From the dreamy world of Grand Opera, now returning to the gritty and unpleasant world of international politics: I saw this piece in VZGLIAD, by reporter/analyst Anton Krylov.
Krylov’s theme is the recent actions by the Ukrainian government to block and censor popular social media sites, thus continuing the process of Ukraine’s downslide into political totalitarianism. Krylov goes to show how NATO’s justification for Ukraine’s egregious act of censorship only proves that NATO believes it is at war against Russia. Literally.
So, let us break this down. Here is a typical Westie news piece giving some context to the story.
One of the sites in question, VKontakte (VK) is the Russian-language equivalent of Facebook. VK is wildly popular in the Russian-speaking world, with everybody and their grandmother posting pictures of their cats. The Ukrainian rationale for banning VK was voiced by Ukrainian Parliament Deputy Volodymyr Ariev, arguing [quoting the Guardian piece] “that the social media networks were a security risk since Russian intelligence has access to their data and could gather information about Ukrainian users, including state employees and soldiers.”
This rationalization is not as ridiculous as it sounds. For example, if Russia were truly at war with the U.S., then no doubt the Russians would need to block Facebook on Russian soil, for much the same reasons. Wikileaks has proved that U.S. intelligence agencies use social networks, Google, Facebook, etc., to gather intelligence on users, including American citizens. Think about this: Every time you post your cat’s latest antic on your Facebook, and your friends respond with LOL’s, the NSA is gathering intelligence about you and your network of friends and family. It doesn’t matter if you are completely apolitical, they are not necessarily interested in you per se, nor your cat. To them, you are just a node in a vast topological map that is being created. A map which links all people, everywhere around the world. Between you and your apolitical cat, and some terrorist in Bahrain, there could be as few as 7 degrees of separation! Does everybody see what I am trying to say? The moral of the story is: Never use any social media! Never post your cat online!
Well, I’m not deluded, I realize that nobody will take my advice. The temptation to post pics of your pussy is simply too overwhelming for humans to resist. That battle was lost, long ago. Even though I personally continue to hold out, like a crusty Ted Kaczynski (a non-violent one, it goes without saying), and refuse to sign up for Facebook or VK — well, even I had to admit defeat and sign up for LinkedIn when the time came to switch jobs. Because you simply can’t find a white-collar job these days in the U.S. unless you are on LinkedIn!
Sadly, in this reality in which we are forced to live, everybody posts their shit online, and the only remaining question is, who benefits from our all-too human chattiness and propensity to gossip? The CIA/NSA or perhaps the intelligence services of some other nation? And by the way, would it be out of place here to also adduce a financial motive? After all, if VK’s lost customers sign up for Facebook, then that’s more cash in Mark Zuckerberg’s pocket. Not that I have anything against Zuckerberg, he actually seems like a decent chap. But you see what I am saying: There is money involved here — a LOT of money — in addition to politics and intelligence gathering.
Well, the choice of the Ukrainian government is obvious: They would prefer that all their citizens be enrolled in American-controlled social media. They justify the ban on Russian social media, as part and parcel of their other “sanctions” against Russian-owned businesses, banks, and IT providers.
Krylov asks ironically: Imagine what would be the outcry if Russia did something analogous and banned Ukrainian media! Everybody and their cat — the Russian Liberals, the Council of Europe, the leaders of France and Germany, the American State Department: Everybody would be up in arms and condemning Russia with loud shrill voices for its “undemocratic” practices. The outcry would be heard from here to eternity, and wake up the sleeping angels.
But when the Ukraine does this – hardly a peep! In fact, mostly just crickets from those same players. True, Human Rights Watch did squeak out a token objection to Ukraine’s egregious totalitarian censorship. HRW usually supports the pro-NATO countries against Russia no matter what they do, so this action must have crossed some red line, even for them.
But never mind about HRW and a few other meek, dissident voices. The important player here is NATO. And NATO fully approves of the Ukrainian action. According to NATO spokespersons, this is not a question of abstract “freedom of speech”. This is a question of war. In war time, censorship is not only permissible, but necessary!
Again, there is a logic to that position. If the world truly were at war. Which it isn’t right now, technically. But is pretty clear that NATO plans to follow in the same path as Napoleon and Hitler before it. Gearing up for a land war against Russia. In which case, the Ukraine is the litmus paper and the testing ground for what would ensue: namely, military censorship, curbs on Internet and other media.
I finish by translating in full a couple of Krylov’s concluding paragraphs:
We Have Heard You Loud And Clear
NATO’s unambiguous approval of this [Ukrainian] blocking [of Russian social media sites] permits us to make the unpleasant but, alas, only possible conclusion. Despite the numerous assurances to the effect that the bloc [NATO] is not directed against Russia, we can see that it, in fact, is. NATO perceives Russia precisely as an enemy, and will support any actions on the part of third countries which are directed against Russia.
Therefore, any condemnation of Kiev’s actions on the part of the Council of Europe hardly have serious import. When the Cannons speak, the Muses are silent. Even if just the cannons of the Cold War.
One cannot even entertain the notion that this ban on Ukrainian citizens receiving information from sources that they have become accustomed to, will entail even minimal consequences or sanctions on the part of the EU or the U.S. with its glorious “First Amendment”. When it needs to, Washington is very good at closing its eyes to total violations of freedom of speech — when it happens, for example, in America’s main ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia.
All the same, try to imagine in your mind what would happen, if the ban on popular sites came from the side of Russia, against the Ukrainian authorities…
Factually, Ukraine has turned itself, not even into a litmus test, but more like a calibrated gauge of the level of double standards employed by the West in relation to Russia. Right now now the arrow [of the gauge] is not necessarily at its maximum point, but very close to it.
Freedom of speech, freedom of business, any freedom in general, can be forgotten about, whenever it concerns actions which are directed against our country.
Thank you, we have heard you loud and clear!