Syrian Citizens Fight Censorship

 Syrian tanks roll down a demolished street.

Syria is a great example of how people’s access to social media and other communicative technologies can be a crucial component of social justice.

The country is involved in a conflict right now – a civil war, if you will. The government ordered the use of military violence to suppress protests and demonstrations in Spring of 2011. Since then, rebel groups have fought back against the military and the violence has exploded, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

 Syrian citizens form militant group.

As journalists and media outlets have tried to spotlight this violence, the government has been proactive in shutting them down. Its actions have included the arrests of and attacks on journalists, the disabling of phones and electricity, and even the censorship of the Internet.

As gruesome and disheartening as the situation is, it has shown that people can use social media to draw attention to atrocities.  As the government manipulates what people hear about the fighting – for example, blaming deaths on a rebel carbomb – citizens are taking it upon themselves to distribute the truth, mostly through the cameras on their cell phones.

Private citizens are surpassing government censorship to help people learn what is really happening in a war-torn country. This might not have been possible before the “age of technology.”

Has Commercialism Ruined the Internet?

I will start this post with a question: What do you use the Internet for? Try to think of some things. Keeping up with old friends? Buying a new pair of shoes? Trying to figure out why your car is making that weird clicking sound? Trading stocks? Reading a fascinating blog? (If you’re here, your answer to that last question better be yes!)

Keep those things in mind. We’ll get back to that.

I recently read a couple articles in which the author, Douglas Rushkoff, expressed an interesting idea. He proposed that the Internet has been used for something that it was not originally intended to do. That thing is commercial business.

According to Rushkoff, the purpose of the Internet is simply to communicate with others freely. The keyword is freely. Because of the general idea of the Internet being free, and the original software being developed by “hackers” (people who knew how to write code and did so free of charge for the general use of the public), Rushkoff seems to oppose the idea of money being involved with the Internet in any way.

Because it was meant to be free, it is not right that the Internet should be used for any profitable gains. But think of the meaning of the word free. The Internet is not just free of charge; rather it is freedom of expression, freedom of thought, the freedom to use it in any way imaginable (and legal, of course).

This brings me back to my original question: What do you use the Internet for? My point is that the Internet is what you make it. If you only want to use it to make/spend money, then go to stock-trading websites or online shopping sites, and stay off sites that don’t interest you. If you’re opposed to that, then stick to the sites that you’re interested and stay off the stock-trading or shopping pages.

Why should someone get to define what the Internet should or should not be used for? Simply because in its early years it was independent of the idea of money, that does not mean that it should never be used to make or spend money. It is not as if Rushkoff is being forced to use these stock-trading or shopping websites, so I just have a hard time understanding why he is opposed to their very existence.

Let me know what you think! What do you use the Internet for? Do you believe commercialism and ads have ruined the Internet? Is there a “correct use” of the Web, or an “incorrect” one? Comment away!

(Note: Rushkoff also condemns banner ads. I agree! As he says, everyone hates them and they get in the way. And while they annoy me as much as the next guy, I understand that not all websites can be run without some sort of income. Some sites are kept up by people who do it as a career. These people need to be paid somehow, and if they want to keep the use of their site free, they have to have money coming in from somewhere. I wish their source of income didn’t send a flashing box dancing around my screen telling me that I’m the 5,000,000th visitor, but when thinking about all the amazing things I can do for free on the Internet, I must admit that avoiding banner ads is a small price to pay.)

Intro to Me and My Blog

Welcome to my blog! If you’re here, you probably already know that my name is John Jenkins. But if you don’t know me, I’ll tell you a little about myself. (If you do know me, this post might bore you. But keep reading anyway… Maybe my own description of myself will make you say, “That’s not true!”)

I’m a senior at St. Joe’s University in Philadelphia, but I’m originally from the suburbs of Baltimore, MD. Like most people in my home state, I’m crazy with Maryland pride. Whether it’s wearing my Ray Lewis jersey on Purple Friday, starting a verse of “Orioles’ Magic” at a crowded party, or just wearing the flag’s colors, I’m often somehow giving away the fact that I’m from Baltimore (or, as we say back home, ‘Balmer’), Maryland. So don’t be surprised if you see posts on here about the Ravens, O’s, or even crabs!

Maryland Pride at its finest

Going along with the Maryland theme, I obviously play lacrosse. I was practically born with a stick in my hands. I play on the club team here at SJU. The guys are awesome and we have a ton of fun. We also win. We’ve been to the national tournament every year since I’ve been here. And every year we’ve finished in the Elite Eight. (This is the year we take it all, I’m sure of it!) So lacrosse is another topic you’ll likely find here.

Finally, I love to travel. I speak Spanish, and spent a semester in Madrid. I went to Italy a couple times while I was abroad, and now I am studying Italian. I love to learn new languages, so that when I travel to different places I can interact with the people. When I’m not testing out the language, I’m usually snapping pictures. So there’s something else you can look forward to on this blog: accounts of my travelling experiences and plenty of pictures! (For example, I took the banner picture at the top of my page, of the mountains and lake, in Banff, Canada. That place is incredibly beautiful!)

Valle de los Caídos, Spain

 Tiny car in Rome, Italy

However, I’m going to predict that the majority of the post topics will be responses to things we talk about in my classes. I know what you’re thinking… educational stuff, boooring. I agree. But before you dismiss my blog, I challenge you to actually read a post or two. First of all, the classes about which I’ll be writing aren’t boring. They cover interesting topics, like how the Internet has changed the way people think and interact. Secondly, I don’t like “boring” any more than you do. So I promise I will keep things interesting!

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy