An Iron Firewall Descends Across the Continent
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
–George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905
Paul Goble, surely one of the most essential Russia correspondents in the world today (and for that reason surely one of the most endangered), reported on Christmas eve about the escalating efforts of Vladimir Putin’s jack-booted Kremlin to crush Russia’s internet, the last remaining vestige of real information in the country. What we are seeing before our eyes is the repetition of history, and those both within and outside Russia who will once again stand idly by as an Iron Firewall descends across the contintent richly deserve the brutal suffering they will experience when the monstrosity finally clanks into position.
Citing Russian sources Goble says that, in the wake of the sensational protests against curtailing automobile imports that broke out recently in Vladivostok, the Kremlin has moved from launching furtive denial-of-service attacks on opposition websites like Grani.ru to a “new and more active role” in which KGB officers “visited the moderators of the ru_auto Internet community and asked that they not post stories about the automobile protests, visits that intimidated some but encouraged others to go public.”
Given Moscow’s efforts to control reporting on Vladivostok – the OMON beat journalists who were there to the point that several were hospitalized and the central electronic media have downplayed that and the events surrounding it – these official “visits” should come as no surprise given the importance of the ru_auto community on the RUnet. At present, that community united approximately 10,000 Living Journal users and includes from 10 to 100 new posts a day. And over the last few days, it has, in the words of kontury.ru become “an important center for the dissemination of information about protest actions” by automobile owners concerning Moscow’s boosting of import duties on foreign cars.
The response of the Russian bloggers has been to gradually move their hosting offshore. Goble reports on one blogger’s chilling observation:
If a site is still hosted in Russia, he continued, it will be subject to official pressure both directly and via its hosting company, just as would have been the case for the Bolsheviks in pre-Soviet times, if their newspaper “’Iskra’ would have been published in a typography” operated by the Okhrana, the tsar’s secret police.
How can the world stand idly by and watch Russian history repeat itself? How can the wordl possibly allow a whole new generation of Russians to be forced underground, terrorized and liquidated, waiting only for the day when the malignant ogre in the Kremlin turns its wicked eye towards them before taking action? How is it possible that the world has not learned its lesson from its first experience with Soviet Russia?
These are the questions we are asking, and we are not getting satisfying answers from our so-called leaders, especially not from President-elect Obama, whose silence in the face of this crackdown is almost as chilling as the crackdown itself. Where are his liberal values? Where is his purported courage and leadership?
We are waiting to see them.