We must find a way to reason with the internet brigade

November 21, 2012

“Gentlemen, if war is inevitable in the internet. Then I think we have to make every effort to explore all diplomatic avenues to avert it. We need a face to face meeting with the decision makers who have launched this cracked brain idea. We need to impress upon them the gravity of this matter along with bringing to their attention how this will only serve to fuel a classical Richardson arms race online. We need to sit them down on a table in a clearing in an oil palm estate at dawn and reason with them as best we can. As to why it pays out nought to prosecute this war online. As a war in the internet is a costly, time consuming and destructive enterprise and no one can really win it decisively. At best it will a Phyrric victory. At the very worst, it will degenerate into a war of materiale attrition that will only exacerbate mistrust and destroy everything that is good about the internet. Either way one chooses to cut it – it is lose/ lose – It is really only a matter of losing big or small that is all.

Now I happen to believe these people who run the internet brigade must have approval at an executive level to do what they are doing – otherwise how could they have possibly manipulated the propaganda machine to promote that train driver. Along with arranging for him to have a chit chat with ministers. So let us not kid ourselves – these people do have a copper clad mandate from the custodians in power and they are definitely not the lunatic fringe. There is every reason to believe, they have very clear and defined goals along with perhaps a coherent method to accomplish their primary objective.

Now Gentlemen, even if all diplomatic efforts to avert war fails – all is not lost. As even under those dire circumstances, we can still negotiate for both sides to buy into the rules of ngagement to prosecute this war in a civilized way. As without civility even in war – hell will be unleashed.

As a sign of good will, we will blank out all that we know of the train driver and his motley crew. You have my solemn word as a gentlemen. Hopefully, from this, they are able to make out that we are prepared to live and let and live. Only moving forward. We need to sit down in the real world. Not the virtual or in Facebook. As I really do not believe they know what they are getting into – Gentlemen, this is a matter of great urgency not only for the internet, but also for the well being of Singapore as well.

We need to set aside our emnity and mistrust and sit down and talk like human beings. Otherwise there is clear and present danger all this will go out of control and we will all be reduced to animals.

Gentlemen, I have seen this carnage unfold in the vast expanse of the China blogoland before – and I must tell you all, it is not a very handsome sight. Now all that remains is for us to find a way where we can sit down and discuss this matter like civilized folk.”

Excerpt of a conversation somewhere in the Great Hall of the Temple of Reason in Primus Aldentes Prime – relayed by the Dimitri Class Space Station KDD Eng Neo – courtesy of the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.


‘When you look at the Chinese firewall today – what you really need to understand is it’s really a mega project in every practical sense of the word. To understand how this giant digital panopticon came about. What you need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the mathematical model of how an arms race is triggered, in this case between the citizenry and the communist hegemony – its not as simple as Annie get your gun’s, “anything you can do, I can do better.” That unfortunately is how most lay people see the whole idea of an arms race – if you speak to someone who is numerate and has a flair for numbers. What they will actually tell you is that it is not a straight linear graph line that keeps going upwards in perpetuity based on always logical reasons or even trade offs – as a certain point in any arms race, even the raison detre or goal begins to liquify from something absolute to perhaps only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitor. And when this point is reached what invariably transpires is goals, missions and visions begin to blur imperceptibly to a point where both sides can’t even tell you why they are doing the things they do – in other words, other interest take over just as perhaps defense companies have every incentive to perpetuate the whole idea that governments need to always buy better killing machines and one reason for that is because the institutions that are responsible for the arms race begins to get so big that they are able to exert a disproportionate influence on the whole supply chain of interest and sub interest. Now this is something that I noticed first hand when China began dabbling with the ways to engineer consent online when they struggled to get a handle on the advent of the internet – in the early days the Chinese government were particularly inventive to the point of recklessness and they experimented with a host of models to engineer consent. Everything from starting fake blogs to popularize policies to white washing undesirable aspects of their administration. This is perfectly understandable as the internet must have been very scary thing to the leadership when it first made its appearance in China. But one of their critical mistakes that sparked off the internet arms race was when they dabbled in this form of electronic zoo keeping what they did was instead of allowing the internet to grow organically into a online community, they sparked off an arms race that finally culminated in the creation of the great Chinese firewall.

What is significant here is to understand that the Chinese firewall was not actually conceived as an apparatus of censorship per se. Rather it had to be created to interdict many of the threats brought forth my their covert policy of trying to engineer consent online – by promulgating the idea that it was possible to elevate the whole idea engineering consent into a science through online survelliance. What they inadvertently created was counter survelliance.

One reason why the citizenry were able to successfully to develop digital tools to counter covert state policies was because there was already a relatively mature online gaming community within China who could easily retrofit many of their programs to serve as countermeasures – and this precipitated a shift where gamers turned their code writing skills to counter government efforts to control the online community thus creating the need for a firewall. During the infancy of the internet in China, amongst these gamers who regularly created these countermeasures there was no real mission to speak about except probably the notion of trying to out smart the system. Along with probably exposing the many of the Potemkin sites created by the Chinese internet brigade masquerading as either anti government forums or some Bohemian underground hide out – and the government for its part began to up the ante by pouring men and materiele to keep up with this new underground class of mavericks. Now what you need to understand is these aren’t your ordinary crop of gamers. In today’s terms they are probably your level 70 World of Warcraft championship gamers – of importance here is a need to understand these ronins don’t move alone in the virtual. They have guilds along with the entire network. The arms race between netizens and the communist regime really only spiked when improvements in technology allowed them to network with foreign gamers who suddenly began to drop what they were playing when they realized drilling holes in the Chinese firewall offered a far more exciting gaming experience – this in turn forced the government to spend more money building higher walls that stretched further to interdict these networks. so in effect, when we talk about the Chinese fire wall today and try to understand why it is so big as to even defy all attempts at trying to scale it – what you really need to understand is, these idiots actually created the best game in the whole world. A game that is so highly evolved that it even comes complete with a fully functioning economy that is able to reward and renumerate anyone in the world that can actually provide a better code to serve as an electronic countermeasure as the latest drill bit, grappling hook or tunnelling kit to any Chinese who wants to take a chance on scaling it.

What needs to be emphasized here is gaming isn’t really gaming as it remains a very good training ground to spawn perhaps the most proficient cyber savvy sleuths – this is especially the case for those who know not only how to play games but also have the added knowledge to write code. To accelerate the arms race between citizens and the communist government to renewed heights. Many of these gamers had no problem buying codes and programs that could allow them to by pass the Chinese fire wall. Gaming platforms just like perhaps the fabled ghetto became centers of distribution and forums where code writers could exchange valuable know how with foreign code writers – this proved expedient for most Chinese code writers as they could pay for digital countermeasures in monopoly money – the sums transacted were not by any means small . Not when one consider that the cummulative transactions that occured in a game like Norrath during the 90’s was equivalent to the GNP of Russia – many of these foreign code writers had no problem creating clearing houses in the virtual to convert monopoly money into real money by either selling virtual gold or laundering them through e-bay. Fast forward today, when we talk about the Chinese firewall in the gaming context it’s no longer just a problem between Chinese citizens and the state any longer, it has really become an enterprise of sorts. Coupled with the illicit thrill of taking on Goliath that has to be a very exciting business proposition to anyone who knows how to write code. Not when one considers taking on the Chinese firewall is really the ultimate game that demands the highest level of cerebral fitness. A game that even comes with real penalties of languishing in a Chinese jail. A game that if played well can even make you into a multi millionaire (tax free) and above all, a game that you know, that everyone is probably just as good as you. No weekend warriors. Strictly for professionals only like the solid gold VIP roulette wheel of the Casino de Monte Carlo where it is not uncommon to find that creed of man who will risk everything on one throw of the dice – perhaps even the only game in town Gentlemen.

A game that today the Chinese government has no other choice but to continue playing 24/7. If it wants to remain in power. Because if one day, they decide not to play the game – it’s really game over for the whole lot of them. As this is the only way to contain the malevolent forces. The only to keep the lid on Pandora’s box. And this is really the worst case scenario for any government. The sum of all their fears even gentlemen – so I hope this explains why when we speak of the Chinese firewall, context is vital – it is not primary a means of filtering information. As it remains the only tool for the Communist regime to prevent the free and unfettered import and export of code writing information that would erode their hold on power.

And we are beginning to see the first chapters of this game being played out in blogoland in Singapore. Most people don’t see it; they wouldn’t even recognize it, if it came right up and plonked themselves in their computer screens. This is because the social political blog scene has largely developed organically relatively free from government inspired covert actions. Regrettably of late there has been a shift. We are beginning to see a host of Potemkin sites and even renewed efforts by government to project online using methods which are closely associated with spycraft.

Only governments should understand this! Spycraft begets spycraft! Online surveliance begets counter survelliance! Information gathering begets disinformation! Unleashing the internet brigade begets a counter insurgency force etc. My point is for every action there is a reaction. Now do you all understand why this best explained in terms of an arms race? As things never ever stay the same. Especially when governments are dumb enough to muck around with things they don’t fully understand. Neither is there a shortage of expertise or experiential knowledge either in Singapore or for that matter elsewhere that cannot gainfully make sense of government covert attempts to create a beach head in the online world.

Keep life simple. If you want to project into blogoland. Just be yourself. If you are not too confident with the level of risk. Then stay where you are. No need to create Potemkin sites masquerading as bona fide aggregators (that incidentally take the weekend off) or bloggers to forward a hidden agenda. Keep life simple. Just be comfortable in your own skin and be yourself. Otherwise there is always a danger that someone who has seen all this before and much more will just come along and put you all in your place – and where will you really be then?”

Excerpt of a conversation captured somewhere in the super structure of the Deep Space Free French Tiberius class Starcruiser – Les Enfants Du Paradis – relayed by the IMG.

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