The US State Department is financing a shadow internet for pro-democratic dissidents to circumvent internet blackouts. This technology should be available to Americans as well, whether by the US or our own dissidents.
Over the last year, a major preoccupation of mine has been the idea of an underground internet: something that cannot be touched by authorities.
The underground internet would be set up by American hackers who have no interest in selling their talents to the US government. A shadow internet that could be accessed if the American oligarchy of bankers and politicians can no longer convince us that our democracy works, such as when natural resources crash in the future. Think Tristero in Thomas Pynchon’s “Crying of Lot 49″ and the W.A.S.T.E. depositories for underground mail.
And though many revolutions have been made before the advent of the internet and social media, they are useful organizing tools. People will always find each other, but they find each other with greater velocity on the internet.
Well, it seems the US government is involved in just such a project, according to the New York Times. Except, of course, it is intended for foreign dissidents hoping to revolt for democratic change (and to open the floodgates for market forces to invade and develop the country’s economy according to western/American standards), allowing them to bypass the internet blackouts that occurred in Egypt and Libya, for example (helped along by western communications corporations like Videofone, who shut down its services on Mubarak’s order).
In fact, one of the pieces of technology would allow a shadow internet to be created from a James Bond-esque suitcase, and others would create the conditions for rogue cellular phone networks to exist.
Indeed, it is honorable for the US government through the State Department to fund shadow internet and cellular capabilities for foreign dissidents, but we should keep in mind that the US government doesn’t have the greatest track record in backing revolutions and counter-revolutions. This technology could no doubt fall into the hands of the wrong sort of dissidents, just as US arms fell into the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or how the same happened in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
And let us not forget that friendlier governments are better US trade partners and usually allow the US military to construct bases to impose its will in various regions in return for weapons or other sorts of kick-backs. (Think: Saudi Arabia).
This “liberation technology,” as it is now being called by those involved and in the media, is certainly a great ethical and moral use of technology. The idea has its parallel in liberation theology, a Christian philosophical stance that seeks to liberate the poor from oppressive economic, political and social conditions, which got it labeled by opponents as merely another form of Marxism.
It should be noted that if America were ever on the precipice of revolution itself, US authorities would rather quickly implement an internet blackout and change their tune on underground or “shadow” internets. Liberation technology would then become a terrorist technology and tool, as the government would make a semantic switch into symbolic language to frighten the masses.
And though the US government would hardly be sympathetic to an underground internet in a future American revolution, the masses could probably depend on a network of hackers to lay the foundations of one; that is, if one or many don’t already exist in some form, waiting for the time when this American republic truly and finally loses its bearings.