Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WEB WATCH: Developing an Online Complex




The distinction between news and entertainment, the real and the virtual, is blurring at a dizzying pace. Hollywood builds a full-sized Titanic more expensive (inflation adjusted) than the original ill-fated bark, while TV journalists play themselves reporting on fictional presidential sex scandals in Primary Colors, a journalist's novel turned screenplay, where art imitates life imitating art. Or maybe I have that backwards.


In perhaps the most surreal existential side effect of our Brave New World, amorphous "institutions," very real in public consciousness but little more than shadows in the physical world, have started to acquire virtual flesh and bones on the Internet.


What am I talking about? Remember President Dwight D. Eisenhower's valedictory warning in 1961 (http://hs1.hst. msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust. html):


"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.


"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."


For years, the mythical "military industrial complex" has been cast as global bogeyman extraordinaire, the tail wagging the political dog, driving the Cold-War arms race, wreaking death and destruction in the Third World, and inspiring today's marketing drive to enlarge NATO and sell standard-issue guns to new members.


Whatever one's opinion of this analysis, the power of the idea as a political code word and clich? can hardly be denied. But you can't find a listing for the military industrial complex in the phone book, nor can you try to lure away its personnel to more constructive pursuits, because as a distinct "entity" it exists only in the abstract world of ideas.


Or so I thought. But it turns out that the Russian military industrial complex (voenno-promyshlenny kompleks), has a web site at http://www.vpk.ru. This is a serious information resource containing an enormous amount of material, described by its creators as "the first attempt to create and develop a broad, public information library about Russia's military industrial complex, including operative, normative, legal, commercial, financial, contact and other information that is not a state secret that can express and reflect on the contradictory processes in this sector."


The site also contains a page of links to other "military industrial complexes," but I was disappointed to find nothing beyond links to big U.S. defense contractors, spokes in the wheel but hardly the same thing.


Reflecting on my discovery, I started searching the web for signs of other shadowy refugees from the real world. I began, naturally, with that object of childhood fears, straight from under the bed and shadows in the closet, the bogeyman himself, at http://wwwse.fortunecity.com/hultsfred/ elvisesplanaden/92/.


Not to be outdone, the Russian mafia also enjoys a home of its own at http://www.mafia.spb.ru. The site centers around key links for self-respecting wiseguys to information and sales sites for cellular phones, weapons, luxury cars, hot night spots and various erotic services. Mafia groupies will enjoy the slang dictionary and reference copy of the criminal code, while links to the "Convict Foundation" can provide assistance for those unfortunate enough to have run afoul of the law.


Moving right along, I enjoyed a passing acquaintance with those mischievous maritime currents spoiling the world's weather at http://www. elnino.com.


I also managed to catch up with the bane of world celebrities, the famed paparazzi, at http://www.paparazzi.se/. Soon the tabloids will pick up on the speculation about the conspiracy of Swedish photographers behind Princess Diana's death. Perhaps it will come to light that the mystery car was in fact a white Saab, not a Fiat.


Speaking of conspiracies, you can get all the dirt behind the 60 greatest conspiracies of all time at http://www.conspire.com and generate a compelling exposition of conspiracies of your own making at http://www.cjnetworks.com/~cubsfan/ conspiracy.html


Finally, I tried in vain to find a site for the Russian oligarchy, so maybe Boris Berezovsky is right and no oligarchy as such exists here. But just in case, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov last week staked his own slice of territory in cyberspace with a website (http://www. nemtsov.ru) and will be ready to do battle in bytes if ever the oligarchs rear their ugly heads on-line. Shadow boxing, anyone?


Bill Fick welcomes any tips on interesting web sites or questions concerning the Internet for this column. Fick is co-founder of Samovar Internet Consulting, LLC. Web: http://www.samovar.ru e-mail: bill@samovar.ru tel/fax: 953-2261