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Russia’s “Unwhipped” Internet Generation

Mikhail Zygar has an interesting piece openDemocracy on the Russian government’s moves to monitor, control, and at times censor information published on the internet … a task that turns out to be much harder that the Kremlin’s takeover of television.

The internet is a tool of a completely different nature. It is inhabited by a different, “unwhipped” generation. These are mainly people who were too young to be members of the Komsomol (or the Pioneers). They don’t believe in anything at all, not even television. They aren’t scared of the Soviet system, because they never saw it. But for them the internet is not a collective agitator or collective organizer. It’s unlikely to line them up and send them off to action. For them it’s a collective kitchen, where they can come and talk about life. They can hear the latest political joke or gossip. They can talk about girls (or boys). And of course, they can complain.

Imagine that you’ve been mugged. Or an official forced you to give abribe. Or you’ve been beaten up by the police. If you’re a person ofthe television generation, you’ll keep quiet. Or perhaps you’ll go tocourt. Or you’ll sit at the kitchen table and complain.

But if you’re a person of the internet generation, you have only one choice – to write about it on livejournal– because you don’t believe in the courts, you don’t believe incomplaining in the kitchen and you don’t believe in keeping quiet. Youronly hope is that people will read your posts. And this is even moreimportant than justice.

What should be done with the ever increasing number of people whowill gradually start replacing the good old audience of Channel One?Should they be nurtured and moulded into shape? Or are they essentiallypassive and harmless? Clearly no one is quite sure about this atpresent. But the process has started. There is already one official inthe administration. This means that tomorrow there will be twoofficials, and in a year there will be an entire ministry. Not becausesome evil person has willed it, but because that’s how bureaucracyworks. If the state is already interested in reading diaries andheart-to-heart talks, it won’t be able to deny itself the pleasure ofgoing a little further. No official will come out and say it’s apointless waste of state funds.

This is because the main goal of any state is to keep people mumbling in the kitchen for as long as possible.