Innumerable as the Starrs of Night,
Or Starrs of Morning,
Dew-drops, which the Sun
on every leaf and every flouer
NGC3132 ©
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all
ye need to know.

E = M

Energy is eternal delight.
William Blake

Impearls: 2005-07-24 Archive

Earthdate 2005-07-30

Alexis de Tocqueville's Bicentennial

Yesterday was the bicentennial of the birth of profound French observer of early America Alexis de Tocqueville, born 1805-07-29 in Paris, died 1859-04-16 in Cannes in that country.  His monumental work Democracy in America is considered by many to belong among that small, select group of documents which constitute America's “Crown Jewels,” including such notables as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.  Impearls has had occasion to extract from Tocqueville's Democracy in America in the past, for instance, here and here; no doubt we will post from his work again in the future, including excerpts from his remarkable travel diary, published as Journey to America, but for now in celebration of Tocqueville's 200th birthday, we'll include the following little piece. 

Quoting Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America: 1, 2

It was in April, 1704, that the first American newspaper appeared.  It was published in Boston.  {…}

It would be a mistake to suppose that the periodical press has always been entirely free in America; there have been several attempts at establishing forms of anticipatory censorship and bail.

This is what appears in the legislative documents of Massachusetts under the date of January 14, 1722.

The committee appointed by the General Assembly (the legislative body of the province) to examine the affair of the newspaper called The New England Courant “thinks that the tendency of the said journal is to turn religion to derision and to bring scorn upon it; that the sacred writers are there treated in a profane and irreverent manner; that the conduct of the ministers of the Gospel is interpreted with malice; that his Majesty's government is insulted; and that the peace and order of his province are troubled by the said journal; in consequence, the committee proposes that James Franklin, the printer and editor, should be forbidden from printing or publishing in the future either the said journal or any other writing before he has submitted them to the secretary of the province.  The justices of the peace of the county of Suffolk shall be responsible for obtaining bail from Mr. Franklin, to answer for his good behavior during the coming year.”

The committee's proposal was accepted and became law, but its effect was nil.  The newspaper escaped the prohibition by putting the name of Benjamin Franklin instead of James Franklin at the bottom of its columns, and public opinion found the expedient fair.


1 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 12th Edition, 1848, edited by J. P. Mayer, translated by George Lawrence, Anchor Books, Doubleday and Co., Inc., New York, 1969; p. 719.  For more on Tocqueville check out Impearls' previously posted “Tocqueville acknowledgments and links.”

2 For more on Benjamin Franklin and his works, see also Impearls'Benjamin Franklin and WMD.”

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Impearls: 2005-07-24 Archive

Earthdate 2005-07-29

Ibn Khaldûn – Master Historian of the Arabs

A characteristic of science and mathematics, including the historical sciences, during high points in the history of the West — both at the time of the dawn of scientific scholarship with the ancient Greeks and science's modern reawakening and takeoff at the close of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance — has been the presence of a “chain” or “constellation” of scientific practitioners.  A Western scholar, of greater or lesser genius, typically had predecessors (whether living at the time or not) whose work influenced his thoughts, and the latter's results in turn went on to inspire successors.  Thus the phenomenon Newton likened to “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Among the poignancies of the history of scientific scholarship across the Medieval Arab and Islamic world, however, are those occasions when one encounters a brilliant, penetrating mind, but one who rather than circling as a bright star amongst a constellation of lesser and greater luminaries, instead passed as a lone meteor brightly illuminating the darkness, but having few or no antecedents and leaving equally few successors.

In the realm of mathematics and arithmetic, such a nearly solitary personage would include al-Kashi (i.e., Jamshid al-Kashi, died 1429), a prominent figure in the story of the evolution of our modern decimal numbering system; Impearls will likely do an article someday wherein al-Kashi's contributions will be considered.  In the domain of history, though there existed talented Arabic historians before and after him, there were none like Ibn Khaldun (in full, Wali al-Din 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr Muhammad ibn Khaldûn), born in Tunis, originally of Spanish Arab stock, and lived 1332−1406.  Greatest of Arab historians, few historians in any time or place have possessed Ibn Khaldun's breadth and scope of inquiry — which basically included all of society.  Indeed, he was the first sociologist of history.

Modern scholars praise Ibn Khaldun extravagantly.  Arnold Toynbee in his monumental work A Study of History wrote of him: 1

[Ibn Khaldun was] an Arabic genius who achieved in a single “acquiescence” of less than four years' length, out of a fifty-four years' span of adult working life, a life-work in the shape of a piece of literature which can bear comparison with the work of Thucydides or the work of a Machiavelli for both breadth and profundity of vision as well as for sheer intellectual power.  Ibn Khaldun's star shines the more brightly by contrast with the foil of darkness against which it flashes out; for while Thucydides and Machiavelli and Clarendon are all brilliant representatives of brilliant times and places, Ibn Khaldun is the sole point of light in his quarter of the firmament.  He is indeed the one outstanding personality in the history of a civilization whose social life on the whole was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  In his chosen field of intellectual activity he appears to have been inspired by no predecessor, and to have found no kindred souls among his contemporaries, and to have kindled no answering spark of inspiration in any successors; and yet, in the Prolegomena (Muquddamat) to his Universal History he has conceived and formulated a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.

George Sarton in his Introduction to the History of Science put it similarly: 2

… Ibn Khaldun was a historian, politician, sociologist, economist, a deep student of human affairs, anxious to analyse the past of mankind in order to understand its present and its future.  Not only is he the greatest historian of the Middle Ages, towering like a giant over a tribe of pygmies, but one of the first philosophers of history, a forerunner of Machiavelli, Bodin, Vico, Comte and Curnot.  Among Christian historians of the Middle Ages there are but one or two who can perhaps compare with him, to wit, Otto von Freising and John of Salisbury, and the distance between them and him is great indeed, far greater than the distance between him and Vico.  What is equally remarkable, Ibn Khaldun ventured to speculate on what we should call to-day the methods of historical research….

Finally, Robert Flint in his History of the Philosophy of History wrote: 3

As regards the science or philosophy of history, Arabic literature was adorned by one most brilliant name.  Neither the classical nor the medieval Christian world can show one of nearly the same brightness.  Ibn Khaldun (a.d. 1332−1406), considered simply as an historian, had superiors even among Arabic authors, but as a theorist on history he had no equal in any age or country until Vico appeared, more than three hundred years later.  Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers, and all others were unworthy of being even mentioned along with him.  He was admirable alike by his originality and sagacity, his profundity and his comprehensiveness.  He was, however, a man apart, as solitary and unique among his co-religionists and contemporaries in the department of historical philosophy as was Dante in poetry or Roger Bacon in science among theirs.  Arabic historians had, indeed, collected the materials which he could use, but he alone used them….

Impearls will eventually quote several excerpts from Ibn Khaldun's Prolegomena or Muqaddimah, translated as “An Introduction to History,” but for now we will restrict ourselves to Ibn Khaldun's description of naval affairs, including the circumstances leading up to and encompassing the Crusades of the West; thus, it fits nicely into Impearls' series on the Crusades: Crusades V — the Crusades from an Arab point of view.  Scroll down to the next posting for the selection.


Following quotations are from An Arab Philosophy of History: Selections from the Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (1332−1406), translated and arranged by Charles Issawi, 1950, The Wisdom of the East Series, John Murray, Albemarle Street, London (Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London); pp. x-xi.

1 Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. III, 1956, Royal Institute of International Affairs and Oxford University Press, London.

2 George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, 1962, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore.

3 Robert Flint, History of the Philosophy of History, 1893, William Blackwood & Sons, Ltd., Edinburgh.

UPDATE:  2005-08-29 00:40 UT:  Geitner Simmons of the ever-rewarding Regions of Mind blog links to Impearls' Ibn Khaldun articles (as well as its recent piece on zero), noting:  “Michael explains the intellectual contributions of the medieval Arab scholar Ibn Khaldun and quotes from his historical writings on the Arab admiralty.”  In an e-mail to Impearls, Geitner also wrote:  “It was a pleasure to read your observations on all those topics.  […]  Congratulations on the high standard you continue to set at Impearls.”

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The Arab Admiralty – and an Arab naval view of the Crusades   by Ibn Khaldûn  (a.d. 1332−1406) 1

The Admiralty

Medieval Arabic world map. Presented to the Norman king of Sicily by Arabic geometer al-Idrisi in AD 1154 (note: south is at top). (The admiralty) is one of the ranks and functions of the dynasty in the realm of the Maghrib and Ifrîqiyah.  It is subordinate to the person in charge of “the sword” and comes under his authority in many respects.  In customary usage, the person in charge of the admiralty is called Almiland, with an emphatic l.  (The word) is derived from the language of the European Christians.  It is the technical term for the office in their language.

The rank (of admiral) is restricted to the realm of Ifrîqiyah and the Maghrib, because both Ifrîqiyah and the Maghrib are on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.  Along its southern shore the lands of the Berbers extend from Ceuta to Alexandria and on to Syria.  Along its northern shore are the countries of Spain and of the European Christians (Franks), the Slavs, and the Byzantines, also extending to Syria.  It is called the Byzantine Sea or the Syrian Sea, according to the people who inhabit its shores.  Those who live along the coast and on the shores of both sides of the Mediterranean are the more concerned with (maritime) conditions than any other maritime nation.

The Byzantines, the European Christians, and the Goths lived on the northern shore of the Mediterranean.  Most of their wars and most of their commerce was by sea.  They were skilled in navigating (the Mediterranean) and in naval war.  When these people coveted the possession of the southern shore, as the Byzantines (coveted) Ifrîqiyah and as the Goths the Maghrib, they crossed over in their fleets and took possession of it.  Thus, they achieved superiority over the Berbers and deprived them of their power.  They had populous cities there, such as Carthage, Sbeitla, Jalûlâ, Murnâq, Cherchel, and Tangier.  The ancient master of Carthage used to fight the master of Rome and to send fleets loaded with armies and equipment to wage war against him.  Thus, (seafaring) is a custom of the inhabitants of both shores of the Mediterranean, which was known in ancient as in modern times.

When the Muslims took possession of Egypt, ‘Umar b. al-Khattâb wrote to ‘Amr b. al-‘Âs and asked him to describe the sea to him.  ‘Amr replied:  “The sea is a great creature upon which weak creatures ride — like worms upon a piece of wood.”  Thus, he recommended at that time that the Muslims be kept away from seafaring.  No Arab travelled by sea save those who did so without ‘Umar's knowledge and were punished by him for it.  Thus it remained until Mu‘âwiyah's reign.  He permitted the Muslims to go by sea and to wage the holy war in ships.  The reason for this was that on account of their Bedouin attitude, the Arabs were at first not skilled in navigation and seafaring, whereas the Byzantines and the European Christians, on account of their experience of the sea and the fact that they had grown up travelling in ships, were used to the sea and well trained in navigation.

The royal and governmental authority of the Arabs became firmly established and powerful at that time.  The non-Arab nations became servants of the Arabs and were under their control.  Every craftsman offered them his best services.  They employed seagoing nations for their maritime needs.  Their own experience of the sea and of navigation grew, and they turned out to be very expert.  They wished to wage the holy war by sea.  They constructed ships and galleys and loaded the fleet with men and weapons.  They embarked the army and warriors to fight against the unbelievers across the sea.  This was the special concern of the provinces and border regions closest to the shores of the Mediterranean, such as Syria, Ifrîqiyah, the Maghrib, and Spain.  The caliph ‘Abd-al-Malik recommended to Hassân b. an-Nu‘mân, the governor of Ifrîqiyah, that a shipyard be set up in Tunis for the production of maritime implements, as he was desirous of waging the holy war.  From there, the conquest of Sicily was achieved.

Thereafter, under the ‘Ubaydid(-Fâtimids) and the (Spanish) Umayyads, the fleets of Ifrîqiyah and Spain constantly attacked each other's countries in civil war operations, and they thoroughly devastated the coastal regions.  In the days of ‘Abd-ar-Rahmân an-Nâsir, the Spanish fleet had grown to about two hundred vessels, and the African fleet to the same number, or close to it.  The fleet admiral in Spain was Ibn Rumâhis.  The ports used by (the Spanish fleet) for docking and hoisting sail were Pechina and Almería.  The fleet was assembled from all the provinces.  Each region where ships were used contributed one unit under the supervision of a commander in charge of everything connected with fighting, weapons and combatants alike.  There also was a captain who directed the movement of the fleet, using either the wind or oars.  He also directed its anchoring in port.  When the whole fleet was assembled for a large-scale raid or for important government business, it was manned in its home port.  The ruler loaded it with men from his best troops and clients, and placed them under the supervision of one commander, who belonged to the highest class of the people of his realm and to whom all were responsible.  He then sent them off, and awaited their victorious return with booty.

During the time of the Muslim dynasty, the Muslims gained control over the whole Mediterranean.  Their power and domination over it was vast.  The Christian nations could do nothing against the Muslim fleets, anywhere in the Mediterranean.  All the time, the Muslims rode its wave for conquest.  There occurred then many well-known episodes of conquest and plunder.  The Muslims took possession of all the islands that lie off its shores, such as Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Sardinia, Sicily, Pantelleria, Malta, Crete, Cyprus, and of all the other (Mediterranean) provinces of the Byzantines and the European Christians.  Abû l-Qâsim ash-Shî‘î [Al-Qâ’im, the second Fâtimid, who ruled from 934 to 946] and his descendants sent their fleets on raids against the island of Genoa from al-Mahdîyah.  They returned victorious with booty.  Mujâhid al-‘Âmirî, the master of Denia, one of the reyes de taïfas, conquered the island of Sardinia with his fleet in the year 405 [1014/15].  The Christians reconquered it in due course.

During all that time, the Muslims were gaining control over the largest part of the high sea.  Their fleets kept coming and going, and the Muslim armies crossed the sea in ships from Sicily to the great mainland opposite Sicily, on the northern shore.  They fell upon the European Christian rulers and made massacres in their realms.  This happened in the days of the Banû Abî l-Husayn, the rulers of Sicily [the Kalbite governors of Sicily in the latter part of the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh century], who supported the ‘Ubaydid(-Fâtimid) propaganda there.  The Christian nations withdrew with their fleets to the north-eastern side of the Mediterranean, to the coastal regions inhabited by the European Christians and the Slavs, and to the Aegean islands, and did not go beyond them.  The Muslim fleet had pounced upon them as eagerly as lions upon their prey.  They covered most of the surface of the Mediterranean with their equipment and numbers and travelled its lanes (on missions both) peaceful and warlike.  Not a single Christian board floated on it.

Eventually, however, the ‘Ubaydid(-Fâtimid) and Umayyad dynasties weakened and softened and were affected by infirmity.  Then, the Christians reached out for the eastern islands of the Mediterranean, such as Sicily, Crete, and Malta, and took possession of them.  They pressed on against the shores of Syria during this interval, and took possession of Tripoli, Ascalon, Tyre, and Acco.  They gained control over all the seaports of Syria.  They conquered Jerusalem and built there a church as an outward manifestation of their religion and worship.  They deprived the Banû Khazrûn of Tripolitania and (conquered) Gabés and Sfax, and imposed a poll tax upon their inhabitants.  Then they took possession of al-Mahdîyah, the (original) seat of the ‘Ubaydid(-Fâtimids), and took it away from the descendants of Buluggin b. Zîrî.  In the fifth [eleventh] century, they had the lead in the Mediterranean.  In Egypt and Syria, interest in the fleet weakened and eventually ceased to exist.  Since then, they have shown no concern for the naval matters with which they had been so exceedingly concerned under the ‘Ubaydid(-Fâtimid) dynasty.  In consequence, the identity of the office of the admiralty was lost in those countries.  It remained in Ifrîqiyah and the Maghrib, but only there.  At the present time, the western Mediterranean has large fleets and is very powerful.  No enemy has trespassed on it or been able to do anything there.

In (Almoravid) times, the admirals of the fleet in (the West) were the Banû Maymûn, chieftains from the peninsula of Cadiz, which they (later on) handed over to (the Almohad) ‘Abd-al-Mu’min, to whom they paid obedience.  Their fleets, from the countries on both shores, reached the number of one hundred.

In the sixth [twelfth] century, the Almohad dynasty flourished and had possession of both shores.  The Almohads organized their fleet in the most perfect manner ever known and on the largest scale ever observed.  Their admiral was Ahmad as-Siqillî.  The Christians had captured him, and he had grown up among them.  The ruler of Sicily (Roger II) selected him for his service and employed him in it, but he died and was succeeded by his son, whose anger (Ahmad) somehow aroused.  He feared for his life and went to Tunis, where he stayed with the chief of Tunis.  He went on to Marrakech, and was received there by the caliph Yûsuf al-‘Ashrî b. ‘Abd-al-Mu’min with great kindness and honour.  (The caliph) gave him many presents and entrusted him with command of his fleet.  (As commander of the fleet) he went to wage the holy war against the Christian nations.  He did noteworthy and memorable deeds during the Almohad dynasty.

In his time, the Muslim fleet was of a size and quality never, to our knowledge, attained before or since.  When Salâh-ad-dîn Yûsuf b. Ayyûb {Saladin to the West –Imp.}, the ruler of Egypt and Syria at this time, set out to recover the ports of Syria from the Christian nations and to cleanse Jerusalem of the abomination of unbelief and to rebuild it, one fleet of unbelievers after another came to the relief of the ports, from all the regions near Jerusalem which they controlled.  They supported them with equipment and food.  The fleet of Alexandria could not stand up against them.  (The Christians) had had the upper hand in the eastern Mediterranean for so long, and they had numerous fleets there.  The Muslims, on the other hand, had for a long time been too weak to offer them any resistance there, as we have mentioned.  In this situation, Salâh-ad-dîn sent ‘Abd-al-Karîm b. Munqidh, a member of the family of the Banû Munqidh, the rulers of Shayzar, as his ambassador to Ya‘qûb al-Mansûr, the Almohad ruler of the Maghrib at that time, asking for the support of his fleets, to prevent the fleets of the unbelievers from achieving their desire of bringing relief to the Christians in the Syrian ports.  Al-Mansûr sent him back to Salâh-ad-dîn, and did not comply with his request.

This is evidence that the ruler of the Maghrib alone possessed a fleet, that the Christians controlled the eastern Mediterranean, and that the dynasties in Egypt and Syria at that time and later were not interested in naval matters or in building up government fleets.

Ya‘qûb al-Mansûr then died, and the Almohad dynasty became infirm.  The Galician nations seized control of most of Spain.  The Muslims sought refuge in the coastal region and took possession of the islands of the western Mediterranean.  They regained their former strength, and their power on the surface of the Mediterranean grew.  Their fleets increased, and the strength of the Muslims became again equal to that of (the Christians).  This happened in the time of (the Merinid) Sultan, Abû l-Hasan [ruled from 1331 to 1351], the Zanâtah ruler in the Maghrib.  When he desired to wage the holy war, his fleet was as well equipped and numerous as that of the Christians.

Then, the naval strength of the Muslims declined once more, because of the weakness of the ruling dynasty.  Maritime habits were forgotten under the impact of the strong Bedouin attitude prevailing in the Maghrib, and as the result of the discontinuance of Spanish habits.  The Christians resumed their former, famous maritime training, and (renewed) their constant activity in the Mediterranean and their experience with conditions there.  (They again showed) their former superiority over others on the high seas and in (Mediterranean) shipping.  The Muslims came to be strangers to the Mediterranean.  The only exceptions are a few inhabitants of the coastal regions.  They ought to have many assistants and supporters, or they ought to have support from the dynasties to enable them to recruit help and to work toward the goal of (increased seafaring activities).

The rank (of admiral) has been preserved to this day in the dynasties of the Maghrib.  There, the identity (of the admiralty is still preserved), and how to take care of a fleet, how to build ships and navigate them, is known.  Perhaps some political opportunity will arise in the coastal countries, and the Muslims will ask the wind to blow against unbelief and unbelievers.  The inhabitants of the Maghrib have it on the authority of the books of predictions that the Muslims will yet have to make a successful attack against the Christians and conquer the lands of the European Christians beyond the sea.  This, it is said, will take place by sea.


1 Ibn Khaldûn, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, Chapter 3: “On dynasties, royal authority, the caliphate, government ranks, and all that goes with these things,” Section 32: “The ranks of royal and governmental authority and the titles that go with those ranks,” Sub-section: “The admiralty,” translated from the Arabic by Franz Rosenthal, abridged and edited by N. J. Dawood, 1967, Bolligen Series, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey; ISBN 0-691-09946-4, 0-691-01754-9 (paperback); pp. 208-213.

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Impearls: 2005-07-24 Archive

Earthdate 2005-07-24

A Defense for Endangered Bloggers in Authoritarian Lands

Glenn Reynolds the Instapundit and others have frequently linked to articles discussing the plight of overseas bloggers and Interneters who are under attack and repression from authoritarian and tyrannical governments — for example, here, here, and here in the case of Iran; here, here, and here for China.  Indeed, Reynolds closes the last of the foregoing pieces with the comment that “Somebody needs to catalog the tricks the Chinese bloggers are using — if the F.E.C. gets its way, we may need some of them over here….”

Given Reynolds' thus long-demonstrated history of interest in and support for beleaguered foreign bloggers, I'm quite mystified why he and other bloggers of like mind haven't publicized at all the service provided to endangered bloggers — as a result of an explicit contract to that effect from the Voice of America — by the Anonymizer company.  I've let Glenn know about this on several different occasions, and even requested that he inform me if he has a good reason for not publicizing the information (so I could avoid doing so myself), but never got any reply back.  Lacking such a reason, I'll now go ahead and do it myself.

It was Glenn, in fact, who in this posting from early this year pointed me at this Slashdot article entitled “Iran Cracks Down on Internet Sites.”  As the piece says (follow the above link for links included within it):

Dan Brickley writes “It appears that Iranian ISPs have been ordered to block a large number of popular Web sites, including weblogging, community, chat and email services.  Web (particularly weblog) use has been increasing rapidly in Iran, with 64000+ weblogs published by Iranians via various sites.  As of today, if the news is correct, the majority of these may be inaccessible to their authors, as will the email (eg. Yahoo) services they use to communicate with friends, colleagues and family worldwide.  See and for more details.  The newly expanded blocks include PersianBlog, Blogger and the Google-hosted Orkut ‘social networking’ site, where Iranians come third after Brazil and USA, representing 7% of all users.  How can we get our Iranian friends back in the Web?”

Way down in the comments following this piece, however, by a poster named “bahamat” (whose blog Digital Elf is here), comes a part of the answer in this little gem:

I'm the sr. sysadmin for Anonymizer and we have a contract with VOA to provide free proxy service to Iran.

It's based off of PrivateSurfing (which you can try out for free at the Anonymizer [] homepage, sorry you can't surf /. with it… Rob hates me).  Added features for the Iran proxy is full time SSL, URL encryption, Farsi language support, and we switch the proxy website about once a month (every time the Iranian government blocks us).  We perform checks on the service from within Iran to see if our site is actually blocked (yes, it works), and we maintain a database of all known e-mail addresses that we can detect as being located in Iran.  Every time we switch the proxy site we send an e-mail informing them of the new free proxy location so the citizens of Iran can find it.  The sites are also broadcast via radio and TV into Iran by the VOA.  To be honest, we're usually about a day behind the blocks, due mostly to time zone differences.

The systems that run the Iran proxies are dedicated and used quite heavily.  Much more than any of the servers that we have for everything else.  The loadav is pretty high, and we're working on upgrading them in the next few months to increase capacity.

Most of our customers are under NDA so I don't mention where I work much, but the VOA [] is one of our very few public contracts due to it's anti-censorship nature.

This is terrific, I believe, and a wonderful way for Iranian and other seekers after freedom and democracy to circumvent mullah and other tyrannical rulers' attempted thought-constriction of the Internet.  I wondered for a while if the posting was legitimate, but eventually noticed the Anonymizer press release bahamat points to above, which details the arrangement the company has with the Voice of America (notice the date on it, the day the Voice of America contract was let: 2003-09-11!).  Following is an excerpt from that press release:

SAN DIEGO, Calif., Sept 11, 2003 – Anonymizer, Inc., a leading provider of anonymous Web surfing and online privacy protection, today announced new anti-censorship Web proxy services in Iran, enabling people to bypass government filtering and access information sources, including political and religious content.  Currently, about two million citizens in Iran have Web access.  Anonymizer has provided similar services to other countries, including China, with extremely positive results.

Iranian government officials blacklist forbidden sites that, for instance due to political and religious content, are considered dangerous.  The United States International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB, is funding the effort in their partnership with Anonymizer to utilize their core technology.

The way it works is that Anonymizer sends bulk e-mails and daily newsletters to the Iranian citizens addresses that are provided by human rights organizations.  The IBB, in support of the Voice Of America Persian Service (VOA, and Radio Farda (, are sponsoring the effort to provide this easily accessible service.  The generic URLs for the anti-censorship services are publicized over the Radio Farda and VOA Persian broadcasts.  The URLs are changed when they become blocked by the Iranian Government, so that Iranian citizens can continue to get unfiltered, unblocked local and world news.

“The links to the service provided within the emails point to either the VOA or Radio Farda sites, but they can go anywhere on the Internet,” said Ken Berman, program manager for Internet Anti-censorship activities at the IBB.  “Dissident sites, religious sites, the L.L. Bean catalog — they are free to explore the Internet as they wish, in an unfettered fashion.”

“By providing a means for these people to visit the sites that are blocked by their government while remaining anonymous, we're making the Internet a safer place as well as offering the freedoms that they should be afforded,” said Lance Cottrell, president and founder of Anonymizer.  “This project brings forth the full potential of the Internet bringing free speech and democracy to the world.”

Back in the Slashdot thread, a couple of replies by other commenters are worthy of note.  One replied:

I just want to say, your post is probably the coolest thing I've read on slashdot in a long time.  Every single story like this turns into a gigantic flamefest that has nothing to do with the original topic, and it's incredibly annoying.  Your post shows that the occasional nugget of gold can be found.  It's wonderful to see that there's someone here who's actively involved in helping people work around these kinds of restrictions, and it's great to hear that your services are so heavily used.  Keep up the good work!

I certainly agree with that.  Another commenter asked:

Well done!  Keep on the good work.  Anyway we can help?

Whereupon, bahamat replied:

Since you asked, yes, you can buy something [].  I hate to feel like I'm pimping products here, but the more revenue we have in accross the board helps to improve all services, consumer, enterprise and anti-censorship proxies.

Anonymizer 2005 is $30/yr, which works out to be about $2.20/mo
Total Net Shield is $100/yr, which works out to be about $8/mo.

Personally, I like TNS the best, and I use it at home.

I hate to pimp services as well, but bahamat's right about that.  (Note that I have no connection with, the VOA, or CIA for that matter.  But then disclaiming it proves it, right?)

UPDATE:  2009-09-30 13:00 UT:  Boing Boing's Guide to Defeating Censorware has quoted and linked to this piece (as explained here), as also has the Chinese GFW Blog.  Another mention in BoingBoing occurs here and here.

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