Saturday, 8 February 2014

LET THE INTERNET CLONE WARS BEGIN


Back in the dark old days of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was challenging America's unearned global supremacy, there was nothing that the Soviets wouldn't do to win. As an admittedly more backward country, this involved copying and, in fact, stealing a lot of ideas from the West. A wide range of Soviet products were simply clones of Western ones.

The Makarov 9mm Pistol was a rip-off of the German Walther 9mm Ultra, the Soviet Gaz Mini Truck was a Ford AA truck without the Ford logo, the Tupolev TU-4 bomber was simply a steal of the Boeing B-29, and the Vyatka moped, was an all too humble tribute to the mighty Vespa. The list is endless.

Even notable Soviet innovations, like the T-34 tank and AK 47 assault rifle involved a bit of gentle idea pilfering from the American Christie tanks of the 1930s and Hugo Schmeisser’s Sturmgewehr 44.

This mimetic skill of the Russians is for me best symbolized by Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris, which itself is a tangential rip-off of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001.”

In Solaris the mysterious planet is able to effortlessly synthesize whatever it reads from the memories of the human occupants of the space station orbiting it, occasionally getting the scale wrong (giant baby) or forgetting to add a zip to the dress of the simulacrum of Kris Kelvin’s dead wife.

So, the Russians definitely have the skill to rip off the West. A case could even be made that their country is essentially one giant clone of Viking freebooting, Mongol badassery, Byzantine Imperialism, and Greek Christianity with a top layer of post-Renaissance Europeanization, but that is outside the scope of this humble essay, which is more concerned with the new Cold War developing between Russia and the West.

Such contests are no longer fought by massing tanks, pointing missiles, and going to the Moon as they once were. Instead they are fought through soft power; and power comes no softer or more insidious than the internet, a realm overwhelmingly controlled by the USA and its attendant search-engine, information, and social media companies, such as Twitter, Facebook Wikipedia, and Google, which also owns Youtube.

The ways in which this power is exerted for ideological and political ends was highlighted recently by Google changing its "Google doodle" logo to a rainbow flag, the agreed symbol of homosexual cultural and social hegemony in the West. This was done to protest at the sexual equality enjoyed by heterosexual people in Russia, where homosexuality is not yet a privileged form of sexual perversity as it is in the West.

This is just one way that the internet is used to project the ideology and political power of the West, which believes in homosexualism not so much for its own sake but as a corrosive to be introduced into societies it is seeking to weaken and subjugate.

The internet is also a vital propaganda tool, designed to give the illusion of complete freedom and choice while subtly and not so subtly skewing narratives, censoring information (Wikipedia on Race), and restricting opinion: Facebook routinely bans members and deletes pages that do not fit in with its Liberal hegemonist viewpoint.

In view of this and in the light of Russia’s past history of cloning Western technology, it would seem logical for Russia to accept the challenge presented by the West’s enormous soft power in these areas by effectively cloning international versions of Google, Facebook, and Youtube.

This need not even infringe any copyrights as the functionality of these companies is a lot less complex than that needed in even a simple piece of machinery, and, in fact, many variants of the main social media technologies already exist. A good template for this foray into soft power is Russia Today, a rolling news channel that is clearly modelled on Western models like CNN and Fox.

What would required would be a commitment by Russia to create and host social media sites that had the same functionality and international appeal as its American rivals, but with the added bonuses of guaranteeing free speech and avoiding political gestures, like Google’s gay banner, and excessive advertising.

In the coming years, in an effort to avoid collapsing through its inherent contradictions, the West will increasingly turn to soft totalitarianism. It will exert its tyranny indirectly through compliant companies rather than the extreme measure of shutting down the internet, which would itself be a sign of impending collapse. For this reason having a safe and politically unbiased space on the internet to channel dissent will become increasingly important. Russia stands to gain a lot by helping to provide this.

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