One of the first examples for a messenger who is made responsible and punished for the bad news he transmits can be found in the old testament. In the 2nd Book of Samuel the reaction of David (who later shall become King David) is reported after a courier brings him bad news about King Sauls death. This message makes him so furious that he orders the messenger to be killed straight away. This narrative from the bible, however should not blame to be blue-print of a historically more widespread seen habit of trying to deal with one owns frustration by punishing the bearer for the bad tidings. It can been found in historic records of non-Christian cultures as well, such as the killing of a news reporter who told Montezuma about the arrival of Cortez. During the Battle of Tigranocerta (Third Mithridatic War) the Roman consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus also made it into the history books by ordering the decapitation of a messenger who reported the approaching army of the Armenian King Tigranes.
Since these times, of course, the ways we express our frustrations have changed, but they are still driven by the very same feelings of suffering from temporal or repeated defeats. At least on a global political scale, a person transmitting bad news is not killed anymore. But the advent of the information age has opened completely new possibilities for the political rulers worldwide. Information or ideas cannot be suppressed by law, but the electronic messengers can be switched of. This is what the Turkish government has repeatedly done, in the case of Twitter, Facebook or Google. In pseudo-legal suitcases that accused single Facebook- or blog articles for insulting national identity to religious feelings, the law enforcement authorities ordered to shut down the entire news platforms. This was done because of the widespread use of SSL certificates for secure HTTPS internet protocol makes it hard for any national government authority to block a single content page only. Since the national authorities can only put pressure on the local internet service providers (i.e. on internet relay nodes), but not on the domain hosts directly, they have little power to insist on blocking a single web-page, be it on Facebook, Google-Blogspot, WordPress or Wikipedia. In their helpless attempt to suppress the viral spread of unpleasant news, instead, they pressed the local internet service providers in their countries to block entire domains. This has happened to Google and Facebook in the past, and recently to the entire WordPress.com domain. As the Turkish blogger efe kerem sozeri described it in his recent study, “.. it’s a move that shows the scope of Turkey's Internet law, the power of judges who may not fully understand online media, and the technical capacities of Turkish ISPs, which, under the heavy pressure of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rule, have turned into instruments of censorship.” He had discovered that the legal order of a Turkish court to removed or block a single WordPress page (that contained unproven claims of scientific plagiarism of one professor against another one) lead to ban of the entire WordPress.com domain (with several hundred thousand individual blogs and websites).
This is not the first time that the global blog-hoster WordPress.com was affected by Turkish legal actions. The notorious Turkish creationist, Holocaust denier and islamic scholar Adnan Oktar has been criticized by scientists from all over the world for his superficial collection of wannabe evidence against the Darwinian theory of evolution. Oktar’s two-volume convolute “Yaratılış Atlası (The Atlas of Creation)” has been judge by the UCB biologist Kevin Padian as “just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is." The European Councils Committee on Culture, Science and Education wrote about Oktars book “None of the arguments in this work are based on any scientific evidence, and the book appears more like a primitive theological treatise than the scientific refutation of the theory of evolution."
Adnan Oktar, feeling that his islamic position on defending biological creationism and rejecting the evolution theory could find supporters within the ruling Turkish AKP party, filed a law suit demanding to block several internet pages. And once again, due to their inability to restrict access to single page with a particular content, the Turkish telecom authorities instead blocked the entire WordPress.com domain.
Obviously, it seems to be easier for frustrated governments worldwide (China, Iran or Pakistan are using the same practice) to quickly block an entire web-domain (such as Google or Wordpress or Facebook), i.e. killing the modern equivalents of the messengers, rather than trying to deal with a single unpleasant message or opinion.
But as little power the kings or consuls of the past had to make the bad news unheard, as helpless are the attempts of undemocratic governments to prevent the spreading of unpleasant opinions or comments. Their attempt, however to brutally suppress entire information platforms and social websites should not be tolerated. Despite their univocal demand of social welfare and rights of basic human needs (food, water, housing, health care), those governments are fast acting when it comes to refuse peoples right of freely accessing any information source.
Jeff Jarvis, a writer and blogger focusing on the value of free information exchange, has recently published his view on the value of information content and the value of information distribution. He shows that “...online, content with no links has no value because it has no audience. Content gains value as it gains links.”
So when the Turkish authorities attempt to block access to the entire WordPress site, and suppress any links to it, it is as if they want to kill the messenger already on his way, before he is able to deliver the bad news. In the context of Jeff Jarvis interrelation between content value and distribution value, however, I predict that any attempt to block the distribution makes the value of the content even higher. Two of the most prominent cases were the attempt of the catholic Vatican to ban the movie “Da Vinci Code” and the recent attack of the North Korean government against Sony Pictures to stop them from showing the satirical movie “The Interview”. In both cases, trying to turn down distribution resulted in a huge increase in publicity for both films.