Friday, March 2, 2012

Winston Churchill and the Digital Iron Curtain

March 5th will mark the 66th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” address, better known as the “Iron Curtain speech,” delivered in a gymnasium at Westminster College in tiny Fulton, Missouri.

There, Churchill gave the epoch-defining of the division between the Communist “Soviet sphere” and the democratic West, the memorable (and now, almost overused) appraisal of the Anglo-American partnership as the “special relationship” and a word-perfect exhortation of the principles of freedom and liberty.
But all these years later, with the USSR no more, do Churchill’s words still ring true?

In searching for an answer, one need look no further than the recent censorship actions of another Communist regime, North Korea. Following the death of Kim Jong-Il, their Supreme Leader, the Pyongyang authorities declared that anyone caught using a mobile phone during the state-ordered 100-day mourning period would be convicted of a war crime. Similarly, during the recent crackdown in Syria, the tech minions of Bashar al-Assad used a “kill switch” to cut its embattled citizens off from the web – the same tactics used by the panicking regime in Egypt during its last days. Meanwhile, Iran tried to close down all social networking sites to prevent protest organizers from spreading the word.

And how does this relate to Churchill, a technophobe who, after all, denied Westminster College president Franc “Bullet” McCluer’s request to broadcast the Iron Curtain speech by TV, telling him "I deprecate complicating the matter with technical experiments”?

One of Churchill’s reasons for using the “iron curtain” metaphor was that Stalin’s cronies were preventing media access to Poland, Yugoslavia, and other countries struggling under the Red Army’s jackboots.

Click here to keep reading at the blog of Boston University's The Historical Society

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