[bestbits] RE: [IRPCoalition] Blogpost: Civil Society and the Emerging Internet Cold War: Non-Alignment and the Public Interest

michael gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Thu Feb 14 20:35:36 EST 2013

Hi Bertrand,


The Cold War analogy wasn't my usage, rather I first saw it in the
 I must say though that, regrettably, a lot of the rhetoric and
posturing from certain of our colleagues including in CS was very much of
the Cold War variety including ominous characterizations in various forums
of the fact that Toure had been "educated in Russia", frissant, frissant


The terminology has come to be more widely used including somewhat tongue in
cheek by myself because it so neatly fit the "us good guys vs. those forces
of evil" reality of how various folks approached the WCIT discussions.  If
you go back into my interventions on this issue both on the "governance"
list and on my blog I was arguing for nuance and a larger understanding of
the overall issues that were at play (motivated in fact by your type of
vison) than the extreme simplifications of the "Internet Freedom" warriors
and their dark mutterings about UN takeovers of the Internet and deep
Machiavellian plots by countries "out to steal the Internet".  


So rather than chiding me on this I'll give you a rather lengthy list of
those whose gross (and dare I say self-serving) simplifications made such a
characterization quite inevitable, not from me but from most everyone else
in the world who wasn't riding on that particular Independence Day float.


And yes, I'm agreeing with you and hoping that the kind of polarization that
was seen at the WCIT is a one time thing but if that is to be avoided there
has to be a degree of recognition of the need of an Internet that benefits
all with some degree of equity. That in turn means a recognition that the
Internet is too important to be left simply to the determination of the
currently dominant Internet corporations and their nation state supporters
and allies; but rather means need to be found to ensure an Internet that
develops and operates truly as a global commons and in the global public






From: Bertrand de La Chapelle [mailto:bdelachapelle at gmail.com] 
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 2:53 PM
To: michael gurstein
Cc: Marianne Franklin; irp; bestbits at lists.igcaucus.org
Subject: Re: [IRPCoalition] Blogpost: Civil Society and the Emerging
Internet Cold War: Non-Alignment and the Public Interest




Promoting the Cold War analogy - or even "not being that uncomfortable with
it" has one clear drawback: the Cold War was a perfect example of a
negative-sum game (as in "game theory"). The amount of money spent on the
corresponding arms race and the amount of ill-will generated by the "you are
with us or without us" mentality was certainly something that we had better
avoided. Inasmuch as using this analogy now would simplify the mental
framework, it would be at the cost of a caricature and a binary mindset that
I personally am not comfortable with.  


The Internet is the most perfect example of a positive-sum game and
collaborative effort where an amazingly large number of people (and, yes,
companies too) around the world managed to pursue their own interests AND
create global value at the same time. Let's not forget it. 


Today,  the security apparatuses on all sides have an objective convergence
of interests and an incentive to reintroduce the Cold War analogy because it
means funding, reaffirmation of power and justification for surveillance.
Do citizens really want this negative-sum game to happen again? Do they want
to see tremendous amounts of resources, human and financial, that could be
used to promote development be squandered in a useless cyber arms race? Do
we want our children to live in a world where cross-border communication
around the world will be as distant and nostalgic a memory as freely
boarding airplanes is now for us?  


Or will civil society instead help shape, with other actors, new governance
mechanisms to deal with the real security issues and enable coexistence in
shared online spaces of soon 3 billion people with very different social,
political, religious and cultural affiliations and beliefs? Can we not
reaffirm that this is about managing commons; that this is about finding
ways to gather and involve those who want to live together rather than
submitting to those who prefer humanity separated in nice little geographic
buckets that can be controlled? 


I refuse negative-sum games when there are so many ways to produce
positive-sum ones by building things together. Call me naive. But I believe
- I know - it is possible, lucidly, without compromising values, without
being duped and without overlooking the complexity of the task. But is it
not what makes it exciting? Building the institutions humanity needs in this
emerging digital age is a worthy endeavor and something that energizes many
people on this list, and many other in different stakeholder groups. Let's
not allow ourselves to be distracted. Even if it takes time. And it may. 


Alain the philosopher once said: Pessimism is a matter of Mood; Optimism is
a matter of Will (le Pessimisme est d'Humeur; l'Optimisme est de Volonté). I
resolutely vote for the second leg of the alternative. Let us not accept
artificial dichotomies that prevent positive progress. We need another


Just my two cents.








On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 6:08 PM, michael gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com>

Hi Marianne,

I generally agree with your point but analogies in these types of instances
act as a sort of mental shorthand simplifying complex matters and making
things more comprehensible but of course, often distorting and introducing
false conditions in the process.

In this case I'm actually not that uncomfortable with the Cold War analogy
at least at a very superficial interpretive level if only because so many of
those from at least one leading country (and at least pre-WCIT, even from
that country's more visisible representatives) were framing their
interventions either implicitly or explicitly within a Cold War (Us-Them,
Enemies of Democracy-Democracy Alliance) framework...


-----Original Message-----
From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
[mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of
Marianne Franklin
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 2:00 AM
To: irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
Subject: Re: [IRPCoalition] Blogpost: Civil Society and the Emerging
Internet Cold War: Non-Alignment and the Public Interest

Dear Best Bits folk

This is a very interesting discussion. If I could suggest however that the
reiteration of Cold War references actually serves the purposes of those
interests keen to keep this issue a polarized one. The use of military
idioms is an well-worn element in the 'armory' (see I am doing it too!) of
political communications.

How things are said matter, for critique as well. So, whilst I agree with
the substantive point Mike is making, and also concur with the point Carlos
has made about the EU Budget cuts (and this is something for the upcoming
EuroDIG I hope) here, I am not sure about formulating the work and various
affiliations of 'civil society' ( which is also a large fuzzy term that
includes lots of different sorts of committments) as non-aligned. The use of
'war' and such like appeared just prior to the WCIT in major broadsheets
around the world, the UK in particular.
This is the work of Spin and if civil society has anything to offer to my
mind it needs to work hard at reframing the debate in other equally
evocative ways.

Moreover, historically the Cold War has past. The East-West compass in that
respect has since shifted so I for one am uneasy about an over-reliance in
this sort of vocabulary; 'us versus them' is already framing things as a
zero-sum game and this is the fallout from the WCIT, by design perhaps.


On 12/02/2013 00:47, michael gurstein wrote:
> McTim, my point was and remains that there are a range of issues
> involved in these matters and that the polarization generated at the
> WCIT may serve the interests of some but it doesn't necessarily
> reflect reality nor the interests/values of CS.
> CS should be looking for higher ground (to my mind support for the
> Internet as a global public good) and finding allies in support of
> this wherever they can found.  The focusing in the WCIT (and dare I
> say before that at the IGF) on the Internet Freedom issue by certain
> elements within CS and others ignored the very large range of issues
> on which agreement could and should be found and overall as I said CS
> should be "non-aligned" in the emerging "Internet Cold War" and
> developing it's own position(s) which include among others free
expression, human rights, and digital inclusion.
> M
> -----Original Message-----
> From: McTim [mailto:dogwallah at gmail.com]
> Sent: Monday, February 11, 2013 3:29 PM
> To: michael gurstein
> Cc: governance at lists.igcaucus.org; bestbits at lists.igcaucus.org; IRP
> Subject: Re: [IRPCoalition] Blogpost: Civil Society and the Emerging
> Internet Cold War: Non-Alignment and the Public Interest
> On Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:55 PM, michael gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> I've no idea of the position of "China, Russia, Iran etc." on the
>> issue, but at least from my reading there was considerable support
>> for the below among the "sovereigntist" camp
> "The approved Resolution was unanimously supported by ITU Member States"
> I don't see your point.  Everyone supported this resolution according
> to the BDT press release, which is hilarious BTW...."ITU is at the
> very heart of the ICT sector" for example.
> --
> Cheers,
> McTim
> "A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A
> route indicates how we get there."  Jon Postel
> _______________________________________________
> IRP mailing list
> IRP at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
> http://lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/
> irp

Dr Marianne Franklin
Convener: Global Media & Transnational Communications Program Goldsmiths,
University of London Dept. of Media & Communications New Cross, London SE14
Tel: +44 20 7919 7072 <tel:%2B44%2020%207919%207072> 
<m.i.franklin at gold.ac.uk>

IRP mailing list
IRP at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org

IRP mailing list
IRP at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org


Bertrand de La Chapelle

Internet & Jurisdiction Project Director, International Diplomatic Academy

Member, ICANN Board of Directors 
Tel : +33 (0)6 11 88 33 32

"Le plus beau métier des hommes, c'est d'unir les hommes" Antoine de Saint
("there is no greater mission for humans than uniting humans")

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