I read an article last week in the New York Times about a 15 year old girl from New York City. According to the article, this young lady was grounded by her parents for 5 weeks for "drinking a beer at a party and getting home an hour late for curfew". Apparently, the young lady did not agree with her parents' sentencing for her crime. Before taking up the argument with her parents, she decided to gather some support for her position. She approached her pursuit with the same fire as a young attorney trying to win her first case would, including telling her mother that the grounding was against her "inalienable right for the pursuit of happiness."
The story goes that on the Monday her grounding commenced, Tess Chapin began a petition at her school and asked her classmates to sign it. When she got home that afternoon, she decided to move her petition to Facebook and started a group called "1000 People To Get Tess Ungrounded." Remarkably, by the next day, Tess had over 500 people following her page. By Friday, she had well over 800 followers and they weren't just people from her school. She only knew about 35% of the followers.
Whether or not you think this story is incredible or bullshit, it really got me thinking about just how powerful a tool the internet is. I always joke and say that the internet is for porn (thanks Avenue Q!), but it is much more than that. So much more, in fact, that a few years ago when Google first opened offices in China, the Chinese government demanded searches within the country be filtered and block links to certain websites. At first, the heads of Google, one of whom grew up in a communist run Soviet Union, were adamantly opposed. After many discussions, Google begrudgingly agreed, citing it was more important to have a censored version of Google available in the country ruled by communism for over 60 years, than not have it available at all.
Just recently, the Chinese government asked Google to not only censor searches on China's Google search engine (www.google.cn), but on ALL Google search engines. Google flat out refused. Last week, there was infiltration and cancelling of gmail accounts set up via China's Google service. These hackings were traced back to China and now Google is considering closing down and moving offices out of China. They are not the only site the Chinese government considers "a threat". Youtube, Facebook and Twitter are all considered equally as "dangerous", are heavily filtered, monitored and have not seen the growth that western investors had anticipated. But there is an underground movement rising up.
People are now figuring out ways to break through or go around these IP blockers and firewalls the government has set up. The one thing I've come to realize about the internet is that for every filter or firewall someone creates, there is someone else that is creating a program to make it invalid. This is a new revolution. This is a new battle. And this is most certainly a new battle field. It's a constant game of cat and mouse, good versus evil. China versus the internet is not only a new war, it is also the most unique.
This is a new kind of revolution. Revolutions in the past have been battled with guns, tanks and planes and cost millions of lives. This revolution is being waged with IP blockers, firewalls and tracking cookies, but costs far, far less in human carnage. A more "civil" war, if you will, but a revolution, nonetheless. Part of revolution is defeating tyranny. The Chinese government had mostly been able to conrtrol media within it's boarders. Along comes a new form of information transfer that NO ONE has really figured out how to censor and the old ways of censoring aren't working. They can't stop it. They can't even really contain it, but they are trying. In terms of weaponry for this war, the information available via the internet is like that of the greatest spys, toughest SEAL teams, largest armored battalion and most powerful atomic bomb all rolled into one. And far more damaging.
Think of the destruction the internet has caused: The entertainment industry is being ravaged by it; CD and DVD sales are fewer and fewer yearly...strike that....monthly. Online fraud has become so rampant that there is now a division for it's investigations in the FBI. The espionage industry has flourished from it. Random guys who just so happened to know how to create a "code breaker" program were even able to tap into our country's databases. The internet is a much more powerful tool than we could have ever anticipated it being. Because of the internet things we only dreamed of, like video chatting and GPS mapping, have become reality.
Even modern warfare has changed with the development of the internet. They use unmanned drones to drop bombs on selected targets that are flown by pilots sitting in front of computer screens on a secure internet connection. I am not taking ANYTHING away from the fine men and women who are currently serving our country. It is because of their diligence and hard work that we are safe from the worlds' would be attackers. But I can't help and wonder what my grandfather would think of these modern war tactics? He fought in WW II in the south pacific on a PT boat. He got fired on. He saw human lives taken. Daily. Saw friends die. He never would talk about the horrors he saw when he was there. It was a different type of war than the wars fought today. Would he think they compared? Would he even call today's fighting techniques "war"?
It's Martin Luther King Day today. What if MLK had a Facebook page? I know. It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke. But I'd imagine if a young lady trying to get out of her punishment can get 800 followers over a few days, the good doctor would certainly have attracted many more with his message of peace, love and equality, right? Would it have changed the impact that he made? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The question I have is would the message have lasted as long as it has? It seems the "internet generation" has a short attention span and pop culture phenomenons last as long as it takes to load the next Youtube video. Would Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech get as many views as General Larry Platt's "Pants On The Ground?" I guess we'll never know, but both men carried the same message, in a broad sense.
The internet has changed how we get our information. Newspaper subscriptions are on the decline; so is "real time" television viewing. On the rise are wireless broadband devices and the thought of immediacy in our gathering and sharing of information. The internet has changed how our social interactions take place. At one time people would call and write letters. Now they Twitter their location and email you a link to Mapquest that contains the directions there. If the internet goes down, we lose our minds. If we don't have phone service, we freak out. It has become almost as important to humans as breathing and eating. Well, almost. In some people's cases it's why they get up in the morning. Ever see the "Over Logging" episode of South Park? Go to www.allsp.com. Totally worth it and totally true in a lot of ways.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the one, the only: The Internet. What an incredible invention! Seriously, for all it's faults, the fact of the matter is you can find whatever you want at the touch of a key and the click of a mouse. Anything!