Liveleak pulled Geert Wilder's Fitna after receiving serious threats. Mark Steyn quotes the news and comments:
Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else.
Indeed. The Internet will keep Fitna alive in odd corners hither and yon, but only to those who actively seek it out. In the wider world, it goes without saying that such a film is unacceptable, and that this time round the pre-emptive rage (as Diana West calls it) was so successful the next Fitna will have an even harder time: no movie theaters or broadcast networks or obscure cable channels would even consider showing it, and Google and YouTube and the other Internet biggies have grown increasingly comfortable with political speech-policing, and now one more small net operation has learned that, unless you want to be a 24/7 crusader on this issue, it's not a business worth being in.
But in the following years, and as a side effect of Hollywood's war on piracy, the odd corners of the Internet will grow. Underground channels will grow. Right now peer-to-peer traffic comprises a very large part of total network traffic and carries bootlegs video, songs, al-Qaeda messages. How long before this stream carries Fitna and similar products? While some carriers have proposed putting filters on the network to screen peer-to-peer traffic the protocol vendors have retaliated by threatening to encrypt. A technological arms race between the content police and the content information runners has long been in progress. Products like Fitna may eventually be distributed in an encrypted fashion.
The War on Piracy may have the same long term effect on the War on Terror as the War on Drugs did. Both pirates and drug runners create infrastructures that anyone can exploit. What's not often realized is that in principle anyone can travel these secret roads once they are built. What can be used by al-Qaeda can be used against al-Qaeda.
Mark Steyn argues that "a film such as Fitna might not even be necessary were the western news organizations not so absurdly deferential toward Muslim sensibilities that they go out of their way to avoid showing us anything that might cause us to link violence with Islam." This is one more aspect of the core failure in the war on terror. Officials risk falling behind public perceptions of the extent and nature of that conflict. Unless society does it job of protecting life and liberty effectively, its failure will spur the rise of freelancers. Clamping down on what may be said in the open media will eventually drive the creation of a Samzidat.
Samizdat (Russian: самиздат) was the clandestine copying and distribution of government-suppressed literature or other media in Soviet-bloc countries. Copies were made a few at a time, and those who received a copy would be expected to make more copies. This was often done by handwriting or typing. This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.
The emergence of a parallel information system in the Soviet Union was a direct result of the failure by normal channels to carry information under the threat of punishment the KGB. Today's KGB of course, is Islam and the Left. But censorship is ultimately counterproductive. There is nothing particularly excellent about Wilder's film. It won't win any prizes for either hatred or dramatics. Why should such a thing become famous? The answer of course is because ordinary, even mediocre speech has been censored openly in the Western world. It's not the ordinary speech which is singular but the censorship. If Fitna had not been given such play it would have screened in a half dozen art-houses and been forgotten. As matters stand it will enter the history books.
The cycle of defiance and censorship; the emergence of a Samizdat in the West, means that some extraordinary, even revolutionary change is taking place. Inevitably, some sort of Black Swan or unanticipated event will round the corner: like September 11 or the sub-prime collapse. It will all be very obvious in retrospect. But in the meantime we will cling to business as usual and wallow in our failure of imagination.
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