Methods of Combating Censorship

The story of how YouTube initially blocked the screening of the film “Suicide on an international scale: The unpleasant truth about the downing of MH17 in the skies over Donbass”, organised by ukraina.ru, and then (at the request of Roskomnadzor) partially restored access to it, colleagues spoke about in detail. Therefore, I will not dwell on it, but will focus on a few things that clearly follow from this incident.

Firstly, the attempt to censor media materials has a long-term reverse effect. Forbidden fruit is sweet, so people start looking for forbidden materials.

Pay attention to how many headlines on the Internet like “this was hidden from us for 200 years”, “The video that the Kremlin banned and it is already being removed from everywhere. Look faster!”, “The truth we weren’t told”, etc. And under the headlines, at best, some well-known platitudes, and at worst – ordinary advertising.

Headline makers have long understood that people are addicted to “secrecy”, “exposing deception” and something “forbidden”. Already in the era of the printed press, there was an anecdote. The newsboy shouts:

“Sensational! 200 people are shamelessly deceived!”

A passing gentleman buys a newspaper from him, glances at it, and says indignantly: “Scoundrel, where is your sensation?” And the boy is already running on and shouting:

“Sensational! 201 people are shamelessly deceived!”

However, it was easier with newspapers. In most cases (in kiosks), you could view them before purchasing. On the Internet, you only need a click, and the click is made at the moment when you fell for the title. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people who are shamelessly deceived by another dummy. And still, people rush to read scandalous news and “secret” materials over and over again.

Thus, the scandal around the film, started by YouTube moderators, should bring it additional views. So from this point of view, censorship achieves the diametrically opposite effect.

But this weakness of censorship only works if the topic is relevant for a long time. In the case of short-term or even medium-term relevance, the following point begins to apply.

Secondly, censorship, which is ineffective if something needs to be hidden at all, is extremely effective if it is only necessary to delay the dissemination of any information. For example, the distribution of compromising information on a candidate after an election may not be restricted. The main thing is that it is not read before the election. Similarly, access to important information that may influence the content of a decision should be restricted before it is made. When the decision is already made, you can read and rage, your new knowledge will not be able to change anything.

Thus, as we can see, censorship can be quite an effective way of political combat, if it is applied correctly and dosed. However, there is another option of censoring, and this is what we have encountered in this case.

Thirdly, total censorship can be effective for quite a long time. Total censorship is evidence of the critical weakness of the system, its last barrier before collapse. The longer total censorship and other palliatives delay resolving the systemic crisis, the more destructive it becomes. A society that is used to living in a world of crooked mirrors and believing that this is what reality is, suddenly realises that it believed in a simulacrum. After that, it basically loses faith for a long time – both in its leaders and in the media, losing its previous life guidelines and the ability to develop new ones.

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The task of destroying any system of political censorship as early as possible is in the interests of both the society suffering from censorship itself (because it cannot adequately assess the surrounding reality and make the right decisions) and the societies surrounding it. For them, communicating with a censored neighbour is like living in the same apartment with a schizophrenic. They are always smiling, but at any moment they can rush towards you with a knife.

I would like to emphasise that we are talking about political censorship, since censorship in the field of art, literature and morals is very useful and necessary. Without it, societies of permanent tolerance are born, in which the priority is not the norm, but perversion, and in the field of art, paintings by Leonardo and Raphael are replaced by “installations” from beer cans and coloured blots on paper, which art commerce passes off as masterpieces of world significance.

So, our American “friends” in terms of censorship bacchanalia far surpassed the USSR, which they called a “totalitarian power”. In the USSR, a rather ineffective political censorship coexisted with a fairly effective censorship in the fields of morals and art. Americans refused to censor morals and art. Any perversion is business. The more perverts, the bigger business is. Therefore, you can personally think what you want, but you have no right to speak out against hyper-tolerance. Not because American elites are so fond of representatives of all sorts of non-standard orientations, but because serving a perverse subculture brings significantly more income than focusing on traditional values.

Therefore, the Americans canceled all prohibitions in the field of morality and “forbade to forbid”, the perverts themselves will cope with the rest. In this respect, they are no different from ordinary hooligans. Those, too, if they know that anti-social actions will be immediately punished, behave more or less decently, without advertising their “values”. Free from public condemnation, representatives of perverse subcultures begin to aggressively impose their views on society. They can’t be condemned, because this is censorship.

At the same time, by rejecting censorship in the fields of culture, art, and public morals, the Americans introduced strict political censorship. In the 1960s and 1970s, political censorship in the US was really reduced to a minimum. America was so dominant in the world, so unattainable in military and economic terms, and provided its citizens with such a high level of consumption, that there was almost no need for strict censorship. Of course, some aspects of Soviet society were presented in the US in an exaggerated form, but in general, American elites fought for the free dissemination of information, because they were sure that the comparison would be in their favour.

Now even the president of the US is not free from censorship, and brazen censorship too that aims to influence the results of the presidential election campaign. Trump was blocked from having the possibility of appearing on leading US TV channels. His posts were deleted on Twitter and other social networks. The distribution of any information unfavourable to his opponent was blocked. If this happens to the US President, it is difficult to imagine how any true message about Russia is censored, which the current US sees as an even more dangerous enemy than the USSR was, since now Moscow is on the rise, and Washington is in decline.

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It’s possible to spit on all this and say: “They want to live in the kingdom of crooked mirrors, so let them live this way”. They also say that it will be worse when the illusion is dispelled, and the later it is dispelled, the worse it’ll be.

The only problem is that the US is maybe not the first, but also not the second military power in the world. Its nuclear arsenal is a threat to everyone. This is not a schizophrenic with a knife or even a monkey with a grenade, it is a crazy pervert with a nuclear arsenal confident that it will not get any punishment for any crime (because it is special), and hating the whole world (because it is “not like that”).

American political censorship must be destroyed for the sake of human security. Question: how to do this? Unfortunately, we cannot launch effective alternatives to American public information platforms in the near future. And we can’t close them. Yes, this is ineffective, because we would close them on our territory, and the main blow of American censorship is aimed at Americans.

I think that in the near future we have only one way to influence the American media, but it is very effective. The Americans themselves have come up with two mechanisms that can help bring them back to reality. The first is penalties for any reason, incommensurate with this reason and having nothing to do with real losses or victims. They are used to punish those who are “not as one must be”. The second is extraterritorial legal proceedings. Americans believe that the decision of any of their provincial courts is binding on the entire world. After amendments are made to the Russian constitution, its national law takes priority over international law. But the constitution is a very general document. It does not specify the specifics of law enforcement.

Theoretically, the priority of Russian legislation applies only within the Russian jurisdiction, but the Americans also guessed that their jurisdiction can be extended to the whole world – wherever their hands can reach. If we proceed from the principles of parity and mirroring, then Russian law, in order to ensure the priority of national legislation in relation to international law, must operate at least in the same conditions and volumes as American law.

I.e., any Russian court can overturn a decision of any American court if it affects the interests of Russian citizens or companies. Failure to comply with the decisions of the Russian court should entail the imposition of sanctions on all individuals and legal entities, including those operating in the jurisdictions of third countries, who are guilty of non-implementation or by their actions contributed to the non-implementation of the decision of the Russian court.

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Since Russia cannot always impose economic sanctions without prejudice to itself (this is also typical for the EU and the US, as the history of the western sanctions policy has shown since 2014), it makes sense to limit ourselves to personal sanctions against individuals, as well as fines against legal entities (however, fines, as well as prison terms, can also be written out in absentia to individuals who are especially maliciously undermining Russian interests). Fines cannot be limited to a reasonable number. On the contrary, like American fines issued to Volkswagen and a number of European banks and companies, they should amount to tens and hundreds of billions of dollars.

The fight against censorship in this context will be a special but important case. A fine issued to a bank refusing to lend to Nord Stream 2 or some other Russian project may be interpreted as unfair competition. But is it possible to oppose the multibillion-dollar media fine for infringing on free speech? After all, we know that freedom of speech is sacred (the Americans said).

Of course, it will be quite difficult to implement such a policy of penalties at first. The US succeeded because its sanctions were supported in one way or another by a significant part of the world’s states. But it must be borne in mind that the Americans entered into a tough confrontation with China and Beijing will be glad to receive an additional mechanism of influence on Washington. The Americans have threatened economic and financial sanctions for “incorrectly trading” India, Turkey, Pakistan and even their European partners. In general, there are quite a large number of countries and individual politicians in the world who are offended by the Americans, but are not yet ready to oppose the US as a power. But opposing YouTube, and even in defence of freedom of speech, seems to be not a problem.

Of course, at this stage, in most cases, American companies will bargain and the problem will be closed: hardly anyone other than Russia and China is ready today for a direct conflict with the US. But “closing the topic” somewhere in a third country is also a problem and a cost. Everyone will demand a small concession, and over time the demands will increase. And let the American editors and moderators consider whether the company will keep them in the service if they bring it a dozen such cases. And at the same time let them think that Russia (and China especially loves such things) can also learn from the Americans the experience of hunting foreign citizens around the world. Some Google moderator came to Thailand on vacation, and there, on the order of some Nakhabinsky Court, was caught and jailed, until the issue of extradition to Russia in essence was resolved.

Of course, it’s always difficult to start, but our cause is right, the enemy will be defeated, and our names will be written on the rubble of Washington.


Rostislav Ishchenko

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