Gongol.com Archives: July 2023

Brian Gongol

July 26, 2023

News Mentions of China's foreign minister disappear from the Internet

George Orwell famously wrote in "1984" that "Who controls the past controls the future". He was right, at least in spirit: How history is framed by its authors bears heavily upon what we understand about the present. That is, of course, why it matters so much for historians to uncover as many first-hand accounts of the past from those who were omitted from the victors' drafts. ■ Orwell was right about the past, indeed, but we could add a modern adjunct: Who controls the website controls the present. Mentions and photographs of China's foreign minister are being erased in real time as he appears to fall out of favor with the country's ruling powers. It's not an orderly transition; it's an abrupt change first revealed not by an announcement but by the rearrangement of bytes and pixels. ■ In the 20th Century, one of the first steps an invading or rebelling force would try was to capture the radio and television stations. Control of broadcasting outlets played meaningful roles in events like the Warsaw Uprising and the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. ■ Today, though, while broadcasting outlets are still generally important, it would seem far more vital for occupiers (or rebels) to gain control of the URLs for official channels of information. Even in a peaceful and orderly transition, a new Presidential administration promptly replaces the previous White House website with its own. What appears to be happening in Beijing seems less than orderly -- and the websites may be the first indication of any part of it ceases to be peaceful.

News An interview with Sinead O'Connor

(Video) Irish television host Tommy Tiernan interviews the artist, who has just passed away. It really is a striking and deep conversation. What the viewer can't help but notice is just how piercing their gazes are, both host and guest. Half of their conversation takes place in the most subtle of twitches at the corner of an eye or a millimeter's shift of a brow. That style may be particularly, even maybe uniquely, Irish. May she rest in peace.

Science and Technology A breakthrough, perhaps

A pre-publication paper appears to claim development of a room-temperature, ambient-pressure semiconductor. If true, it would be a phenomenal breakthrough. But we ought to be cautious before popping the champagne corks -- extraordinary claims call for extraordinary evidence.

News It's not enough

A lot of simultanous oddities are taking place in China's government right now. It may be symptomatic of weakness inside the power structure. Party and personality alone are not enough to sustain a modern state.

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