Russia's new emphasis on information control, the costs to authoritarian governments and the threat to Western democratic institutions, some news you may have missed... and MORE!
American Opportunity
A/O Global Intelligence Weekly: Authoritarian Thought Control in the 21st Century
The United States and its allies are now emerging from a complete focus on the “War on Terror”, into a realization that we have entered into a new “Great Power conflict”. In the last decade, Russia and China have embarked on policies of dominance in their regions. Russia appears to be seeking great power global status, even though its small economy will make those ambitions hard to sustain.  

The danger to the West is not just Great Power competition but a competition of ideas.  While the West remains committed to democracy, liberty and human rights, the alternative offered by Russia and China is authoritarianism.  This competitions for the mind of the citizens of the world is the new challenge that will define the 21st century.

Western democracies still base the legitimacy of their governments on free, open and fair elections. This idea of legitimacy still prevails in the world today, while within authoritarian countries there remains the obligation to conduct elections and convene parliaments -- even if the elections are rigged or sham elections.

The key to government legitimacy in the 21st century remains a vote in an election to establish the consent of the governed.  For this reason, authoritarian governments control the information available to their citizens.  

We here at American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation do not believe that the control of information in our mass media, cable T.V., internet society is possible.  Nevertheless, Russia seems to be tightening the availability of information to their citizens.  For instance, on April 11, 2019 the lower chamber of the Russian Duma advanced a law requiring all internet traffic to be routed through Russian servers.  On April 16, 2019 the Russian Duma advanced the measure creating an independent Russian internet the “Rusnet”. This action seeks to create a “firewall” from western internet structures.  The Russian government offers these measures with the excuse that they have to be protected from American ability to cut Russia off from the internet in time of conflict.

Liberty is based on knowledge, education, and information.  That foundation of liberty was recognized in the American Declaration of Independence and in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.  The same concept of rights is set out in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which defined the right of all people “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Besides sending a message that Russia is preparing for information wars against those it sees as adversaries, it has the effect of cutting the Russian people off from information that will enable them to think, act critically, and protect their own human rights from their own authoritarian government. Civil freedom groups in Russia have expressed that fear.

Russian government behavior supports that fear.  On April 15, 2019, the websites of internet news webpages in Russia were blocked by Russian government action.  The websites had reported that graffiti painted on a police station in Russia had violated a new law against insulting public officials on-line.

More after the jump. . .
Joim American Opportunity

The new efforts at mind control go beyond on-line passing of information.  The Russian government also seeks to control the right of assembly.  It is reported that a new law is being drafted that will allow the government to freeze the bank accounts of those who donate to the organization of protests deemed “unlawful”.  Any human rights organization receiving financial support are being required to register as “foreign agents” -- thus undermining the legitimacy of those groups.

Such actions are clearly intended to send a message to persons and groups within the Russian Federation object to the behavior of their authoritarian government.  

Control of thought has real consequences.  A poll of the Russian public on April 16, 2019 found that 70% of those polled said hat Joseph Stalin’s rule had been good for their country!  In fact, the poll specifically showed that 46% of Russians believed the Stalin repressions had been justified by results achieved by the Soviet Union.  Vladimir Putin has previously said positive statements about Stalin. Joseph Stalin created the greatest repressive regime in history, murdered millions of his fellow citizens and others under his control.  

If thought control continues in Russia to permit and even encourage such opinions, the hope for a free Russia at peace with its neighbors becomes increasingly remote in the future.

This is the challenge freedom loving people face in the 21st century.  We here at the American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation are certain that liberty will prevail in a world of mass communication.  You can’t isolate people forever. This confidence does not relieve us from identifying and understanding the threat to freedom that we face today.   

Some news and articles we recommend for information and discussion purposes, none of which necessarily represent the position of A/O:

As always, American Opportunity is always looking for new resources and topics we can address in detail.  Please feel free to stay in contact! 


Jim Gilmore
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