Friday, February 7, 2014

Russia's moral inconsistencies: computer crime, inequality, security, nationalism, birth rates, pornography: does not bode well for the Olympics

Recent news reports about the prevalence of malware being written by teenagers and young adults in Russia, and particularly being directed at financial transactions, underscores a particularly disturbing set of observations about the country under Putin, and indeed Russia is not our “friend”.  (Donald Trump is always saying that about China.)  Yeah, that is like saying a lion or a tiger in a zoo is not your friend.  (Sorry, Richard Parker really did become Pi’s friend at the end.)
The Russian economy does not pay information technology workers enough to support their own families.  And the government looks the other way on computer crime directed outside of Russia, encouraging it as a kind of subtle warfare against the West, not just western governments but against individuals in western countries.  Russia has replaced Soviet-style communism with a kind of rule by a crime syndicate.  China, at least, maintains a pretense of communism.
The role of the anti-gay propaganda law is particularly cynical.  It seems to suggest that Putin and Russian politicians believe that  “equal rights for gays” in western countries (especially gay marriage, which has boomed, even now in the more conservative U.S.)  will give “marginal” Russian men and women the idea that it’s OK not to have children or large families, when doing so requires sacrificing one’s own personally expressive pursuits.  Russia has carried his belief system far enough to ban adoption of Russian children even by heterosexual married couples in countries where gay marriage is legal anywhere, as if to try to influence other counties' social expression.  It seems that this belief may abet Russian authorities looking the other way on computer crime.

And it doesn’t seem to occur to the Russians that being soft on computer crime, just because it is aimed at the west (or at Chinese or southeast Asian business competitors), further undermines security in the country at the time of the Sochi Olympics, and makes detection of plots more difficult for them.
Ironically, Russia has no laws criminalizing mere possession of child pornography.  That’s also true of some countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  (At least according to Wikipedia, map here (picture above) , near the bottom of the page.) Although one could make a libertarian argument against laws that criminalize possession of anything  (what about WMD’s?) it really is an irony to criminalize gay activity or (as Russia says) only gay “propaganda” and look the other way on the other activity.  (The State Department warns that US residents or citizens who possess child pornography in countries where possession is legal can still be prosecuted in the United States when they return.)   On the other hand, China, as well as many Islamic countries, prohibit possession of all pornography.  It’s indeed curious how these countries try to manipulate the “moral loyalty” of their own populations.    

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