Intentionally or by accident, the West is developing the equivalent of the Chinese reputational rating system. The New York Times describes how in Xinjiang “children are interrogated. Neighbors become informants. Mosques are monitored. Cameras are everywhere.” Then the data is fed into a system and scored according to a Communist Party virtue rating system. Fact-checkers monitor social media to see who’s expressed offensive opinions or joined any Hate Groups. The virtuous are rewarded but low scorers on Beijing’s community guidelines can be stopped from traveling, excluded from admission to schools, banned from social media platforms, charged in court and doxxed.
If non-Chinese find it disturbingly familiar it is no coincidence. The same technology is involved in policing both the West and the Middle Kingdom. In the West the social scoring system is not yet official but Newsweek has already asked: should racism and hate be illegal? It happily pointed out that “most of those who advocate a ban insist it need not interfere with American democracy. As Jack Greenberg of Columbia University points out, incitement to racial violence is outlawed in most liberal democracies, including Britain, Israel and most of Western Europe.”
Organizations dedicated to identifying “hate groups” have proliferated, most notably the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its blacklist is so extensive it has to be divided into categories, including male supremacy, hate music, and radical traditional Catholicism. Ironically, the SPLC has itself also been accused of being a hate group after its founder and guiding light, Morris Dees, was blamed for sexual harassment and racial prejudice. Over time there will be many more organizations dedicated to resource and platform denial.
The remorseless inquisition of every opinion and the requirement of a “right answer” to almost any social question has reduced Western intellectual discourse to a frightfully small handful of bits. The pixelization of information has afflicted even the greatest universities. It’s not only impoverished inquiry that made it dangerous. David Bahnsen, a contributor to Forbes and NRO, complained that ideological mobs on every side had marooned him on an “island”:
I believe all at once that the right’s embracing of Trump is a by-product of the tyrannical and bad faith treatment perpetrated on the right culturally and politically and economically by the left, and at the same time that the right will deeply regret (deeply) its choice of Trump as the antidote. In other words, I’m on an island. (Italics mine)
I find the secular progressive left of today thoroughly repugnant, and when I think of the way they have treated Kavanaugh, Romney, Bork, Ryan (granny wheelchair), and too many more to count, I get a guttural impulse that sounds like a Trumpkin for two seconds. When I think about their blame-America response to 9/11, I want to be sick.
Bahnsen is like a person who wanted a dinner party where intelligent polite people could reach compromise solutions only to find the other guests were Berias. It may only be a matter of time before people similarly marooned on thought islands or on ever-expanding blacklists start looking for a friendly venue. That implies a demand for not one but several social reputational systems to compete with that of the Woke. In all the hubbub about refugees, no one has asked: where is there sanctuary from the Explainers?
Self-sovereign identity, reputational scoring systems and the Internet of Things have made possible the subdivision of the public space. Through identity devices and ultimately biometrics, “every lock, lock access controller, card reader and other associated devices” can be told whether to let a particular individual pass or not. China already has a Muslim tracker system called the “Integrated Joint Operations Platform (Ijop), a regional data system that uses AI to monitor the countless checkpoints in and around Xinjiang’s cities. Any attempt to enter public institutions such as hospitals, banks, parks or shopping centers, or to cross beyond the boundaries of his local police precinct, would trigger the Ijop to alert police” to someone on the blacklist.
That blacklist system is coming to the West. The New York Times already has suggestions on “how banks could control gun sales if Washington won’t:”
Here’s an idea.
What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?
Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn’t be hard for them to take a stand.
Why not use the same technology to keep the ideological Berias in their own space by enabling virtual nations? This concept is not new. The principle was pioneered by Deng Xiaoping in China to let the productive escape from the ravages of Maoism. “One country, two systems” is a constitutional principle formulated by Deng Xiaoping, the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for the reunification of China during the early 1980s. He suggested that there would be only “one China”, but distinct Chinese regions such as Hong Kong and Macau could retain their own economic and administrative systems, while the rest of the PRC (or simply “China”) uses the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” system. Under the principle, each of the two regions could continue to have its own governmental system, legal, economic and financial affairs, including trade relations with foreign countries. That is what Hong Kong was promised and is fighting for.
It worked not by building bridges but by accepting walls. “One country, two systems” has already been proposed by Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney as a possible solution for Northern Ireland after Brexit. There need be no checkpoints because modern technology makes it possible to apply different rules to individuals in the same physical space making it feasible for affinity groups to intermingle yet capture the costs and benefits of the identities they choose.
Imagine a world where Red Card holders cannot apply for abortions at Blue Card institutions nor will illegal immigrants find their cards honored at Red Card institutions; where the Blue Cards can’t buy guns and pay higher taxes but the Reds forswear public education and health in favor of a school and insurance voucher. It would not be so very different from the place we already know today.
The space we inhabit is already delimited by many boundaries described by membership. Private airline lounges are closed to economy travelers at airports. The doors to restaurants, hotels and shops are effectively shut to illegal aliens and poor people who go to San Francisco. The deceptive absence of physical walls belies the fact there are virtual barriers everywhere. It’s those barriers that count.
Expect this trend to continue. As the hate lists grow, exclusions proliferate and safe spaces expand, rival groups will secede not into their physical enclaves but into their cards. Building virtual nations may be the boom industry of the 21st century.
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The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben MacIntyre. Described by John le Carre as ‘the best true spy story I have ever read’, this book follows the true life exploits of KGB double agent and diplomat Oleg Gordievsky.
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The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
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Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific.