicating the discovery of a terrorist plot and the banning of this person is a clearer indication than the confiscation of Richard Dawkins’ honey that the terrorists have won.
Then again, it’s probably some sort of mistake.
Recently the study of Russian history, coupled with last year’s NSA revelations, has led me to ponder how any government, or any collaboration of governments, would go about trying to censor the internet.
Tim Berners-Lee had no idea what The World Wide Web would become. It is the greatest avenue for individual thought, sharing of ideas, and garnering of knowledge that has ever existed. It’s created a culture of instant gratification; it’s led to a world where an instant reaction to witnessing a violent crime is to record it. Any video can appear on it, even one of a beheading carried out by a radical terrorist cell. People from other sides of the world can become friends, or violent enemies, almost instantly. Children can receive comments that can lead them to take their own lives. It could allow the meeting of two people who together may make some of the greatest advancements in the field of medicine that have ever been made. It’s not tangible, but it’s always there, dictating our lives without us noticing, or worse, caring. We are all living under a dictator of sorts, we just don’t mind it.
It doesn’t send out a secret police force to kill you if you speak out against it, but it’s been used to assemble groups intent on destruction and even the taking of life. It’s a subtle dictator, but the generations that have grown up with it love it unconditionally, while those who knew a different life lament its impact. And that impact is unquestionable. It’s the only thing of its kind, and the only dictator to encourage open exchange of opinions, because there’s no way it could lose out.
Every single person can have a corner of the Internet to theirself. Be it a Facebook account, Twitter account or a blog. A personal website or a commercial one. A potential platform for each person to voice their ideas from, an infinitely larger potential audience than any historical revolutionary ever had.
It’s growing not only in number of sites, but also in the aspects of life that it’s transformed. The Royal Mail was formed in 1516. The World Wide Web was invented in 1991. And yet the latter has made the former almost obsolete. Now a major portion of the Royal Mail’s business is the delivery of packages ordered from the Internet. All because the ability to order items from the Internet is so much more convenient. The Royal Mail survives thanks to the Internet’s slow murder of the High Street. Thanks to Google Glass soon no one will have to go anywhere without instant access to the entire wealth of human knowledge, you know, that place with all the cat videos.
The rapid move from a system designed to make intra-CERN communications more effective to a global medium that’s engulfing every aspect of human life is frightening. As such, a way to restrict its reach is something that only exists in the realms of fantasy. Many have attempted to stop some parts of the Internet existing or reaching certain peoples, but ultimately the sheer omnipotence of the system that’s fast becoming the core of life as we know it will enable the bear to easily burst such hollow efforts.
About Mark DolanHello there, I'm Mark, a 21 year old English archaeology student. I write about various things; archaeology, musings on my life, and various bits of society that I have something to say about.
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