Wikileaks, the end of the open internet, and propaganda

Ian Welch on the disintegration of freedom in the US under the guise of security

Let’s just state the obvious here: we’re seeing the end of the open internet with what is being done to Wikileaks. It’s one thing for Amazon to toss them, it’s another thing entirely to refuse to propagate their domain information. This has been coming for quite some time, and Wikileaks is not the first domain to be shut down in the US, it is merely the highest profile. Combined with the attempt to make NetFlix pay a surcharge or lose access to customers, this spells the end of the free internet.

The absurdity, the sheer Orwellian stupidity of this is epitomized by Hilary Clinton telling students at elite colleges not to read the leaks, or they won’t get jobs at State. As if anyone who isn’t curious to read what is in the leaks, who doesn’t want to know how diplomacy actually works, is anyone State should hire. In a sane world, the reaction would be the opposite: no one who hadn’t read them would be hired.

This is reminiscent of the way the old Soviet Union worked, with everyone being forced to pretend they don’t know what they absolutely do know, and blind conformity prized over ability.

Brian Eno writing in the Guardian in 2003 about propaganda in the USSR vs in the West.

When I first visited Russia, in 1986, I made friends with a musician whose father had been Brezhnev’s personal doctor. One day we were talking about life during ‘the period of stagnation’ – the Brezhnev era. ‘It must have been strange being so completely immersed in propaganda,’ I said.

‘Ah, but there is the difference. We knew it was propaganda,’ replied Sacha.

That is the difference. Russian propaganda was so obvious that most Russians were able to ignore it. They took it for granted that the government operated in its own interests and any message coming from it was probably slanted – and they discounted it.

In the West the calculated manipulation of public opinion to serve political and ideological interests is much more covert and therefore much more effective. Its greatest triumph is that we generally don’t notice it – or laugh at the notion it even exists.

But increasingly everyone know the emperor has no clothes and the government lies to us. So, we do notice it now. That’s why they’re getting so desperate, I think.