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In 1949, George Orwell wrote a book intended to shock the world. Having made some observations about current governmental and societal trends (as well as some insights about past history), he wrote his predictions (or warnings) of what life may very well be like thirty five years in the future. The piece depicted a totalitarian government which oppressed its people, mind washed them in masses, and closely monitored them for "thought crimes" in the fashion of the medieval Inquisitions. News and history were written- and re-written- at need, and the dissemination of such false information was actively enforced.
The title of that work was 1984, a date which now seems many lifetimes in the past. When that year came and went, most Americans sighed in relief when the infamous "Big Brother" had made no obvious appearance. These Americans did not then (and often do not now) know that depth-psychologists are writing their favorite television commercials (see The Hidden Persuaders, by Vance Packard). Nor do they spend much time considering the statistical systems that inform lawmakers and corporate CEOs alike what, in general, they are doing, how they are spending their money, and where their loyalties rest. At the same time, most Americans get their news from corporations that are deeply invested in so-called "conservative" agendas; the economic and political interests of these corporations dictate what is reported and what is not; and a lot of what looks like journalism is actually verbatim regurgitation of press releases composed by PR firms.
These same Americans have not bat an eyelid at the militarization of our police force, or the flooding of our prisons with human beings who have harmed no one. (Today, this is including children who do not "dress properly.") Perhaps worst of all, they remain in blissful ignorance of what is happening to their children every day in a State-enforced "education system," or what is being taught to them from State-written history books.
Ignorance, of course, was the keyword for Orwell's 1984, where "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength." Ignorance of facts is what allowed his mythical "bureaucratic dictatorship" to maintain its lofty position and utter social control. It is this same ignorance, right here in the real world, that has brought our once-beautiful land to the brink of ruin through conflict both internal and external. When I closed the back cover of 1984, I felt what I believe the author had intended to make me feel: hopelessness. It was the feeling of being helpless in the face of a large and hostile enemy; a bully who attacks without provocation- a Big Dog exerting power over little dogs. Orwell seemed to be asking, If you let things go this far, what could you possibly hope to do about it? However, fifty years after George Orwell left us to our own devices, there exists a new social factor which he never considered, nor ever could have conceived: the Internet and World Wide Web.
The year is now 1999. In a matter of months the 20th century will be a thing of the past for humanity. The Industrial Age is thankfully (and painfully) giving way to a new era- currently hailed as the "Information Age." What this means is that ignorance is quickly becoming an endangered species. As I sit here writing these words, we are witnessing the onset of the Great Awakening which mystics and philosophers have predicted for centuries, though it is taking a form such philosophers had not counted upon. The name of this game is COMMUNICATION.
News can now circle the globe in minutes; and traditional propaganda- though it can spread just as quickly- seems to be largely unequipped to survive in this new environment. The world is climbing to unimagined heights of prosperity as commerce and trading entrench themselves upon the World Wide Web. Those businesses which rely upon up-to-the-minute reports are now enjoying real time (up-to-the-second) information, free of rumors added by middle men along the grapevine. Families, social groups, and sub-cultures are no longer restricted by geographical location, nor are they destroyed by dispersion. Scholarship and research has achieved an all-time high, because new studies and discoveries made by once-isolated individuals are now being shared, discussed, and debated on a global level as they occur. Political forces are currently suffering their worst nightmare: a general populace that can make their voices heard on any issue, en masse, within a matter of hours. In the past, most of these issues would have never reached the awareness of the public at all.
The power of human beings operating together- with no obstacles of distance, time, or third parties between them- is an awesome thing to behold. The internet is dissolving all social and political boundaries, and has, in my opinion, already made them irrelevant. Elite minorities- such as ruling bodies and corporate leaders- have no place within the egalitarian global community forming now in cyberspace. In fact, a list of those aspects of human culture rendered obsolete by this new technology would be far too long for this short piece.
And what of Big Brother? Right now he is sweating over his job security. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is on record stating that computers are "weapons of mass destruction." The empty media myth of "cyber-terrorism," which is supposed to make us happy to accept complete government monitoring of the Internet, heavy handed censorship, and a ban on private (encrypted) communication, reflects the real terror of corrupt officials whose nasty little secrets are being moved one by one into a well lit house of glass.
What makes this so exciting is that all of the above is present tense; it is all happening at this moment. I have not even breached the subject of predictions for the future. As a popular "Generation-X" song proclaimed in the early 1990s, we are right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history!
Indeed, history was made in the period from November 30th through December 3rd, 1999. It was at this time that humanity took a giant leap forward (moreso than any lunar landing), and made itself just a little more worthy of the approaching 21st century.
As you may recall, these were the days over which the World Trade Organization (WTO) attempted to hold a summit in Seattle, Washington to decide the future fate of Earth government. Like something out of a conspiracy theory or a science fiction movie, this "trade federation" hoped to create a singular global economy, with itself at the helm as sovereign dictator. You and I were to have no say whatsoever in their decisions. They are not America- but a confederation of 135 nations who answer to no single government or constitution. (If you are unfamiliar with what the WTO is, and what it stands for, you need only do a search of the Web- just as you can do with nearly any subject you wish to study. You will know all you wish to know without ever leaving your home and without relying on any singular source or "official" authority.)
When the WTO delegates arrived in Seattle, they were horrified to discover that "the masses" had turned out to oppose them. Thousands of protesters from around the world had descended upon the downtown area and blockaded the World Trade Center where the meeting was to take place. While few people are against the admittedly good idea of opening free trade between nations, the Seattle protesters (along with the majority of the country) feel there should be "No Globalization Without Representation." The Washington and Seattle police forces (having organized and trained SWAT forces well beforehand) were dispatched to correct the situation; violence ensued, and the rest- as they say- is history.
Television and print media responded, quite frankly, as we have come to expect from them: they lied. They lied quickly, methodically, and consistently- so as to suggest their procedures were common. In fact, they reported the incident in the same manner as they had reported the civil and human rights demonstrations of the 1960s. The protesters were instantly demonized, small incidents of vandalism were sensationalized, and the inappropriate actions of police officers were negated entirely
According to their reports, the protesters were little more than malcontents and anarchists- many decked out in black fatigues and ski masks. While spouting the usual party line about ecology and human rights, these people proceeded to destroy and loot Seattle businesses, and even turned upon each other in bloody riots. Images flashed across our television screens and newspapers of vandals kicking in windows, stampedes of humans, injured individuals falling to the ground, and resisters attacking police officers. Meanwhile, the police were reported as having responded with nothing but peace in mind. They were as lenient as possible given the situation (entirely too lenient in the opinions of many reporters). It was made very clear that these anarchists were merely interested in destruction and looting, and in fact had no worthwhile message to relate.
Only a few short years, perhaps even mere months, before this time, the "official" media would have succeeded in this calculated demonization. (The term for this practice, when implemented by foreign nations, is known as "Yellow Journalism," and has been a very important aspect of many war machines.) The protesters would have returned home with a battle won (the disrupting of the WTO summit), but with the war all but lost. The WTO would have increased in popularity and perhaps been pushed that much more swiftly into power. However, alas for the WTO and the Washington/Seattle police forces, this occurred in late 1999- the very same holiday season noted for mass population movement onto the Internet (in the form of e-commerce). As I logged on to do my own Christmas shopping, my monitor was flooded with dozens upon dozens of e-mails, posts, and mailing list discussions about the WTO and the Seattle incident. Before this, I had admittedly known little about the subject in general. Suddenly, however, I had all of the information I could digest- complete with active links to further info on the Web. More letters arrived in bulk every day.
What interested me the most was not the information on the dictatorial World Trade Organization (though this info is vital!). Instead, I was fascinated with the letters written by citizens of Seattle and the protesters themselves. These people went home after crushing the WTO summit and began typing. Each one of them told his or her story, and attached only one request: Please forward this, and post it to news servers.
Within mere hours, the entire world knew the truth of the Seattle incident. Eyewitness accounts arrived from every conceivable direction- all of them unrelated. Important facts, conveniently ignored by official reports, immediately came to light. For instance, it became apparent that the protesters in Seattle had not acted in violence. Many of the groups present were trained in the "arts" of protesting, including how to react properly (non-aggressively) to police hostility. Many of them stood with arms linked to block entrances to the summit building, while others performed marches through downtown. When threatened, the protesters would sit on the ground and link arms. Against this "civil threat" the police riot squads made use of pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, wooden pellets, "flashbang" grenades, and three-foot oak batons. Amnesty International is further concerned with victims' descriptions of symptoms which may stem from unauthorized neurotoxins (supposedly "non lethal" incapacitating nerve gas).
Conditions for the five hundred or so people arrested during this time, and incarcerated in King County jail, were no better. These political prisoners were stuffed into overcrowded cells, treated generally as animals, and beaten whenever they refused to comply with commands (such as refusing to give their names). Asking to see a lawyer resulted in further beatings and humiliations.
There were some truly fascinating stories from the downtown Seattle streets as well. We found that the protesting proceeded for twelve hours, in the face of such police brutality, before the oft-reported riots broke out. When they did, they were small localized affairs; being quelled not by police, but by the protesters themselves! According to many reports, the vandals smashed windows within sight of police officers who absolutely refused to stop or confront them. (Those familiar with similar "riots" during the civil rights demonstrations of the 60s are very familiar with this tactic.)
Personally, I did at first expect to receive some false information about these events. My reading of the first few letters was done in a spirit of skepticism- as should always be the case in an environment of free-communication. However, my skepticism grew weaker with each account I reviewed. Not a single account differed from those before it. Not one time did the story given by the dozens of independent eyewitnesses change. Specific events, actions on the part of the police, protesters and others, specified locations- all of these things were corroborated by source after unrelated source. To myself, and apparently to the rest of the world, the actions of the Washington/Seattle police were proven by witnesses as surely as if they had testified in a court of law. Over the weeks and months to come, many of these stories will make it into courts of law, and individuals will be called upon to answer for them.
This "internet backlash" has accomplished many wondrous things. By Thursday, December 2nd (merely two days after the summit began) we saw the Seattle chief of police, Norm Stamper, resign in disgrace. Within days, investigations into the actions of the police force had begun. (Amnesty International is making a particularly big fuss over this one.) The general American media has been exposed for what it is, and folks like you and me have learned as fact that we no longer need rely on them at all.
On a more global level, the WTO was finally shoved into the public limelight- resulting in the utter destruction of its credibility. Many smaller countries, who had previously been bullied by larger WTO nations, were inspired by the courage of the heroes of Seattle to take a stand and oppose the Organization. Larger WTO nations turned away in disgust at the American government's "inability to control its people." Finally, and most importantly, the Internet itself made its social influence known in a very large way (not only in reporting the actual events that took place, but even well beforehand in publicizing/organizing the protest and facilitating travel connections for the protestors). The Internet has undeniably become a tangible factor in politics and social awareness, and all signs indicate that its influence (and thus the influence of the people) will grow exponentially over the next few years.
The global community of planet Earth, organized as it is within the realm of cyberspace, sent a glaring message to our world's governments in December of 1999. That message, and the events which surrounded it, should be recorded in every future textbook on world-history:
THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING
Welcome to the Information Revolution.
Copyright © 1999 C. "Aaron Jason" Leitch
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