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October 8, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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I Am Afraid Of The Internet

Strap in on the superhighway.

Since the internet was downloaded, many good things have come to mankind.The sharing of ideas, inspiration and good old information has been revolutionised to the point where if you look outside, you will see a stormy sea of fluid transaction.The internet has empowered the common man with a capacity to know about things he might otherwise have been kept from by political elites. Now that he knows, he can protest the injustices—but it’s bigger than that. He can spread the word and be viral in minutes. He can galvanize communities into action. He becomes a potent agent of political change.

He has the power to polarize and mobilize the masses that are sick of eating cake. The Youtube sensation that drew popular attention to the villainous pied piper known as Kony, illustrated how one American dad with a cute kid could momentarily guilt-trip us all and drive the less sure-footed of us to go man-hunting somewhere in Africa. I would however, like to present the case for caution as I think this new bedfellow of humanity is at times, an unsavoury character.

In just the last week or so, an islamaphobic Californian was credited with making a short film called Innocence of Muslims that incensed Muslims all over the show.The prophet Mohammed, who you just don’t diss these days, got really dissed. Protests in Libya somehow escalated and Brick killed a guy. It wasn’t actually Brick though, it was an angry Libyan and the slain man was US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. As Caesar would have piped; the die is cast! There is no taking back the video or undoing the hurt feelings it has caused or bringing the dead man back to life for that matter.Violent protests spread as far south as Sydney. Now whilst our twangy neighbours are undoubtedly of unsavoury ancestry, it’s still a bit crazy that a video made in California could have such a feather ruffling effect, so far afield. Many white Australians were as angry at the Muslim protesters as the Muslims were at the Los Angeles based filmmaker/parole dodger.There was now a situation that represented the unhappy inverse of a conga line, a massive anger-chain. Pot-stirring on a Jamie Oliverian scale had been made possible byYoutube and more specifically, the internet.

Julian Assange is a journalist accused of sex crimes in Sweden who is sleeping over at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. British authorities want to send him and his toothbrush back to Sweden to face the music. He is also the founder of Wikileaks, an organization that claims to have shed light on the American military machine’s sometimes appalling conduct in Iraq. Objectively that sounds like a good thing but it has some less than ideal consequences.American servicemen and women whose conduct may have been exemplary and kind-hearted whilst touring the sandy nation, now find their lives endangered as news of their colleagues’ excessive

liberties (in the name of Freedom) makes it down Bagdad alleyways and galvanizes lazy terrorists to get off the couches and strap up.The availability of awkward information regarding American conduct in not only Iraq but other theatres of US involvement, poses a serious threat to real people. I guess you reap what you so, or at least, you reap what Wikileaks sows.

Ultimately, we are all sleeping with the internet already. It is too late to pull out of engagement with it entirely and to be honest, who would want to? I’m not suggesting we log out once and for all and attempt to turn back the sundial.The internet is here to stay.What I advocate is caution in how it’s used and an awareness of the harm it can cause. ▲

Matt White is in his second year of political science and international relations. Matt is a regular contributor to Salient and writes the questions for the weekly On Campus column.    

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