TORONTO GLOBALIST VOL V, ISSUE I –Spring 2011 www.torontoglobalist.org
The University of Toronto’s international affairs magazine
The Next Arms Race?
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Contents Matthew D.H. Gray Editor-in-Chief Bedour Alagraa Managing Editor
Lia Ferrari Finance Director, Admin
Dylan Robertson Assignments Editor
Andrew Bryan Recruitment Co-ordinator
Laura Correa Ochoa Online Editor Charlie Jurczynski Development Director
www.torontoglobalist.org Vol. V, Issue I WINTER 2010 Corina Wong Layout Editor Christine Sirois Journalism Advisor
Rajiv Sinclair Productions Director
Colin Macleod Promotions Co-ordinator Monika Traikov Productions Intern & Illustrator
Naregh Galoustian Camilla Guiguer Fundraising Co-ordinators
How the Internet is Changing Hate Groups Brunilda Cimo
Can Genetically Modified Food Solve Hunger? Jonathan Gray
Is Internet Access A Human Right? Andrew Bryan
The Turkish President on Relations with Israel Utsav Sanduja
ON THE GROUND
Portraits of Indonesia Rajiv Sinclair
A Matter of Life Or Death? Daniel Cunningham
Mobile Banking in Haiti Jeffrey Bower
The Year of Yanukovych Reid Standish
What is China’s New Left? Ioana Sendroiu
Google’s Role in International Politics Bedour Alagraa
Voice of Ahmadinejad v. Voice of America Sara Amini
The Toronto Globalist is a part of the Global21 network of publications. Global21 publications publish in thirteen cities around the world, at premier universities. They are operated by undergraduate students, and rely upon the support of generous organizations to publish. Global21 is an incorporated 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The opinions expressed in The Globalist are those of the writers, and do not represent those of the University of Toronto.
About the Cover Monika Traikov is a student at Ryerson University, in Toronto Canada. She studies Fashion Communications, and is in her fourth year. All content © 2010 & 2011, The Toronto Globalist and Global21 Inc. Other works are property of the respective contributors, as noted.
Editor’s Letter – The New Tools of Dissent New media is empowering the disenfranchised peoples of the world like no other force before it. As the internet, cellphones, and the mass media become increasingly accessible, will the struggle to control these tools of communication topple old regimes? It goes almost without saying that the most transformational force of our time is that of technological change. The breadth and depth of this change have touched every part of society, and have massive implications for the way in which international affairs are conducted. This year, we have seen revolutions and political turmoil succeed due to unprecedented use of social media and the internet. We’ve seen horrifying images sent from the world’s most oppressive regimes, prompting international outcries. The release of cables by Wikileaks blew the closed doors of the diplomatic world wide open. Access to these tools of political upheaval is increasing enormously – the number of internet users around the world has jumped to 2.0 billion in 2010. However, many are being left behind, at home and abroad, and many are being entirely shut out of the digital revolution. Whether the internet will serve to divide the world more than it will unite it remains to be seen. A few things are certain – the future will be more connected, more instantaneous, and shall be defined by the gap between those that are able to plug in, and those that are not. In this issue of The Globalist, we sought to explore the relationship between the body of politics, and the world of the internet. We sought to find out how the internet is being used as a tool for expression in the political sphere, and how it is changing the way that people hold their governments to account. Are governments succeeding in controlling the use of the internet for political means? Matthew D.H. Gray Editor-in-Chief
Globalized Racism – How the Internet is Changing Hate Groups by Brunilda Cimo
The growth of the Internet means that information can be shared more easily. Unfortunately this makes it easier for racist groups to spread their propaganda. As Canada’s internet connected population grows, new fears emerge about the safety of the children. Race is a concept which historically has organized many societies. Sanjeev S Anand, in Expressions of Racial Hatred and Racism in Canada: An Historical Perspective, defines racism as “the belief that one race is superior to another, and this belief is associated with attitudes and acts.” After learning a lesson from the atrocities of the Nazis against the Jewish people, many countries – including Canada – do not accept that race has any biological basis that determines superiority or inferiority. Thus, Canada has undertaken initiatives to protect all “racial” groups, through its multicultural policy. Also, as Anand states, the Charter added in 1982, stioulates that “[t]his Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” Because the government has adopted and tries to promulgate the idea that a person’s race is not a valid reason for descrimination, Canada is perceived as a society tolerant of “cultural diversity.” However, as Anand indicates, in Canada alone there are at least 75 hate organizations that use the internet to spread their hatred. Given the prevalence of these white supremacists groups, hate sites and the effects that these have on many individuals (such as teenagers), I will argue that racism is still a problem in Canada. The internet allows for the promulgation of racist views in new and possibly more efficient ways because it is easily accessible to millions of people. Moreover, it is difficult to censor such material because of the technology it employs and freedom
of expression rights guaranteed by the Charter. Websites allow hate organizations to access new groups of people. The internet can be accessed more easily than other methods used by hate groups in the past. As Joe Roy (cited by Margaret E Duffy in Web of Hate: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of the Rhetorical Vision of Hate Groups Online) says, “There’s no question that the Net is one of the key factors in the growth of hate groups[…] These groups are reaching people who would’ve never been exposed to it otherwise”. In other words, the internet is a more efficient modern method to attract and recruit members. For example, Elissa Lee and Laura Leets in Persuasive Storytelling by Hate Groups Online: Examining its Effects on Adolescents indicate that in the past, the Nazis would use “fliers, newsletters, small rallies, mailings, and interpersonal contact[,]” mostly for targeting people who had the same “beliefs” or were part of the group and thus “predisposed to accept the messages.” However, the internet can recruit or persuade many more people. Youths are especially vulnerable to these messages. Lee and Leets have found that male teenagers generally use the internet more often than any other group; and a poll in US found that 25% of teens have seen hate group websites. Moreover, Lee and Leets say that “[h]ate Web sites appear to be one of many potential pitfalls that await youths on the Internet.” In other words, young people are more likely to view websites because they spend more
INSIGHTS time than any other group browsing on the internet, making them more susceptible to hateful messages. Youths are not only more likely to view these websites because of their greater use of the internet, but many of these hate websites specifically target youths, and try to convince them to believe in their ideology. Children and teenagers are attractive targets simply because they are in a stage of moral and intellectual development. Generally, once certain beliefs are ingrained at a young age, these ideas are not easily removed later in life; most likely, they tend to be reinforced. Lee and Leets show evidence suggesting that even former members of White supremacist hate groups have pointed out that the special target of hatred groups are “young, White, male teenagers”. A study in California found that many students in high school were physically “approached” or “recruited” by hate organizations. Hate crime reports suggest a possible a link between the viewing of hate sites and hate crime occurrences. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics show that in 2001 and 2002, twelve police forces indicated that 57% of hate crime incidents were about race or ethnicity issues, and visible minorities were overrepresented as victims in these types of crimes. This pilot survey also found that in 83% of the cases, the perpetrators were not known to the victim, making the incident a hate crime because it shows that the victim was selected based on his/her racial or ethnic characteristics. Among these incidents, black victims had a higher chance of becoming victims, followed by South Asians, Arabs/West Asians, East and Southeast Asians, and lastly Whites. Not surprisingly, considering that many sites now target young individuals, the survey found that the perpetrators involved in these incidents were younger than previous perpetrators. In the past the average age of the men participating in hate crime was around 29.5 years, but the present average age is 23.6. Also, Duffy says that many studies have found that hate sites motivated hate incidents against African Americans and the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In other words, we see that some of the young people, who are targeted by many
Hate Crime by Census Metropolitan Area Rate per 100,000 population
hate websites, may eventually engage in hate acts against other “racial” groups. Internet free speech is almost impossible to censor and this contributes to an even greater effect on the racist attitudes. This is the case for two main reasons. First, technologically it is almost impossible to regulate or disconnect hate websites. Some of these hate sites are not even Canadian, so they are not under the jurisdiction of Canadian law. Many times trying to block a website is very difficult as others can create what are called “duplicates.” Anand says that in one case, in Germany, Deutsche Telekom tried to block a Santa Cruz Company that was spreading hatred propaganda through its website. Deutsche Telekom failed, as many other “duplicates” were created by “free speech proponents.” Thus, hate sites constitute almost unstoppable information which aim to instigate racist attitudes. Secondly, from a legal perspective, prohibiting hate sites infringes on the freedom of expression, which is part of the same Charter that guaranteed multiculturalism. Both rights are highly valued in our society and to transgress either one, requires a lot of
of convincing evidence. Many agree that some free speech should be prohibited. There have even been efforts by the Canadian government to try and put som e limits on free speech. One such effort was the Cohen report in 1965. This Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada said that some form of speech should be prohibited these days because our society is more diverse, and during times of stress we tend to put the blame for our problems on others. In other words, they were worried about racist scapegoating. The recommendations of this report, Anand says, led to hate propaganda laws. Nevertheless, thus far there have only been a few cases with convictions. We can see from Statistics Canada that hate propaganda is the least common form of hate crimes reported, whereas mischief and assault are the highest. If hate crime involves an act then it is easier to detect. However, if the act involves speech (i.e., hate propaganda), it is more difficult to prove. Thus, hate websites are prevalent and can influence the attitudes of many people and teenagers toward other races. Because of the right to freedom of expression, they almost never can be censored.
To conclude, although Canada has made many efforts to encourage diversity (such as through the Multiculturalism Act and the Charter), racism has not been erased. Hate sites are better instrument for the spread of racist ideas than methods used in the past. Moreover, hate sites are a stable source of racist ideas as they cannot be technologically and legally censored. Hate sites transcend borders and thus cannot be controlled by the Canadian legal system. Even when these sites are Canadian, censoring them is difficult because many people can create duplicates and can also claim that the act of controlling them violates their freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, hates sites are not only pernicious in themselves but also cause racist attitudes to become prevalent in Canada. Brunilda Cimo is a third year student at the University of Toronto, studying International Relations and Political Science.
Internet Rights – Should Internet Access be a Human Right?
by Andrew Bryan
Most people don’t think twice about a person’s right to an education. But when that education is hindered by limited Internet access, should that too become a right rather than a privilege?
and individuals are using their voice on the internet to generate political change. What is challenging about the rise of this technology is the resistance met by these advances by certain governments, and people in certain economic situations. Countries such a North Korea and China censor and severely curtail access, and some developing countries face difficulty accessing computers and Internet signals. Similarly, developed countries like Canada face structural problems with low-income citizens who have extreme difficulty accessing the global information hub. With the emerging debate about the importance of access to uncensored information gaining popularity, the question arises of how aware some governments are of this issue. In Toronto, many people are extremely dissatisfied with their access to the internet, and say seriously hinders their opportunities.
Internet freedoms are a hot topic in current-day international relations. Following democratic participation and desire for human dignity, many consider Internet freedoms to be the next frontier of what is considered a basic necessity. The Internet allows people to hear news in real time and a place for the sharing of ideas, and a place that gives a voice to anyone, regardless of their individual situa-
tion. But the power of the Internet has not yet reached its full potential, and access can be strongly tied to socioeconomic factors. There has been a marked rise in the integration of information technology around the world: NGOs use social media to further their causes, groups are using the internet to convene and share ideas,
Isa Arias lives in Toronto and is a young mother. She has a nine-month old son and a five-year-old son, who has just started kindergarten. Arias relies on an internet connection broadcast by a neighbour’s router that she has permission to use. The connection is very weak, resulting in slow Internet browsing. With two kids to watch and a busy lifestyle, her Internet connection makes what should be the simplest task (such as browsing) a challenge, and limits her access to information.
Arias’ internet connection impeded her success in high school. Many of her classes have online components, and since she was raising a child, her ability to submit work promptly was severely impeded. She remembers a specific instance where her class had forum questions to be completed every weekend. The assignment required responses to online discussion questions. Theoretically, she could consult her classmates’ answers and respond to others for marks. However, her Internet connection (or lack thereof) prevented her from viewing the information easily and posting to the forum was difficult. Arias says a reliable Internet connection would motivate her to use the internet to further her education. While online education is ideal for her situation, it is impossible to do with her current set-up. Access to information, specifically, is an integral part of a healthy society. As Barack Obama stated in a speech during his 2009 visit to Shanghai, China: “The more freely information flows, the stronger the society.” Similarly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that a society with free access to information reduces the likelihood of conflict. This goes beyond mainatining contact with friends and family and reaches the heights of creating a democratic society based on freedom to information access. Arias often finds herself frustrated with her limited connectivity. She also stresses the importance of having the internet for her children. With her older son growing up and already learning to use computers at school, she feels she risks letting her son fall behind by not allowing him to use a computer at home. She is worried for her son’s lack of opportunity, even more than her own. While Arias does not rely on social assistance to support herself and her family, a man named Martin does. Martin thinks a personal internet connection is so important that it should be covered by social assistance. “It is obvious that the Internet provides a multitude of means to education and to
economic growth”, says Martin, and he finds it unfair that the government does not provide people lacking both of these a clear means to improve their situation. There are ways to access a computer and the Internet, but public computer labs and libraries available to this demo-
“Arias’ internet connection impeded her success in high school. Many of her classes have online components, and since she was raising a child, her ability to submit work promptly was severely impeded.” graphic are very restrictive. Often public libraries block access to websites with important information and are subject to availability and time constraints. Martin pays for the Internet himself because he finds it essential. While he admits having almost no budget for it, he says that he would pay more just because its necessity. He shares in the sentiment that information should not be denied to anyone.
Martin’s situation is exacerbated by his lack of funds. His computer hardware is out of date, and often can’t handle some essential tasks like web browsing. He feels that with a stronger internet connection his education, job listings and communication with potential employers, which would ultimately allow him to refuse social assistance. Not giving this population a voice on the Internet and a strong chance at joining together to form a support system online represses this group significantly. Mary (pseudonym) is a U of T student. She describes her home life as inhabitable, and she made the choice to support herself on a combination of savings and current job wages, without government financial assistance. She has no Internet access at home. Mary faces several disadvantages are visible in her situation. While the Internet is available around campus, she is subject to time restraints, limited availability of computers and file storage challenges. She says that as a first year student, her situation is far more complicated than if she had a functioning computer at home. She also believes that getting a university education is her only means to a successful and financially stable life. Together, these three cases show that limited access to the Internet makes individuals miss out on opportunities. They feel disconnected from society, lacking what many others take for granted. These sentiments are reminiscent of someone whose human rights are not being met, lacking a tool that clearly helps make many individuals successful. It is not difficult to see free Internet access as analogous to human rights. Andrew Bryan is a first year student at the University of Toronto, studying international relations and peace and conflict studies
Photospread â€“ Portraits of Indonesia by Rajiv Sinclair
Rajiv visited Jakarta, Magelang, and Yogyakarta, on the Indonesian island of Java. During his travels he photographed the worldâ€™s largest muslim society in a state of social and economic transition.
01 An artisan from Yogyakarta proudly presents his traditional shadow puppets
02 A young man working at the docks in front of a pile of damaged barrels at Sunda Kelapa
01 Merchant sailors take a break from mid-day sun in Sunda Kelapa 02 Gridlock at Plaza Indonesia in Jakarta Central 03 An older man repairs a broken bicycle wheel at Taman Fatahillah 04 A pair of young Jakartans play on a bicycle outside of CafĂŠ Batavia 05 A wage labourer loads leaking barrels in the Sunda Kelapa harbour 06 A pilgrim takes a moment to think at a Buddhist temple in Magelang
Rajiv Sinclair is a third-year student of Economics, Political Science, and Rhetoric at the University of Toronto. He has a passion for the rare kind of journalism that is honestly compelling, intimately human, and impossible to ignore. This summer, he is planning a multimedia story-sharing exploration of the Middle East, capturing the human element of this story through video, photography, and well-chosen words â€” if you might be interested in coming along or helping out from home, you can and should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE GROUND
ON THE GROUND
Microfinance Innovations – Mobile Banking in Haiti by Jeffrey Bower
In the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake, Haiti Mobile Money Initiative is finding new ways for Haitians to achieve financial stability.
Before landing, something about the landscape in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, seems out-of-place. From the air, large swaths of blue and white cover every corner of town, as if the country were in the midst of preparations for one of its vaudou holidays, full of brightly coloured decorations. Walking through the crumbling terminal to the baggage claim, in a repurposed hangar, it becomes apparent that this sea of blue is not so serene. Leaving the airport, the city unfolds as an ocean of overlapping tarps waving gently in the wind, covering countless flimsy structures, the homes of 1.9 million Haitians since the earthquake more than a year ago.
I came to Haiti in October as a member of the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative, a project aimed to promote financial inclusion. Ten months after the earthquake destabilised the island, the slow pace of reconstruction is baffling. The entire downtown core, where most buildings sustained heavy damage, remains without power. Rubble still covers the streets. Tent camps occupy every spare inch of land.
with many living in tents and not enough money for food – the national level of cell phone usage has risen astoundingly to over 50 per cent in recent years.
My project involves working with a local telecommunications company to set up a financial system that allows anyone with a cell phone to open a mobile bank account. Although 70 per cent of Haitians get by on less than two dollars a day –
This service enables a low-income, cashfor-work employee, such as a street cleaner, to buy fruits and vegetables in the market using just his phone. He can also share money by an electronic transfer to his family four hours away in the country-
Using a mobile account, those who normally lack access to financial services – due to no fixed address, unsteady income, branch access, etc. – can deposit, transfer and withdraw money all through a mobile phone.
“Using a mobile account, those who normally lack access to financial services – due to no fixed address, unsteady income, branch access, etc. – can deposit, transfer and withdraw money all through a mobile phone.”
side, instead of making the long journey in person. A family can store their savings electronically instead of leaving them vulnerable to theft in their home. A similar project in Kenya, marketed under the M-Pesa brand, has seen massive uptake. In its own way, the Mobile Money Initiative is helping the country to rebuild. Piece by piece, it forms a foundation for a more transparent, secure and ultimately more stable society. But the question of how long these foundations will last before being rocked by another crisis remains uncertain.
Jeffrey Bower is a graduate of the Masters in International Relations program at the University of Toronto. He has worked for Transparency International, the United Nations, and Scotiabank International Banking. Photos by Jeffrey Bower
Tilting Politics – What is China’s New Left?
ON THE GROUND
by Ioana Sendroiu
Regardless of censorship, the presence of a leftist movement in China continues. Its unique What comes to mind when we think of China? The orthodoxy would likely be along the lines of ‘a Communist country that also happens to be the second-largest economy in the world’. An ordinary person would recognize the paradox, but they might not consider the implications. There is little thought given to the sort of socio-political domestic discourses that might highlight how these contradictions have refused to block such unparalleled growth in contemporary China. Professor Yuezhi Zhao of Simon Fraser University recently delivered a talk entitled “The Politics of Intellectual Publicity in China’s Brave New World” that might provide part of the answer. In Professor Zhao’s talk, she focused on the direct relationship between the media and academia in China. While both have been examined independently in relation to the state, Zhao looks at the direct interactions between them. Her insights into this relationship are absolutely pertinent to understanding modern China. Professor Zhao’s narrative begins with Chairman Mao himself. Mao Zedong wrote everything from news editorials to the news itself, in his infamous Quotations From Chairman Mao (known more commonly as The Little Red Book). This intersection between academic discourse and the media was considered normal in China prior to the 1970s because, from the beginning, members of the press and the intellectual world dedicated themselves to promoting social reform. This created a remarkable integration of academia and the media, with academic papers appearing in the Guangming Daily.
The integration then became uncomfortably deep for the members of the Communist Party. The beginning of the end was in a 1988 CCTV series entitled River Elegy which negatively portrayed China and promoted Westernization. This series was created by academics who were able to disseminate their views to a very large audience. This proved dangerous for the stability of the nation with the Chinese government later stating that River Elegy was very likely responsible for the student protests in 1989.
After 1989, there were significant developments and changes in both the media and academic circles in China as the media became commercialized. Content became focused on maximizing entertainment value and a variety of papers emerged to fill different niches. There was also the introduction of ‘expert’ opinions, which were often heavily biased neoliberal economists. This meant the rise of popular characters such as “Market Wu”, “Shareholding Li”, and “Bankruptcy Cao”. Meanwhile, the media — at the government’s urging — worked to silence academics from the “new left” movement, who wanted to speak out about the social problems associated with free market capitalism. The representatives of the new left, in conjunction with the media, embraced a “no debate” policy , unequivocally stating that neoliberal economics, “is the lowest cost option for China to march towards it’s glorious future”.
New left academics have begun to receive Western recognition, with Wang Hui being asked to deliver the keynote speech to the American Association of Asian Scholars in 2010. However, while Wang was delivering his speech, the Nanfang Weekend (China’s most liberal newspaper) was busy attacking Wang’s sourcing methods without giving him the opportunity to defend his views.
Interestingly, it was not simply the media that censored economic liberalist views. Chinese academia itself indulged in a form of self-censorship whereby new left views were delegitimized. This was done against a backdrop of, as Professor Zhao puts it, “widespread corruption, fraud,
Of course, it would be unfair to state that the new left academics have not been successful in dispersing their views. Economist Lang Xianping is perhaps the best example of success. This Professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (and former host of Lang Chats About Finance) temporarily broke the “no debate” rule by creating controversy in 2004 and 2005 by discussing China’s corrupt history of privatization.
The new left has not found a level of acceptance near that of the media and academic fields, which have gained relative autonomy in the past thirty years. New left academics are mostly stuck on the Internet and relegated to Western academia. They currently have no space within mainstream Chinese thought and, according to Professor Zhao, are unlikely to find a place there within the conceivable future. This is an important component within China’s wider censorship efforts which — counter-intuitively — mostly target left-wing, communist ideology. Ioana Sendroiu is addicted to reading BBC news, is a second year student at the University of Toronto, and is studying international relations and peace and conflict studies.
Dissenting Voices – Voice of Ahmadinejad v. Voice of America by Sara Amini
New Media is becoming an increasingly salient method of mobilizing political dissent. Media suppression by the Iranian government has led protesting citizens to look to new media for new ways to communicate.
I woke up in Tehran the morning of June 13, 2009 to discover that votes for the Iranian Presidential elections had been counted and there was a clear winner. Everyone stared at the television, waiting for an official announcement from supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. As I flipped channel to channel, all I could find were regular entertainment shows and commercials instead of any information on last night’s election. An official announcement was postponed and no one provided any information on the election or the delay. It was during the late afternoon that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was officially announced as Iran’s re-elected president. At this point, however, all attention had already turned to foreign media since the Iranian post-election coverage was clearly inadequate. While the sound of protests and gunshots echoed in the streets of Tehran, Iranian state television remained silent for the first few days after the election results
were announced. People turned to illegal satellite receivers to get information on the events unfolding outside their homes. Mobile phone reception was blocked and the Internet was disconnected to prevent any sort of communication among the people. This is when foreign media became the source of information and the protestors’ tool for mobilization. Two prominent news channels that could provide news in the people’s native tongue were BBC Persian and Voice of America. The popular demand for news BBC Persian, a news channel launched only a few months before to increase it’s broadcasting hours. They recapped the news on the streets, aired people’s opinions on the events, and held balanced debates. On the other hand, Voice of America, an international broadcasting company funded by the American government, was involved with political analysis and played a greater role in mobilization. They aired frequent appearances from activists like
Mohsen Sazegara, who was involved in promoting demonstrations. Iranian authorities were not oblivious to people’s access to foreign media through home satellite systems. This was the start of Iran’s intensive war against radio waves. The government began frequently jamming satellite signals by transmitting signals that disrupt communication. However, this did not defeat the American and British broadcasters. To combat the destructive waves, foreign broadcasters switched to another satellite to allow people to readjust their receivers. How did people find out which satellite, and what signal, worked when almost all methods of communication had been blocked nation-wide? It is only in a time of crises, like this, that one realizes the effectiveness of word-of-mouth communication. Landlines started ringing once authorities launched their radio wave attack.
ON THE GROUND “There was a national hunger for news,” says M Mohseni, who attended almost all the demonstrations, “Everywhere became a place of exchanging information. The morning bus was a place for political discussion.” Foreign news reflected the people’s solidarity, which in turn, galvanized protesteors even further. To witness the courage of a fellow citizen, ignites a sense of bravery within others. Police brutality captured by camera phones and played by foreign broadcasters, fuelled further anger and drove more people into the streets. For-
eign media revealed a truth about the Iranian government to it’s people. Although protests against the government may seem silent for now, the government’s fight against foreign media is not over as it continues to jam satellite signals to stop the transmission of information. Autonomy and independence from foreign influence has been a main objective of the Iranian government since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The events of last summer’s election will lead to further resentment of the West and the Islamic Republic will only continue to blame the
West for it’s own internal instability.
Sara Amini is a third year student at the University of Toronto studying political science and philosophy
Cyber Rights – The Internet as a Public Good? by Vipal Jain
There’s a new group of disadvantaged in Canada: those lacking reliable Internet access. Fortunately, solutions are within reach. Steve Hick is the lead editor of the book Human Rights and the Internet, and is the co-founder of Warchild Canada. His book examines the influence of Internet in our lives and its impact on the world. He is also an Associate Professor of the School of Social Work at Carlton University. The Globalist: Do you consider Internet access a fundamental human right or a luxury? Steve Hick: Definitely a human right! TG: If cable TVs and phones are not considered human right, why is Internet? SH: Internet is used for more than entertainment. It is used to access basic services such as healthcare, submit annual taxes, and it is a great source of knowledge. So Internet has become a necessity. TG: Are people’s rights being violated when they don’t have access to Internet?
SH: Those without internet access are at a reduced advantage in participating in society. I look at Internet the same way as a public utility. Everyone should have access to it. TG: How are Canadians coping with increasing Internet fees? SH: People are being fairly creative trying to get access. Some people don’t have access while other people are getting really cheap dial up. There are also people pooling their resources or running cables through houses to share connections. TG: Is there a way Internet can be more widely available for those who can’t afford it? SH: You can look at it the same way we provide roads and power. It should have not been handed over to corporations. It was originally public and at some point, it was handed over to private companies.
It’s hard to reverse it at this point. The only way government can help is giving people subsidies and paying corporations for Internet access. TG: How much role should government have in regards to Internet access? SH: They need to do what they can to help people in the low-income level to get Internet access so they are not at such a disadvantage and their opportunities are not limited. TG: Which aspect of Internet access causes you the most concern? SH: Probably the lack of access to school age children who are expected to use Internet to finish school homework. They are basically being forced to walk a great distance or take public transit to go to a library. So I think that’s the biggest tragedy.
Agricultural Genetics – Can Genetically Modified Food Solve Hunger? by Jonathan Gray
David Tribe is a respected scientist in the field of applied genetics. He writes under the moniker “GMO Pundit”, and fights tirelessly to defend the practical importance of GMO foods. Dr. Tribe has a long career in applied genetics with basic training in biochemistry, molecular biology, and microbiology. He has numerous research publications and patents. His recent research includes reports on tracking dangerous pathogens such as bacteria causing infectious meningitis, and the enterococcus bacteria which causes dangerous hospital infections. His earlier work involved developing industrial processes to make food additives and biofuel, and generating tests and treatments for virus infections. He has also published papers on virus evolution. After his time as a faculty member at the University of New South Wales, Dr. Tribe has spent the last two decades at the University of Melbourne teaching graduate and undergraduate students food microbiology and food safety courses. He has also worked in industrial research and development at DuPont. Dr. Tribe communicates widely in Australia and overseas about policy issues relating to genetically manipulated crops, and has recently visited Japan to talk about connections between agricultural technology and biodiversity. He runs a website with Professor Bruce Chassy called Academics Review and a blog called GMO Pundit. The Globalist: To put it mildly, aversion to genetically-modified (GM) foods is not uncommon in the consumer market. Still, even if the public attitude is comparable, the United States exhibits a far higher adoption and output of GM crops compared to the UK and the
European Union. Broadly speaking, what do you feel are the underlying reasons for this difference? Do similar attitudes exist in Asia or Australia? David Tribe: The mad cow disaster and other food safety scandals are a part of the complex back-story against which the introduction of genetically modified crops
“Modern crop technology... doesn’t provide a magic bullet for solving African problems ...” was judged in the European Union. There has also been active and well-funded demonization of this technology by civil society organisations such as Greenpeace, and this is particularly true in Europe. This active demonization has, not surprisingly, contributed to the general perception that we should be cautious about this technology. But I don’t think it is prudent to be cautious for 10 years or more when there is no scientific evidence of an inherent problem -- especially when benefits for sustainable agriculture and food security become more and more obvious because of the challenges posed by population and economic growth through the coming decades. Excessive delay for years
and years in the face of a looming global food security challenge – that’s foolish caution in my opinion. TG: GM crops in Africa are not uncommon due to food relief programs from the United States and others. Recently, however, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and United Nations Environment Programme, “Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa,” 2008 claimed that- “The evidence presented... supports the argument that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.” Given the commitee’s definition of ‘organic’ as a system that ‘utilizes both traditional and scientific knowledge’, does this at all conflict with the current practice of donating GM food, or attempting to implement more modern systems of agriculture in the developing world? Is this an accurate portrayal of ‘organic’ systems? DT: This now rather dated United Nations environmental program report that you refer to leaves out a lot of important topics. It doesn’t discuss seed technology and doesn’t compare organic methods with best alternative practices. In general, it seems to compare organic farming against worst existing practices, and it’s not surprising that it can find some improvement. There have been very few large-scale evaluations of organic farming for African farmers. But we do have a large-scale,
Above: Agustín Aguilar, at work in the greenhouse that houses transgenic wheat at CIMMYT’s El Batán, Mexico headquarters. Photo courtesy International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center countrywide evaluation of the best practice conventional farming technologies and their benefits for poor African farmers. This is the countrywide response to the disastrous Malawi food crisis of 2005. Each year since 2005 more than one million relatively poor Malawi farmers have benefited from subsidised fertiliser and seeds. And each year since then, Malawi has consistently experienced a boost to their annual corn crop production from the deployment of modern crop technology of one to two million tonnes. Modern crop technology certainly doesn’t provide a magic bullet for solving African problems, and the success of a program like that in Malawi depends on millions of farmers, in partnership with government agencies, learning a lot about the challenging real-life problems involved – for example, rising to the challenges of fertiliser costs by developing the most efficient farming methods. Changes to farming technology on such a scale is indeed a complex and challenging task, and as explained recently by Andrew Dorward and Ephaim Chirwa, other African countries will need to learn carefully from the numerous special measures needed to ensure that the Malawi program is effective
and a good fit with sustainable development policies. Given that the United Nations program report has not explored the best alternative practices for deployment of the full range of modern technology, it is really not an accurate or up-to-date portrayal of the value of organic agriculture for smallholder farmers in Africa TG: Various protest groups critical of the GM movement have come forward requesting the enactment of a government policy that would label an item of produce if it came from a breed or cultivar that had been modified using biotechnology, or if it contained DNA specifically added from other species or phyla. Do you think this is an achievable request, and if so, should it be implemented? DT: In my country we already have such labelling requirement, so it is achievable. The question I would pose is not whether it’s achievable, but at what cost and for what reason. It does introduce extra costs and does discourage innovation, but it does also provide people with a choice of avoiding technology that they’ve got
some reason to avoid. It’s also really a political question because the movement to try and label GM is a result of political action. Hence it’s a decision that should be settled by democratic political processes, and whether or not I think it’s a good idea or not is beside the point. To the extent that it discourages useful innovation, I actually oppose it, but if a large number of people in the community think it’s a good idea, so be it. For that matter if a genetically engineered transgene needs to be labelled, when it is discovered that there are natural transgenes in a food product, should they also be labelled too? And what about the current wheat varieties that have many genes from distant grasses introduced by conventional seed manipulation processes – should they also be labelled? They have many more genes introduced into them than do the current genetically engineered crops, and these numerous extra genes pose similar risks to those postulated for genetically engineered transgenes. TG: Recently, a the Supreme Court of the United States overruled the previous legislation that permitted the patenting of organisms. What effect, if any, do you
“Transgenic crops ... reduce pesticide use and save labour and fuel ... but they did not produce a product that was obviously beneficial to the final food consumer.” Left and Right Facing Page: Photos courtesy International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center predict this will have on research, both in for-profit and non-profit industries? DT: I haven’t given this issue serious consideration. I know the pros and cons of the patent process. And I assume that other plant variety rights exist that give some intellectual protection to the inventors of new crops, and this other intellectual property protection will still enable business interests to take advantage of new crop made by transgenic methods. If the decision by the Supreme Court does turn out to interfere with that innovation, perhaps the Supreme Court of the United States will revisit the issue. TG: A common complaint of GM technologies is the concept of the ‘Terminator’ seed, a sterile plant that is unable to reproduce. Critics indicate that this is solely a profit ploy, but this seems on the face to be an indiscreet tactic at best. While Monsanto stated in 1999 that it would not be marketing ‘Terminator’ seed technology,
what is the rationale behind its implementation? DT: This so-called terminator technology has never been deployed. Similar technologies, however, may have value in preventing gene movement from crops to related species as a method of managing environmental consequences of transgenic crops. One crop in which special technology for managing cross pollination between transgenic crops and wild relatives can have great value is rice, which Jonny Gressel has discussed very well in his book Genetic Glass Ceilings. TG: One of the great achievements in molecular biology was the discover of the transposons, the so-called ‘Jumping Genes’- segments of code that are able to re-insert themselves into the genome. Part of the reason they were discovered was due to their frequent occurrence and action in corn crops, producing the mosiac-like colouring in kernels. The fact that
the transposons permit what is essentially of a cut-and-paste of genetic information from one point to another, is there a danger inherent in cross-pollination; for modified genes to be transferred into native species by this means? DT: This route of gene movement is possible for any gene present in a plant. So it is a risk that is inherent in natural evolution. Such natural events occur as a low frequency, but they illustrate that movement of genes between different widely divergence species does occur in their natural systems. (An example is given here at my blog, http://gmopundit.blogspot. com/2010/11/natural-gmos-part-81-thorough-genetic.html) From our past experience with nature, the genetic change generated by such processes they do not present any unmanageable problem for food or environmental safety. TG: Broadly speaking, can you comment on current research efforts within the
field of agricultural science? What exists in terms of prospects to ‘legitimize’ the ethics of GM technology in the minds of consumers? Movements for increased availability and use of biofuels and genuinely sustainable agriculture are gaining ground in getting public respect for science; that is, what economic gains can had in the immediate future, and is this a promising route to winning appeal? DT: The first generation of transgenic crops introduced traits that are helpful to farmers and the environment because they reduce pesticide use and save labour and fuel, but they did not produce a product that was obviously beneficial to the final food consumer. The next generation of new genetically modified crops changes the final food product by providing better quality vegetable oils (enriched with omega-3 fatty acids), more nutritious rice enriched with a good source of vitamin A (golden rice),
and will also provide drought-tolerant corn. These initiatives are now near to being introduced to consumers, and are likely to have a big impact on consumer opinion. In my country, Australia, everyday consumers can really understand how drought tolerant crops are an obvious benefit to farmers and the environment. TG: Finally, with regards to the future, is a hypothetical global adoption of GM crops necessarily the end of the small, independent farm? Organic food, despite occurrances of the contrary, prides itself on being a system that favors the small farm-- Especially from the current standpoint, the methods of distribution and organization of GM crops is substantially reliant on either input or control by organizations (e.g. Syngenta) large enough to handle the intellectual property and safety concerns. DT: I don’t agree that GM crops are only
for large organisations and large farms. For example, smallholder farmers in Africa that I have visited benefit enormously from the huge decrease in back-breaking labour needed for weeding, made available to them when they use herbicidetolerant corn. Smallholder cotton farmers in India and China benefit from decreased exposure to insecticide sprays when they use insect protected cotton. I don’t think there are any intrinsic safety concerns with GM crops but do agree that excessive precaution and excessive regulation are greatly delaying the arrival of benefits to many smallholder farmers in developing countries. One clear-cut example of this is insect- protected eggplant in India (called brinjal in India) which is being held up by anti-technology activists. Jonathan Gray is a medical student at Saba University. He graduated from Ryerson University with a degree in Psychology and Biology.
Flotilla Fiasco – The Turkish President on Relations with Israel by Utsav Sanduja
Turkey’s peaceful relations with Israel are in question. The two countries are have been closely tied in the past, but what is in store for their future since the flotilla incident? What is the future of Turkey’s bilateral relationship with Israel since the flotilla incident? Abdullah Gül : “Now Turkey’s relations with Israel, the current situation, has not been something that happened as a result of Turkey’s desire. Where we are today is not a situation which we arrived at through any initiative on the part of Turkey because the reason why we arrived at where we are today is because there was an attack in international waters by the Israeli army on a humanitarian aid convoy and the killing of nine people. So we have arrived at where we are as a result of that action. This is a matter for international law. There are things that need to be done in line with international law. The Israeli government will certainly evaluate its own position and if they give value to the importance that Turkey has placed on Israel in the past, then the Israeli government will do what is necessary. Doing what is necessary doesn’t mean making a concession. It means to abide by international law because 80 miles out at sea there was a convoy organized by NGOs for humanitarian reasons which included human rights activists from 38 countries so the future of our relations is based on Israel’s position. It is a fact that Turkey has first of all recognized that Israel is a state from the moment of its establishment. It is the only Muslim country to have done
that and Turkey has always made positive contributions to peace, to the regional issues and Turkey has been instrumental in trying to help solve problems that exist between Israel and the Palestinians with Syrians and with Arab countries, because Turkey has good relations with Israel and with Arab countries. It was for that reason that Turkey was able to make use of those relations in order to help resolve some of the issues between those countries and Israel. I see in articles that people say that the current government led to this current situation. I see some opinions being raised along those lines. Prime Minister Erdogan and members of parliament, we have been in Israel many times. We have contributed greatly to the development of Turkish-Israeli relations. I invited the president of Israel and the Palestinian president to Ankara when I became Turkish president. I invited them. They came and addressed the Turkish parliament. I wonder if the Israeli president could have spoken at the parliament of another Islamic country, other than Turkey that is, whether he has done so, whether he will be doing so. The Israeli government – I think we should make a distinction here, a distinction between the people of Israel - and I don’t mean to include all of the politicians in this decision - but the government of
Israel must think of the value of its relations with Turkey. If that relationship is important for the government, then they can look to a better future in terms of our relations. President Gül was subsequently awarded the 2010 Chatham House Prize for his initiatives in bringing forward mediation efforts amongst political groups in Iraq, efforts in solving disputes between Afghan and Pakistani leaders and many other positive accomplishments in the field of conflict resolution. From my interpretation on the President’s comments, it is clear the Netanyahu regime has many gaps to cover. Additionally, there is no doubt that extremes from both sides, be it Islamist groups in Turkey, or far-right groups in Israel have been pushing for the complete abolition of ties be-
“The government of Israel must think of the value of its relations with Turkey.” www.torontoglobalist.org
tween both respective countries for their own reasons. However, cool heads have prevailed as both governments continue to retain their strong trade, defence and military ties. Those making maximalist arguments may want to re-evaluate their assessment of the situation and if history has taught us anything, both countries have endured far greater hiccups in their mutual relationship. One great example of this rift were the conflicts between Israel and its neighbours. Despite sharing sympathies with numerous Palestinian movements, Turkey stayed neutral during the Six-Day War of 1967 and did rela-
tively little to damage its relations with Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Both wars have left tremendous scars and animosity amongst those most virulently critical of Israel, yet Turkey throughout the period, retained its close ties with Israel, focusing instead on a constructive relationship, rather than one on confrontation. History will once more repeat itself and the incentives for both countries to maintain its unique relationship may trump whatever concocted claims of the “re-Ottomanization” of Turkey or the radical takeover of Israel by ultra-Zionist groups. The Israeli government would be
wise to keep its relations with Turkey – a genuine peace broker in the Middle East, notable for bringing belligerent actors on the table in efforts for peace, as in the case with Hamas and Syria. Likewise, Turkey has a lot to benefit from many of Israel’s military technologies, aiding its war on terrorism, against Kurdish militants. Utsav Sanduja is a third year student at the University of Toronto studying political science and history
Citizen Journalists – A Matter of Life or Death? by Daniel Cunningham
Where traditional media is weak, new media steps in to fill gaps and solves problems. How well it does this is a matter of individual cases. In Mexico it does both. In many parts of the so called “developed world”, social media like Facebook and Twitter have come to represent easy communication with the people we know and a sense of community that transcends our day to day experiences. However, in emerging countries like Mexico, social media is often used for entirely different purposes. Instead of forming virtual communities based on shared interests, users have begun an amateur career of reporting on the daily violence which is a part of Northern Mexico’s war on drugs. “Shots fired by the river, unknown number of dead,” read a Tweet from the city of Reynosa, reported in the UK Gaurdian. Tweets and information feeds like this have become commonplace in Mexico, where social media fills gaps left when traditional reporting isn’t able to get information to affected communities. But why is filling this gap necessary? The answer lies in the sheer scope of the violence which has been affecting Mexico. Journalists fear reprisals from cartels for reporting gun violence, kidnappings, and grenade attacks. In an environment where professional media are faced with death threats for reporting the activities of organized crime, it is left to citizens to report on what is happening outside in their neighborhood. Internet proliferation in Mexico is set to grow dramatically in the foreseeable future, heralding a new age for the region’s media. This rise in new media is being paralleled by the escalation of drug-related crime in Mexico.
But social media isn’t only being used by Mexicans that are looking for a way to protect themselves. Recent evidence points to the use of social media by drug cartels to recruit, intimidate, and network. In May of 2010, a former presidential candidate, and close friend to President Felipe Calderon, was abducted. Subsequently, photos of the kidnapped man emerged on social media sites in Mexico. These images were attributed to Mexican cartels, and represented a definitive attempt by these organizations to use social media as a tool of intimidation. Far from an isolated incident, this event is one of many which have led Mexican authorities to question their current practices of Internet regulation. However, government proposals to regulate social media sites have many Internet users in Mexico crying “Big Brother”. On the other side of the debate, Mexican media regularly reports that social media sites have been the primary source of information for the people of northern Mexico. Entire communities have turned to social media sites for almost everything, from how to avoid traffic delays due to military roadblocks, to reporting the appearance of a new rash of drug related murders. The often bloody after-math of cartel related violence has become a regular sight for many in a region where over 30,000 have been killed in drug related
violence in the past four years. Removing social media could expose many people to harm they could otherwise have avoided. Internationally, there are strong and competing views on the subject of Internet regulation. Accordingly, how governments respond to the phenomenon of social media varies widely. In the Mexican context, it is clear that national security issues might be at stake. That being said, it is unclear how restricting Internet use would affect those people who rely on it for their safety. The intense events unfolding around the emerging Mexican market for social media warrants a close look, not only at Mexican Internet moderating practices, but at how Mexicans themselves see social media evolving in the coming years.
Daniel Cunningham is a third year student at the University of Toronto studying political science and philosophy.
Democratic Decay – The Year of Yanukovych
by Reid Standish
Ukraine has been experiencing less freedom of expression in protests, demonstrations, and in the media since Ukraine’s new president came to power last year. Which way in the scale is Ukraine headed? Towards democracy and the EU, or towards authoritarianism and repression? The Ukrainian experiment has failed. The democratic future that was once predicted by Western analysts in the wake of the 2004 Orange Revolution has vanished. Left in its place is a regime of despotism that is characterized by corruption and oppression. Since President Viktor Yanukovych assumed power in February 2010, the limited democratic space that was carved out in Ukraine has quickly begun to disappear. Journalists and academics that have been critical of the President have been routinely intimidated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), while others have mysteriously disappeared. Opposition members are being rounded up and subjected to judicial review under the pretence of an anti-corruption campaign by the President. Furthermore, the right to assembly is being revoked as protests are being violently broken up. With his political leadership steering Ukraine steadily towards a model of Russian autocratic rule, President Yanukovych and his Party of Regions have transformed Ukraine from a transitioning democracy, with a hope of future EU integration, into an oligarchical police state. The Orange Revolution Blues The 2004 Orange Revolution provided a major breakthrough for democracy in Ukraine. Sparked by massive election fraud in favour of then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came out to protest and eventually turned the vote in favour of Viktor Yushchenko and his Orange coalition. However, the Orange Revolution euphoria did not last long. Once in power, President Yushchenko’s govern-
ment became divided through infighting and was paralyzed by its corrupt nature. In 2005, Yushchenko sacked Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his most powerful political ally, which weakened his political coalition and set the stage for the reemergence of Viktor Yanukovych on the political scene. Despite Yushchenko’s lack of reforms and the political instability that characterized his presidential term, he did provide Ukraine with a genuine democracy, by establishing free media and free elections. The 2006 and 2008 parliamentary elections, as well as the 2010 Presidential election took place under Yushchenko’s watch and they were all
consensus through extortion and payoffs. Even as the final ballots were being tabulated from the February 2010 election, Yanukovych and his associates were already attempting to centralize power, by buying alliances with former rivals with allurements of wealth and high political posts. The political opposition that have remained in parliament are few, and their ability has been impeded by Yanukovych’s parliamentary bloc. Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister and Yanukovych’s main political rival, has remained in the political arena despite attempts to discredit her and her political
“It looks like Ukraine’s future is increasingly likely to resemble Russia’s present, as Putinism becomes the political model of choice. Already, steps towards creat- ing a pseudo-democracy in Ukraine are transpiring.” deemed free and fair by the international community. This past year of Yanukovych’s presidency is a stark contrast to the democratic progress achieved under Yushchenko. Yanukovych has been able to alleviate the political “chaos” that defined the Yushchenko years by creating political
affiliates. These attempts intensified on December 30th when Tymoshenko was taken in for a ten hour interrogation regarding charges about her abuse of office, while Prime Minister Tymoshenko has denied any wrongdoing, and has accused President Yanukovych of creating a politically motivated prosecution. Most likely, Yanukovych and his party are moving
to imprison Tymoshenko or at the very least discredit her before the 2012 parliamentary election and the 2015 Presidential election. On December 16th, another political message was sent, as a group of men broke into the Ukrainian parliament and viciously attacked opposition politicians protesting the government’s harassment of Yulia Tymoshenko. This wasn’t just another instance of political boxing for which the Ukrainian Parliament has become known. It was a pogrom, a mob attack carried out with the approval of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Apart from the divide and conquer strategy that Yanukovych and his associates have carried out in parliament, they have also cracked down on public dissent. On December 3rd police violently broke up a rally of thousands of protesters who had been protesting since November 22nd about a controversial new tax law. The new tax law, amongst other things, would increase tax surcharges on small and medium sized business owners. This punitive new tax would push small and medium sized entrepreneurs into the economic periphery, and shrink Ukraine’s already staggering middle class. Such a move would further consolidate power into the President’s hands by leaving the economy open to further expansion by Ukraine’s oligarchs and limit the rise of any new adversaries. A Year to Forget Other democratic pillars, such as media freedom is also being threatened. Since February 2010, attacks and pressure onjournalists have increased. Concerns about attacks on journalists have been expressed by numerous media watchdogs, including Reporters Without Borders. This decline was documented in its 2010 World Press Freedom Index, which reported that Ukraine “fell sharply” as a result of “the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February”. In 2009, Ukraine was ranked 89th, but the 2010 rankings place Ukraine 131st out of 178 countries, slightly worse than Iraq. Applying pressure on the major media outlets has proved successful for the Yanukovych government and they have since expanded to eliminate criti-
cism from independent media sources. Targeted strikes have become the method of choice for getting the message across to the few that have resisted. In late July, a young blogger was questioned by the secret police for writing anti-Yanukovych comments in his blog. In early August, the editor of the political magazine “Novyy Styl”, Vasyl Klimentyev, mysteriously disappeared. When the chief investigator was asked what he thought happened to Klimentyev, he replied “sometimes people get lost”. In October, the police searched the home of Klimentyev’s deputy, Petro Matviyenko. That same day, they also searched the home of human rights activist and blogger Dmytro Groysman. Both searches were designed to send a clear message—be quiet. The hush campaign has expanded and has targeted non-Ukrainian nationals as well. Within a few months, German analyst and Yanukovych critic, Nico Lange was detained at Kiev airport; historian Ruslan Zabily was interrogated for his research on the Holodomor, the famine-genocide of 1933; Father Boris Gudziak, the American born and educated Rector of Lviv’s Ukrainian Catholic University was also harassed by the SBU. These systematic and symbolic acts of media suppression illustrate a regression in democratic freedoms that Ukraine has undergone since Yanukovych became President. The appointment of Valery Khoroshkovsky as head of the SBU demonstrate the poor state of the media in Ukraine since 2010. Khoroshkovsky is by many accounts one of the richest men in the country, a successful businessman and owner of Inter Media Group, which owns majority shares in numerous Ukrainian TV channels. The fact that one of the country’s largest media tycoons is also the head of its secret police does not present an optimistic view for the future of a Ukrainian free press, and represents the Putinistic slide that has occurred under Yanukovych’s short regime. Putinism In observing the strategy that has been put underway by Yanukovych and his associates to consolidate power, it is easy to draw similarities between it and the strat-
egy used by former Russian President and current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. Like Putin, Yanukovych and his group are moving to create what is essentially a oneparty system in Ukraine. The public witch hunt against Yulia Tymoshenko and her associates is part of the strategy of eliminating any political opposition, as well as sending a clear message to others of what the costs of defiance will be. Should this tactic prove successful, and Tymoshenko is imprisoned or barred from politics, any alternative to Yanukovych will be removed from the political arena. Former President Viktor Yushchenko seems to have adopted the old mantra, “if you can’t beat them, join them”, and has bought in to Yanukovych’s puppet parliament, leaving Tymoshenko and her party as the last semblance of Ukraine’s democracy. If the trial of Tymoshenko is allowed to go underway, Ukrainian democracy will essentially cease to exist. It looks like Ukraine’s future is increasingly likely to resemble Russia’s present, as Putinism becomes the political model of choice. Already, steps towards creating a pseudo-democracy in Ukraine are transpiring. Local elections took place on October 31st and they were rife with corruption. The election was condemned for not having met international democratic standards and the EU and US both issued statements. Only twice has the US criticized election fraud in Ukraine—in December 2004 and October 2010. The voter fraud of 2004 was balanced by the Orange Revolution. However, the hope that once captivated Ukrainians is nearly gone and has been replaced by cynicism and apathy. This has allowed Yanukovych’s “reforms” to receive only a manageable resistance and has opened the door for further political moves modeled after Putinism. Moving forward, Yanukovych will continue his conquest over Ukrainian society. With the media suppressed, the opposition neutralized and unilateral consensus in parliament, Yanukovych could very well become the Ukrainian Putin. State sponsored television and the Party of Region’s own propaganda have already tried to spread a cult of personality, similar to what Putin accomplished in Russia. Though Yanukovych has elected to portray himself as the thoughtful and be-
nevolent leader—not the personification of Slavic manliness that Putin exudes. For Yanukovych to successfully root himself into Ukrainian society, he should look to Putin’s own ascension and the key factor that helped his consolidation—economic growth. Yanukovych has achieved some marginal successes so far in terms of economic policy, but it is undetermined how this will translate further down the road. Should the economy not provide the necessary cushion for Yanukovych’s rise, the coming years could be rife with violent outbursts, popular unrest and government reprisals. However, for now Yanukovych and his
regime are on the rise. Yanukovych will have completed his first year as President in February 2011, and although his autocratic behaviour has worried the US and the EU, as long as stability and growth are in place nothing will amount beyond critical rhetoric. The EU has economic problems of its own currently, and engagement in Ukraine would aggravate Russia. The reset in relations with Russia takes precedent for the US and maintaining energy security with Russia is vital for Europe. As long as the steady flow of Russian gas via Ukraine is ensured, political concerns will be delegated to the backburner. As this trend continues, Ukraine’s democratic space will continue to shrink
and human rights in Eastern Europe will once again be cast aside for economic gains. Reid Standish is a graduate of Simon Fraser University, with a degree in International Studies
Search Terms – Google’s Role in International Politics by Bedour Alagraa
As something we use everyday and that has become normalized, are we mistaken to not question how our Google results are manipulated? Imagine being given a research topic by an educator or peer, or imagine being asked a question for which you don’t have a response. What do you do next? Google it. So far, so good. Now imagine yourself identifying which parts of the issue or question are adequate for entering into a search bar (remember, you want to yield as many results as you can). Who determines which words are worthy of orienting a person’s exploration of information? Why is it so, and more importantly, is there an underlying political objective in creating this compartmentalization of research via Google? These questions are difficult and scary. The truth of the matter is that Google is as much a tool of extending a particular world-view and political ontology as much as it is a database for internet pages. How has the art of “Googleing” contributed to the proliferation and construction of international political phenomena? Consider the example of Park51, or as many prefer to call it, the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Originally named the Cordoba House, Park51 is a 13-story interfaith center currently under construction in lower Manhattan, two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Under the Leadership of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the center was to be named after Cordoba Spain, a place of peaceful coexistence and dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews during the 8th-11th century. For the sake of avoiding revisionist history, Christian Spaniards were in fact conquered during the Moorish invasions, and many Christian Spaniards died during the violence
of the conquest. The point here is that Cordoba, despite the violent conquest, attempted to reconcile the differences among the Abrahamic traditions, and provide a space for collaborative study, economics and faith. But let’s get back to the issue of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Park51 had been under construction prior to the controversy, and two mosques existed within several minutes walking distance of the World Trade Center site, in addition to the World Trade Center’s already existing Muslim prayer facilities prior to the September 11 attacks. So why the fuss? While plans for the faith center were under review in May of 2010, bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, both founders of the group Stop Islamization of America dubbed the project a “Ground Zero Mosque” (despite the fact that it hadn’t any plans to be a mosque, nor was it being built on the WTC site), with the explicit intent of serving as a “victory memorial” to Islam. The obvious racist motivations aside (note that most Muslims come from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, as such, this issue is not exclusively religious, although it is perhaps worth emphasizing that Indian Muslims, Arab Muslims and Persian Muslims are three distinct ethnicities), the two bloggers successfully advanced the motivations of their interest group at an important time — the midterm elections in the United States were only weeks away. Controversy ensued.
Two thirds of those polled by the New York Times were opposed to the construction of the center, citing sensitivity to the families of those who were killed in the attacks — which also included many Muslims. This presented midterm candidates with a clear and politically profitable strategy for election/re-election: candidates began constructing their platforms according to their opposition or support for the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. Now, back to Google. During the heated controversy, those wanting to know more about the issue took to the Internet. Thanks to the work of Geller and Spencer, the term “Ground Zero Mosque” had been diffused, and began to permeate the minds of those looking to know more. Indeed, having the issue constructed as that of a “Ground Zero Mosque” would provide those looking for more information with a controlled lens through which the issue would be constructed and debated. This pattern is not uncommon in linguistics. Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf’s relativist interpretation of language seems prophetic now. Sapir and Whorf famously suggested that language is not merely an organization of sounds and words, but it contains implicit valuations and judgments, which have certain political implications. For example, the English language contains several words describing women according to her marital status, with only one term to address men: Mr. derived from Master. According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this sug-
Photo by: Blaine O’Neill gests that English society in particular considers the marital status of women as integral to their identification, and their identity. Linguists have also pointed to the manifestation of these judgments in the economization of language, that is, language becomes cribbed and only the most important elements survive. Phrases become more brief and their meanings more broad, which has important political implications. Let’s reconsider the example of the
“Ground Zero Mosque”. Linguistic theory would suggest that this characterization of the issue of Park51 occurred as a result of a concurrent rise in Islamophobia (structuralism) and a need to economize the issue into something more accessible, or in what the post-post-modern researcher would call, a “Google-able” phrase. Despite the convenience that this characterization presents, it conflates perception and fact: mistaking what people might perceive Park51 as (a “victory mosque”) with what it actually is (a multi-faith
center with a Muslim prayer facility). Not only is the issue being misrepresented, it is being deliberately reconstructed that way through the language constraints demanded by popular hyper-impatience and the importance of “Google-able” sound bites. Even more than highlighting the impact of Google, the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy points towards a broader issue: only a handful of people are responsible for determining which phrases are “Googled” and, as such, control both the users’ immediate perception of the is-
“Having the issue constructed as that of a ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ would provide those looking for more information with a controlled lens through which the issue would be constructed and debated.” sue, as well as what information they will find when they search for those loaded phrases — which will naturally serve to reinforce their preconceptions. The result? Concentric rings of misinformation. This problem has been identified as “Google-ology” by Linguist Adam Kilgarriff. Kilggarriff asserts that due to the syntax limitations and constraints on the numbers of queries and hits, working with search engines makes us develop “work-arounds”, that is, we become “experts in the syntax of Google”, introducing us to biases that search engine algorithms are not equipped to identify. The rise of “Google-ology”, according to Kilgarriff, is contributing to the use of microas opposed to metalanguage to describe contemporary issues. What does this mean for those of us wanting to learn more about a particular issue? To Google or not to Google? Like any other form of inquiry, don’t just Google, but Google critically. Before entering a phrase into any search bar, we must ask ourselves, “Where did this phrase come
from? Why are these words the most important ones describing this issue, and why does this phrasing yield the most results?” Asking these questions won’t change the information you find (after all, it is merely a sorting mechanism for what already exists in online literature), but it will change how we read that information. As McLuhan said, the medium is the message — Google is the information it holds, by looking critically at Google, we can read its pages critically. The “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy not only highlighted the growing Islamophobia in the American voting population and policy analysts, it signaled a new era in the diffusion of information — the importance of constructing the issue in the aforementioned manner was crucial to advancing specific strategic political interests and, in this regard, Gellar and Spencer succeeded in internalizing the term among the American public, regardless of whether or not an individual supported or opposed the center’s construction. The term became a household name,
and will likely continue to be in use in the retelling of the story. This is where we see the importance of language: who gets to tell the final story, and whose story will it tell? What will people “Google” in the future? Speculation won’t help, but what we can say is that the role of the Internet in constructing issues and debates will determine how interests will develop and more importantly, how individuals engage with the information, or misinformation, they are being presented with.
Bedour Alagraa is a fourth year student at the University of Toronto, studying international relations and political science. She is also currently Co-President of the International Relations Society.
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