The rise of the Internet in the 1990s posed serious questions besides the sovereignty of the nation-state in the 21st century. It has introduced the role of Information as a fifth vector in the dynamics of Liberal Capitalist-style Free Trade, the other fourth being goods, services, labor and Kapital. Information, no matter how trivial or malicious, is capable of traveling across international borders on the Internet. So long as there is an Internet connection, there are no limits to where that Information is capable of heading. The consequences of its widespread availability are two-fold as everyday problems in the contemporary world as of late. Economic Nationalism and the proliferation of cybercrime and cyberterrorism will contribute to their effects and provide additional conditions favorable to the Splinternet.
The potential for the Internet to produce endless amounts of trivial Information has made certain corners of the Internet less known than others. That provided the impetus for the development of search engines and data analytics to record, collate, sort, and find Information more easily. The real problem is whenever its proliferation enables the spread of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and the proliferation of misconception and outright lies. The Coronavirus Pandemic alone has seen the intensification of conspiracy theories about who spread the Coronavirus strain and how it was allowed to spread beyond the PRC. In essence, the Internet has finally demonstrated itself to be a medium capable of proliferating all kinds of propaganda from State and Non-State Actors on a wartime scale, the motivations of which has been to find convenient scapegoats whenever COVID-19 infection rates surge.
The decision by Liberal Capitalist media outlets to invoke rhetorical comparisons to the “Spanish Flu” Pandemic from the United States is another example. It is noteworthy insofar as the ‘Spanish Flu’ came about during the final months of World War I. The analogy is dubious as the rhetoric was made at a time when no major conflict on the scale of the two World Wars is being fought by anyone. That has not stopped politicians within Parliamentary Democracies in the Western world from demagogically exploiting the Pandemic for their own electoral gains. If anything, this is a consequence of the preceding rise in Populist fervor throughout the 2010s, and as a survival move to maintain political legitimacy and credibility on the part of most parties.
An argument has been made that the wartime rhetoric among the leaders of various nation-states toward the Coronavirus Pandemic is an example of what Ernst Jünger once described as “Total Mobilization.” Granted, the Total Mobilization against the Coronavirus was handled by the Liberal Capitalists with sheer incompetence, especially since their regimes refused to implement the sort of measures employed by the PRC until COVID-19 breached their borders. The conclusion itself can be supported by the Russian COVID-19 vaccine being referred as “Sputnik V” in reference to the Sputnik satellite and inviting the comparison of the development for a vaccine to the Cold War-era space race. This too is discernible among the space race-like pursuits of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to rapidly develop a vaccine in 2020 and try to have it readily available by 2021. The same can be said for the expectation among Liberal Capitalists that a “V-Shaped Recovery,” comparable to the 1981-1982 Recession that Paul Volcker resolved by applying Monetarism, fell short of their speculations of a “limited war.”
Even so, the Internet has also allowed for all kinds of quack therapeutic methods of “curing” the symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone who has peddled them did so in order to exploit the Pandemic itself for the sake of Kapital. The fact that such people exist on the Internet is not the worst part; it is the fact that there have been anecdotal and actual cases of others taking their suggestions too seriously. A similar incidence has occurred in the attempts among some to create artificial scarcity of products ranging from semiconductors to toilet paper in order drive a higher Price for Kapital. The recent shortage in electronics dependent on semiconductors like the Sony PlayStation 5 is arguably the most notorious example.
Another problem associated with the World Wide Web is the proliferation of Malware. Malware has been around as far back as the death of Bretton Woods, but lacked the ability to spread across computer networks. Prior to the Internet, the only way Malware could spread is through the insertion of infected floppy disks into uninfected computers. The first one to demonstrate the potential for Malware to spread across international borders unimpeded was the “©Brain” developed by the Farooq Alvi brothers Amjad and Basit of Pakistan.
It was until after the advent of the WWW that whole arsenals of Malware have proliferated and grown increasingly destructive since the turn of the 21st century. Viruses, Worms, Trojans, Ransomware, Adware, Spyware, Rogue Software, Logic Bombs and so forth have been employed by State and Non-State Actors for all kinds of motives. Those who develop Malware and those who develop their countermeasures serve as additional contributors of Total Mobilization. The arms race in Malware no different than the World War II arms races between tanks and antitank weapons and aircraft and anti-aircraft weapons. It deserves to be treated as an issue of national defense rather than as a policing matter.
Together with the proliferation of trivial information and the inability of humanity to adapt without experiencing a sensory overload, it becomes inevitable to investigate the significance of the “Splinternet.” Rather than have everyone from every nation-state on Earth use the same computer networks, the Splinternet involves reasserting national sovereignty in the digital realm through nationalized networks called Intranets. An Intranet offers all of the advantages that a secured national border provides to the nation-state. Such a computer network is autarkic insofar as it can continue to operate despite being cut off from the broader Internet and has better chances of defending against Malware and subversive disinformation. There is also potential for an Internet to exist alongside the various Intranets that form the Splinternet, except its size and composition would be smaller and administrated by an international body under a Socialist world order. Until such a world order can be created for the Work-Standard, a nation-state should try to maintain its own Intranet and devise software against Malware and monitor the flow of information. The potential for a Splinternet on its own has always been a possibility since the WWW was made available to general public.
It is perfectly justifiable to be concerned about one’s privacy as governments develop more sophisticated systems for digital surveillance. Nobody really wants to be spied on if they have not done anything illegal within their online presence. In fact, prior to the 9/11 attacks, the technology for addressing privacy concerns while controlling the flow of information for Malware, propaganda and disinformation has existed as far back as the late 1990s. This is the “ThinThread” software developed by the National Security Agency (NSA), its capabilities still being exceptionally worthy of the Work-Standard. A 2007 Baltimore Sun article listed a few notable specifications:
Used more-sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and e-mail data to identify suspect communications.
Identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy.
Employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency.
Analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records.
As the article in question pointed out, ThinThread was abandoned after 9/11 in favor of TrailBlazer software, which later turned out to be inefficient and lacked the aforementioned benefits to privacy. This, along with the retiring of the F-14D Super Tomcat, remains as one of the controversial policy decisions by the US government on the basis of “Planned Obsolescence.” It is a lot easier to call any technology ‘obsolete’ if it does not serve Kapital.
Categories: Compendium, Philosophy, Politics
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