In Chapter 3, Morozov suggests that the entertainment aspects of the Internet have the effect of redirecting people’s attention away from politics, and that smart authoritarian regimes take advantage of this. He illustrates this with examples ranging from Russia’s “The Tits Show,” widespread Chinese access to Lost, pornography in Vietnam, and the airing of Avatar in Cuba. He also alludes to East Germans being able to watch West German and American escapist TV in the 80s and claims that it created LESS pressure toward political activism. Video games, YouTube … all serve to distract along the lines of Aldous Huxley’s visions for the future.
He also says that many major intellectuals in Russia seem remarkably depoliticized and that the Internet has allowed scientific research to flourish in places like China. “All potential revolutionaries seem to be in a pleasant intellectual exile somewhere in California,” he notes. Note: Morozov himself is a visiting professor at Stanford University.
Questions for discussion:
1) Morozov frets that consumerism overshadows democracy, when communication channels to both are opened. Do you agree that this is a major concern?
2) What do you think about Morozov’s discussion of the “Orwell-Huxley spectrum” of looking at modern totalitarianism? Given that each wrote many decades ago, is there a better, more contemporary vision of the future political landscape?
3) Morozov has a great quote, “That Big Brother no longer has to be watching its citizens because they themselves are watching ‘Big Brother’ on TV hardly bodes well for the democratic revolution.” But is this accurate, or is it just a clever turn of phrase?
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