Friday, January 28, 2011

The Not-So-Violent Toll Of Internet Shutdowns

So today you can hardly turn on the media without hearing about Egypt. Protests, riots, tear gas, police cowering on rooftops... the works. One other noteworthy thing is that Egypt’s internet access has been shut down according to multiple sources, such as here. Now, this internet blackout isn’t noteworthy because it happened. It’s the response that’s noteworthy. This was brought to my attention by @BurbDoc on the Twitters. As he puts it, Iran shuts down Internet, we get our panties in a wad. AssMubarak does the same shit, we DO NOTHING.

As anyone on Twitter or Facebook can tell you, when Iran shut down internet access last year, vast swathes of humanity protested the lack of access. Thousands put up little green avatars (reminiscent of Iran’s flag) in “support” of their internet-deprived Iranian brethren. But as @BurbDoc puts so succinctly (which is kind of necessary in the 140 characters Twitter gives you), we who are flush with internet service now collectively say “Egypt’s internet is off? Oh, okay.”

I have no words of wisdom or inspiring quotes from Mohandas Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus or Mohammed to quell the riots. I have no special insight into Egyptian thinking. In fact, I don’t even know what the Egyptian uproar is about (and I’d wager that the vast majority of Americans don’t either). But I do have a great imagination. And my imagination brings me to a special place where I envision the rest of the worlds’ reaction should various countries be deprived of internet access. 

For example, if the headlines read “American Internet Access Shut Down!” the country would be in turmoil. A deep, sonorous hue and cry would be voiced. But since there’s no internet access, the voices would carry no farther than the next room, since no one could post their indignance on Facebook. The rest of the world would cry out against the shutdown, but secretly rejoice that the USA isn’t taking up all the bandwidth with their silly ignorance. China would offer us expensive, long-distance dialup internet, which we’d happily pay for.

“United Kingdom Loses Internet!” The rest of the world would protest the blackout, citing England’s long history of contributions to the world’s intellectual knowledge base (but forgetting that Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Mann are also part of the UK). The people of the UK would grumble mightily, but only over many, many drinks at the pub.

“Russia’s Internet Goes Dark!” The rest of the world offers condolences. “We’re so sorry for your loss,” they’d say, much as one uselessly offers the same line at a funeral while secretly hoping to sleep with the hot widow. The rest of the world quietly emails one another, saying it’s probably for the best that those Russians can’t get on the net.

“China Has No Internet!” The Chinese people are duped when the government immediately puts up fake “websites” that extol the virtues of China and Communism to which every Chinese internet user is rerouted. World of Warcraft gold farmers go bankrupt, since the only people that buy their game-gold are other Chinese Warcraft players. In the rest of the world, the entire real global economy collapses.

“Sweden’s Internet Is Shut Off!” The rest of the world writes, emails and protests the appropriate parties until the steady stream of Swedish internet porn is restored.

“France No Longer Has Internet!” The French are saddened but quickly resolve themselves to their fate, accepting their national loss. The rest of the world brings them restored internet access. As usual.

“Ireland Can’t Get in the Internet!” The Irish people immediately assume it must be their own fault and confess their sins to whoever will listen. Fifty billion “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” later, the Irish feel better and celebrate and/or drown their sorrows at the local pub. But still no internet.

“Argentina Loses Internet Access!” Access is quickly restored when five billion soccer fans get rowdy over their inability to check up on their team.

“Brazil’s Internet Is Shut Off!” The gay community creates their own internet and ships the entire structure to South America specifically so Brazilian guys can restart transmitting their photos and webcams.

“No Internet in Italy!” Nobody notices. Including the Italians.

“India’s Internet Goes Dark!” The rest of the world, looking for customer support, also completely loses internet access. The dark ages resume globally.

“Jamaicans Can’t Get on the Internet!” The rest of the world says “Jamaica had internet?” Jamaicans say “We had internet?”