In Chapter 2, Morozov illustrates the tendency of many pundits and politicians to analogize the current power of new technologies with the fall of the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain regimes. He points to Hilary Clinton’s 2010 Internet Freedom speech in which she discusses blogs as the new “samizdat” and others claiming that fax machines helped lead to communism’s downfall.
Morozov claims the analogies are inapt for at least two reasons. First, he says, “information” certainly wasn’t the sole – or even primary – factor in 1989. The Soviet Union’s internal structural issues, plus Gorbachev’s policies, meant they were no longer willing to provide military support to help other countries stifle protesters. Radio Free Europe and Voice of America existed for decades while totalitarianism continued more or less unabated.
Second, he notes that regimes today are often savvier about how they engage with new technologies, an issue which he continues to explore in the rest of the book.
Questions for discussion:
1) Morozov says “To argue that it was the photocopies that triggered change in Russia and then the rest of the region is to engage in such a grotesque simplification of history that one may as well abandon practicing history altogether.” Do you agree that the end of the Cold War is being written incorrectly? If so, how?
2) Morozov discusses various analogies that people make between the Berlin Wall and “cyberwalls” and claims that such thinking can lazy and counterproductive when discussing technologies that are much more interactive and fluid than ever before. However, analogies to historical precedent certainly are important in any reading of current events. Are there better analogies we can use to look at both modern authoritarianism and modern technology?
Chapter 1 – The Google Doctrine
Chapter 2 – Texting Like It’s 1989
Chapter 3 – Orwell’s Favorite Lolcat
Chapter 4 – Censors and Sensibilities
Chapter 5 – Hugo Chavez Would Like to Welcome You to the Spinternet
Chapter 6 – Why the KGB Wants You to Join Facebook
Chapter 7 – Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism
Chapter 8 – Open Networks, Narrow Minds
Chapter 9 – Internet Freedoms and Their Consequences
Chapter 10 – Making History (More Than a Browser Menu)
Chapter 11 – The Wicked Fix