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Can we? You know, cut off the internet

by Daniel W. Holst

President Trump, responding to the London Underground terror attack, tweeted about how terrorists use the internet to recruit terrorists:

“The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”

President Trump is absolutely right. We must turn it off. But how is that possible? Can that be done, and how would it affect our society?

The internet is the sole singularity of our global society. Beyond even religion and nationality, the internet founds and bolsters today’s society. Can we really exist without it? Living without the internet is like living without ourselves. Turning it off would handicap all of society, from individual interaction and corporate machinations to military efficiency. How, then, can we deal with terror?

Terrorists believe in the righteousness of their actions. We believe in the righteousness of our actions. This is not the righteousness of religion, but the righteousness of society. Richard Matheson explored the political conflict found between the perceived righteousness of two societies from his famous story I Am Legend. Both societies within that story placed their own righteousness above the other that ultimately ended in unnecessary destruction.

The word politic comes from the Greek politikos and essentially means the tactical expression of human relations. Of course, tactical connotates conflict, thereby, politic becomes the navigation of human conflict. Which begs the question: Can we eliminate conflict and embrace our good by nullifying our bad? Richard Matheson explored this possibility of splitting the essential duality of human nature from Star Trek’s TOS episode in which Kirk was split into two Kirks. One became his psychological good, the other was his psychological bad. As Matheson concluded, neither side can exist without the other. Both natures strengthen and complement the other. We need both sides of our temperaments. Without mutual and internal communication between natures, our essential self risks destruction. Josh Whedon explored this disastrous outcome through the movie Serenity, in which a secret state experiment altered the body chemistry of all inhabitants of the planet Miranda to eliminate aggressive behaviors.

Cutting off the internet is cutting off a portion of ourselves. We can’t survive without it. Yes, it offers an outlet and tool for the worst of ourselves, but it also creates an empathy and power for the immensity of the greater good. Mirroring our own lives and society, the internet, unfortunately, contains a plurality of temperaments. And like our own natures, removing one will destroy the other.

How easy it would be for us to simply eliminate the bad. “Cut if off,” as President Trump argued. The real problem is how we define the good or bad. Whose righteousness becomes the measure to crush the other. This is a step that we cannot take. So, to eliminate terrorist activities, we must navigate human conflict. To navigate means knowing, mapping, and understanding oppositional currents. We must engage in quality discourse, not only within our own politic, but within theirs as well. Our (and their) current policy of ignorance and self-sided righteousness must end because this has led to nothing but escalation and death. President Trump, we can’t cut off the internet, but we can cut off our silence toward our “enemies.” We are to each other the enemy. By this, I am by no means implying a moral equivalency between us and them, but simply recommending a new course of action. There is an old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.”

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