Ever Google yourself? Weird! I did it this morning to test an idea for this blog, and I found the usual stuff — Wikipedia, Trinity press releases, some screeds against me by people I’ve never met. I also found images of “Pat McGuire” that make me so much happier to be me. See above.
No, I’m not being narcissistic today, but rather, setting up this piece about the member of China’s Politburo who went gonzo when he went Googling. Poor fella, he didn’t realize that the Internet is the ultimate free speech excursion where anybody can say just about anything about anyone. Surprise! He found some stuff on Google that was critical of him!! Li Changchun is, mind you, the “propaganda chief” for China, meaning that he is in charge of disinformation for the government. And he didn’t know about Google until now?
But for those crazy folks at Wikileaks, we would not know this fabulous story of the culture clash between — well, is it East v. West, or Old v. Young, or Techs v. Techphobes — let’s say, the latest example of the culture clash between government control and individual freedom in China. When Mr. Li discovered the unkind entries about him on Google, he directed a massive “denial of service” attack on Google’s servers as well as a stepped-up campaign to limit Google’s presence in China. All of this is disclosed among the hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables in the Wikileaks release last week.
Oddly, according to the New York Times story, the Chinese government’s conclusion from all of this is that, ultimately, the Internet is controllable. Good luck with that!
Meanwhile, closer to home, the American government is having a fit about the exposure of diplomatic fits of pique and other items that should have remained classified and cloaked. So, in a somewhat futile effort to control information that is now all over the place, the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Defense, White House and other agencies of government have sent official notices to government workers that they may not read or discuss any classified documents that might be on the front page of the Washington Post or elsewhere. “Classified is classified” regardless of whether the document is available in plain sight. Go figure.
Wikileaks’ behavior is reprehensible, to be sure, and possibly criminal, yes. However, after the leaks, we are now watching an fascinating exercise as governments everywhere try to figure out how to put the knowledge back under the cloak. Better to try to bottle up the oceans. The messy and uncomfortable fact of freedom is that people might actually wind up knowing more about governments than governments want them to know. And, like it or not, if you’re a public figure there might be some unhappy views about you right out there on Google.
Or, you might be confused with…
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