In today’s climate of fear and defensive posturing that governments around the world seem locked into, there’s nothing more potentially unnerving than an unpredictable, far-reaching conduit in which ordinary citizens are tapped into. That, my friends, is of course the Internet.
In case anyone remembers the aftermath of 9/11 and all the legal, political and military pivots that effectively turned America into The United States of Paranoia (albeit before Iraq, Katrina, the Recession-Depression that’s starting, extraordinary rendition, CIA-approved torture tactics… does it ever end?), there were two little bills that changed America forever: The now-infamous Patriot Act and Patriot Act II.
Well, consider the nature of government when it comes to encroachment of powers. Governments will sometimes use events (read: 9/11) as catalysts to enact legislation that would be inconceivable under normal conditions. Of course, no one would ever assume a government would conduct a false flag operation to justify certain actions in government, right?
Of course, smart men like Lawrence Lessig know better. Lessig – a man far more capable of formulating reasoned, sensible government policy than government mandarins – spoke at this year’s Brainstorm Tech conference about “an i-9/11 event” that could enable the U.S. government to completely change how the Internet works in America (and really, how the world accesses the Internet too).
We’re talking the whole hog of totalitarianism here, folks: Internet ID cards to govern where, when and who goes online; massive, overarching social tracking technology; blocking and filtering of web sites in public forums like libraries (!) that mysteriously don’t fall in with mainstream-approved readings; vast spy databases – the list goes on and on and on.
Don’t think for a moment this isn’t possible. Nobody saw 9/11 coming and look what happened there. What if a huge cyberterrorist attack – we’re talking a monumental, Denial-of-Service-Attacking, data eliminating, shit hits the fan bad – happens in a major American city or the entire East Coast? It doesn’t even have to be al-Qaeda-led, either. Hell, when you consider all the unsettling, questionable aspects of 9/11, you don’t have to look too far to wonder exactly who benefits from this kind of cyber law.
So let’s say it happens and this “Cyber Act” is brought into law: if you buy into this system of having ISPs reporting back data on your online habits to the government, you get access to the upcoming Internet2 – a sweet, super-fast replacement to the current architecture of the Web currently in development. Sort of like you’re the horse, Internet2 is the carrot.
You refuse to buy in, you’re a target for government surveillance (at least, now it’s U.S. government spying on Americans that’s suddenly legal and lawful, as opposed to the “extra-legal” spying happening now).
Even if you think this is all fear-mongering, just read the note, it’s informative at least.
OLYMPICS: There’s just two days left before the Games of the Chinese Olympiad (hey, not as if the IOC has any control over these Games anymore) commence. The New York Times has a really cool interactive Flash-based graphic that measures medal counts by country since the first Summer Olympics in 1896.