You might remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that Pakistan, reacting to a Facebook campaign to showcase the stupidity of bans on drawings of Muhammad, decided to up the ante of stupid and ban Facebook, Youtube, Flickr… basically the whole internet. Of course, this move completely missed the point of the event, which was not about attacking Islam, but about protesting the fact that people’s individual religious beliefs are somehow sacrosanct, and that non-believers must make allowances for other people’s superstitions. Why not a governmental cull of black cats, or a ban on the number 13? Those are obviously stupid, but throw belief in a magical sky-genie into the mix and all of a sudden “there are some things you just don’t question.”
Well Pakistan is a theocracy, and like many Muslim countries is run essentially by religious leaders. So when they saw a criticism of their superstition, they reacted by throwing a tantrum, taking their ball and crying home to their mommy. But, because they’re politicians, they made sure to use the opportunity to seize more political power:
Many observers and internet users in Pakistan now feel the authorities have gone too far and used the Facebook row as an excuse to bar any content deemed too critical of the government.
Political power and opposition have a bizarre relationship, something like a rebellious teen and a parental figure. While those in power hate being opposed and will do just about anything to get out from under the opposition’s thumb, the only way to ensure long-term stability is to have an effective opposition. It forces those in power to make concessions to their policies, ensuring the maximum benefit to the greatest number. But of course, nobody who has power likes to be reminded of that. The first step in establishing an iron fist to rule over people is to silence your opposition. The trick to this, of course, is that if you’re caught doing it, then people begin to cry ‘foul’. However, if you can spin it such that you’re infringing on free speech ‘for the good of the people’, you get carte blanche to do whatever you want. This is exactly what Pakistan has done.
Even after the government started allowing content to go through again, they kept their thumb firmly planted down on Facebook. It’s funny, I was among the number of people who derided Facebook when it first came on the scene. “I’ll never get Facebook,” I said “I’m not a 12 year-old girl.” It has since completely replaced my use of MSN messenger, and largely eliminated most of my non-professional e-mail use. And I’m not the only one who’s seeing this:
The research by Spot On Public Relations, a Dubai-based agency, says there are more than 15 million subscribers (from Arabic countries) to (Facebook). The total number of newspaper copies in Arabic, English and French is just under 14 million.
I realize that Pakistan is not an Arab country, but since the Arab world is largely Muslim, and Pakistan is a Muslim country, I hope it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that Facebook plays a major role in how many people in Pakistan communicate with each other and gather information. Shutting down Facebook is then basically the same as banning free press, a textbook tyrannical move. All done in the name of “religious protection”. YahwAlladdha forbid anyone see anything that is critical of religious superstition.
Political opposition and free press are the lifeblood of an egalitarian society. Erosion of the fundamental right to free expression is the first step in establishing a tyrant government. And if that offends you, you don’t have to read it.