Syria: Across the Lines | Dispatches | Channel 4

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Syria: Across the Line, Channel 4 Dispatches:  Olly Lambert has spent weeks living deep inside Syrian territory – with both government and opposition supporters – to explore how the two-year-old conflict is tearing communities apart.

The solutionist impulse and digital theology

My review of Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here, published in The National

In her celebrated January 2010 statement on “internet freedom”, Hillary Clinton chided countries such as China, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Egypt for placing restrictions on internet access. The then-US secretary of state affirmed her government’s conviction that “the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become”, because “access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship”.

Not long after, the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks obtained a trove of information revealing US military and diplomatic conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world. Information flowed freely. But the US government appeared somewhat less convinced of its capacity for strengthening society. Access to WikiLeaks was restricted in many government agencies; Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal were persuaded to withdraw their services; and students and government employees were discouraged from sharing Wikileaks information on pain of jeopardising career prospects.

Internet freedom, it turned out, was not a sacrosanct principle. It failed to resist the intrusion of profane political concerns. As an analytical category independent of political and social constraints, the internet produced stirring rhetoric, but shorn of its obfuscating theology, it proved subject to the imperatives of power as much in the United States as in Uzbekistan.

This disconnect between the reality of the internet – the physical infrastructure, with its platforms, protocols and utilities; its promises, perils and limitations – and the idea of “the internet” – as a fixed, coherent and unproblematic phenomenon that is open, public and collaborative – enables two dangerous tendencies that are the subject of Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Solutionism, and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don’t Exist.

The first he calls “solutionism” – a preoccupation with spectacular and narrow solutions to complex social and political problems. The second is “internet-centrism” – a conviction that “the internet” heralds a revolutionary era, a time of profound change in which old truths have become obsolete.

You can read the rest here.

Binyavanga Wainaina: Rewriting Africa

Among other things, Binyavanga Wainaina is author of ‘How to write about Africa‘, a biting satire on Western writings on Africa. (See video below the fold.)

It is time to change our image of Africa. Critics say that for too long now, aid organisations, foreign diplomats, politicians and journalists have been stuck looking at this vast continent as a convenient photo-opportunity to illustrate victimhood and desperation. And few men are more forceful in advocating a change in how we perceive Africa than Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina. Talk to Al Jazeera sat down with one of the continent’s most influential young authors to explore why the world is still not understanding Africa, and how to break the lens of media distortion.

What next for Venezuela?

Following his election victory, Nicolas Maduro is expected to be sworn in as president of venezuela later this week.

However, those expecting a repeat of the easy win Hugo Chavez enjoyed last October were left shocked after official results gave Maduro only a slender margin of victory.In keeping with the tone of an often bitter election campaign, the loser, Henrique Capriles, has called the win “illegitimate”. He also demanded a full recount, something to which Maduro has agreed.Nevertheless, the narrowness of Maduro’s win – even once confirmed – will raise questions about his leadership.