I didn't know much about the Internet in Russia, and whatever I knew I learned from an intoxicatingly brilliant Harvard student named Anton Troianovski who spent part of this past summer interning at The New Republic. For the rest of the summer, he was in Moscow as an intern for the Washington Post, pursuing what is also his senior thesis subject: how the regime controls the web and conspires to control it more.
Now, he and a Post colleague, Peter Finn, have published in Sunday's edition an analytic narrative of the skirmishes between the independent Internet and the webmasters who associate themselves with the emerging Putin dictatorship. Of course, the regime itself is more than curious about the technology and its possibilities. Here China may present a model, a rough and arbitrary pattern of smothering what millions of people hoped would be an instrument of freedom. Once again, the slipshod assumption that hi-tech communications is a guarantee of freedom is exposed as, well, slipshod. We learned that from Hitler and Stalin. We learned it from Khomeini and his primitive "hi-tech" cassettes. The free mind is still under siege, and the assault (and the defense) will come from the internet.
Yes, a war of ideas.