Until now, most states have been able to sit back and shrug their shoulders to the Iranian government and let the BBC and Gordon Brown take all the blame:
‘We’d love to help, but what can we do? Those pesky global Twitterers and hackers. You think they don’t cause us all sorts of trouble? We appreciate your problem, but we can’t do what you do and shut down the internet, even if we could, or lock up all the troublemakers. We’d love to oblige but, sorry, you see our position.”
But it could hardly rest there, and the logical response was always going to be
‘Not your problem? We’ll make it your problem. We’re not bad at the old cyber-terrorism, and our mates the Chinese are real experts. We’ll get them to lend a hand, and then we’ll see who’s got problems.
We do envy you in the west your computerised health and energy systems. It would be a great shame if they should get all frozen up and useless one day…’
The hope was that the Iranian power struggle could be between an alliance of the Iranian people and the online global community against the antiquated Iranian elite clinging to power. And that primitive twentieth century national politics could be sidelined for almost the first time in history. It seems we are not quite at that phase yet, which is hardly surprising. The discredited Iranian elite has every motive to strike back in any way which will drag the battle back to a ground it is familiar with and an enemy it can touch and use as a scapegoat, or whose embassy it can beseige – or whose dipomats it can hold to ransom.. And by threatening to launch hacking expeditions against, say, the British health service database, the Iranian government would be seeking to gain the initiative and bolster its own image. A bit like Krushev putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. And like Krushev’s USSR at the time, Iran is also far behind in this particular arms race. In spite of its Chinese big brother. Not only does it have to face up to the combined expertise of the western cyber-powers, but also the infuriatingly evasive geekocracy, who would be given complete licence to kill. An army of James Bonds sliding in through the airconditioning and crawling out of every manhole. The role every geek would love to play, and who would now get the chance. In effect they would be rallying to Kitchener’s call:
Your Country Needs You!
But safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t risk getting killed, maimed or poisoned.
However, neither shoplifting nor insurance fraud are victimless crimes, and the same goes for war. How many Iranian hospitals would the freelance commandos of the Global Iranian People’s Liberation Support Network (GIPLSN) be prepared to close if the Iranian government began executing leading dissenters? Would the GIPLSN take its instructions from the Iranian people, and if so, how? What consensus should it recognise, and from which source? Or are we seeing something more subtle at work? A form of collective, self policing morality, responding organically to the situation, and tending to deliver an appropriate response. A self-resolving chaos in which every butterfly’s wings really do make a difference.
Viewed as a brain, the internet is in its infant, amoral stage. Its neural pathways are still untrained and feral. Given enough exercises in decision-making and storytelling and role-playing, like the Iranian revolution, and the internet could develop into a healthy, upstanding, happy adult, ready and willing to enjoy life and the company of others.
Censored into a cupboard, and fed a diet of kill-games and porn, and only allowed the barest scraps of information from the outside world, the child’s morality doesn’t advance much more than that of the average rat.
So unless the internet is due to be univented or totally quashed, the outlook is still hopeful. And the enemies of progress everywhere are still just trying to paint over the ageing process, only succeeding in making themselves look less human with every brushstroke.
And when oh when oh when will the BBC stop being the ‘Mind-Control Centre’ of the western conspiracy to broadcast inconveniently true images and stories to the world?
Not as long as it’s a uniquely funded organisation, to judge from its privileged position (along with Voice of America) as almost the sole target of the Iranian propaganda machine.
How satisfying to see dear Old Auntie bouncing her brolly off the bonce of the mullahs in finest Margaret Rutherford fashion. They Do Not Like It Up ‘Em.
The Iranian vilification of the BBC is worth the licence fee alone. Of course, the Daily Mail knew all along what the mullahs have just discovered. Perhaps they should get together to try to destroy it. Mediocre minds think alike, if at all.
The absence of any commercial news outlets from attack by the Iranian regime is not just embarassing, its shameful. And those who ever demanded a surrender to commercial versions of truth should also be ashamed of themselves. But if that ever happened, Mullahs would fly and the tabloid journalism would be a footnote in history.
As I try to publish this, Twitter tells me that GCHQ is recruiting hackers from the naughty classes in much the same way that the novels tell us James Bond was:
” …the government had recruited a team of former hackers for its new Cyber Security Operations Centre, based at the government’s secret listening post GCHQ, in Cheltenham, to help it fight back.They had not employed any “ultra, ultra criminals” but needed the expertise of former “naughty boys,” he added.”You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff… If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys,” he said.”
What more could a geek want? Except that being under the wing of MI6 means adopting their morality and serving their power base. In effect, telling lies. So as always, the real struggle is not between nebulous notions of Right and Wrong, but good old truth and lies, which may never be absolutes, but which are far more definable.