I used to encourage LGBTQ (aka Q)
people to write by telling them, “We need to make sure they can’t
burn all the books.” While the burning and banning of books
persists in a limited way, now it’s entirely possible to delete
every single book.
In terms of personal preference, I read
electronic books. With a couple of swipes, I increase the fonts for
easier reading. Despite arthritis, I can hold the heaviest of tomes.
Health insurance should cover these miracle devices.
At the same time, with a few swipes and
clicks, I can remove these books from their electronic pages. How
many more strokes would it take to erase my whole electronic library?
All the digital books in a public library? All the libraries in the
I started thinking about this threat
while reading in “The New Yorker Magazine” (July 16, 2018) about
a Chinese company, JD.com, which the article described as “…the
third-largest tech company in the world in terms of revenue…”
Amazon is first in revenue, followed by Alphabet.
The writer, Jiayang Fan, went on to
explore the retail potential of rural China and the economic sense of
serving millions of untapped buyers by making goods accessible to
isolated regions. Few of these customers have computers, but they do
have cell phones and coverage. JD.com developed a sales and delivery
empire equivalent to UPS combined with Amazon. They use trucks,
uniformed men and drones. Villagers gather to watch the drones
deliver red boxes containing their orders (from diapers to live
crabs). It’s like going to a Walmart where all the customers know
It occurred to me that the internet is
literally taking over the world. Or, I should say, the people who own
companies like JD.com, are capable of taking over the commercial
world. As we become more dependent on them, more familiar with and
trusting of them, we are plummeting into a trap that challenges
everything we know, including reality.
The 1966 film comedy, “The Russians
Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” has never been truer.
While our legislators investigate,
debate, or downplay Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential
election process (as well as internal abuses like gerrymandering, and
denial of voting rights), not much has been done to protect that
process. Russian – or any – influencers can once again have a
field day invading the internet with their misinformation. If a
Chinese retailer can deliver to tiny mountain villages with no paved
access, then a foreign entity, savvy domestic terrorists, or our own
government, can find methods to disrupt a democracy.
I used to imagine enemies taking over
voting booths so that my vote for Elizabeth Warren, for instance,
would enter the big computer as a vote for some odious candidate. Or,
I thought, what was to stop centralized hacking and altered tallies?
Much more effective, and less
verifiable, are schemes that influence our voters to elect a puppet
whose backers have nefarious intent. This is real, this has happened
and is happening. I fear actual citizen votes will prove meaningless,
electronically as burned as banned books.
Where these information bombs were once
launched by governments, the tactic has since been monetized. Actual
companies employ former government and military intelligence
personnel, whether computer experts or field agents. The employers
may operate within ethical boundaries or not; the profits may be as
high as the customer’s goals are low. Great care is taken to ensure
deniability so that if laws are broken, there is no bad guy to
Social engineering is the nice name for
one of the game plans you can buy from these companies. Want to trick
customers into changing brands? Want to malign a witness at a trial?
Want to demonize a political opponent? These services are for sale if
you have enough money and want to play dirty.
The highest bidders get access to the
highest quality technologies. In a successful commercial project,
customers will buy, not the best product, but the best marketed
product. Deep pocket capitalists can plant detrimental information
using, for example, untraceable avatars, perhaps of fake consumers
with fake complaints about a product. When the intelligence company
makes such a complaint go viral, the hapless competitor loses
business and can’t cry foul in a court of law. There are no laws
addressing this sort of manipulation through the internet.
If that strategy is deployed in our
2020 elections, a lot of voters will, once again, be loyal losers who
elect a greedy, power-hungry figurehead just wily enough to do as his
masters command. This is war, cyber war. The sooner we accept that
fact, the sooner we’ll be catapulted toward saving our democracy.
If this cyberwar does result in another
fraudulent election, we will be that much further along the path to
burning books. The figurehead will have a nuclear button for that too
and Q books will be the first to go.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rainbow Gap, is available at
Strokes Books. You can reach Lynch at LeeLynch@ontopmag.com]
Copyright 2019 Lee Lynch.