As if she had learned the spiel by rote, Ramla rolled out a technical explanation of the facilities. Shani would almost furtively add the odd word sentence to elaborate on her sister’s discourse, but would otherwise remain still while Ramla led their visitor through the ins and outs – both literal and figurative – of the Dais’ communications leviathan. Presently, Melissa held up a hand. Ramla seemed to bridle somewhat – she was not used to interruption – but she pursed her lips and nodded regardless.
“Look, these…machines and…whatnot…are all very interesting. No, they’re fascinating, I would love to learn more about how this place operates and each of the functions it fulfils…but I haven’t got much time so could you just tell me; why was it built, and how is it so effective?”
A rare smile crossed Ramla’s lips, and Shani even managed a quiet giggle. The two shared a look, and Ramla whispered, “Now the Dais is cast”, which brought another chuckle from her more reticent twin. Melissa sighed in frustration – she didn’t have time for this irritating bullshit. Nonetheless, she knew the sisters would not be hurried.
“History taught us that the ubiquitous presence of interconnected devices, unregulated and mobile, was and is, simultaneously, a threat to the state and, conversely, another arrow in its quiver – if you’ll forgive the expression, Ms. Myung-Bo?” Melissa irritably waved away the question, and looked at her own device to see how much time she had left. Not much. Get on with it!
“There have been times – in the not-too-distant past, as I’m sure you are well aware – when those who would use this network for nefarious purposes were…underestimated. When the Dais was first conceived, this was thus the highest priority: Ensure the maximum possible level of information management.”
At that, Ramla briefly turned away from Melissa and gestured at a large nearby screen, which instantly filled with a rapidly-changing series of uploaded images, amateur videos, text messages, status updates, personal adverts…a whole smorgasboard of human digital interaction, flittering by faster than a hummingbird’s wings.
“The sheer volume of data represents the most obvious problem. No matter what some ignoramuses may tell you, total control is…impossible. Attempting to view, let alone censor, every scrap of information transmitted would inevitably result in catastrophic failure. We needed to be cleverer, more cunning, more…insidious, even…if we were to match our foes and, ultimately, defeat them.”
Another gesture. Now a dated, Communik8® prototype appeared on the screen.
“First, we must recognise that information and entertainment are one and the same. Second, we ensure that the citizenry receive, first and foremost, the news that we want them to see. Third, and most important, we acknowledge everything that could be damaging to us – but crucially, we present it from an angle which is beneficial to us and which minimises its significance and anything it entails which would otherwise be scandalous. Finally, we provide as much citizen interaction as possible in the more…meaningless activities of the state.”
The gesture this time appeared more dismissive, to Melissa’s eyes anyway. A sequence of clips showing various popularity contests and talent competitions was displayed. From the most derisively obvious, such as a cookery head-to-head, to the most pompously self-important election campaign.
“You might ask, what is so different here from the techniques of eons past? It is a valid question. A propagandist from the Age of Empires would doubtless recognise the basic tenets of what we are fulminating, but he would marvel at the depth of the dissemination and the subtlety of the messages. Such people can grasp the importance of the yoke, but they grasp it too tightly! To maintain order, you must maintain the individual’s illusion of freedom – freedom of movement, freedom of choice…and freedom of mind.”
Melissa’s Axe-S™ vibrated on her wrist. She gritted her teeth – barely scratching the surface! Ramla noticed and smiled.
“You must go, I see? Ah, such a pity. This was just a brief introduction to Gunnersbury’s delights. I had not even the chance to tell you about Shani’s specialty – the Shills.”
As she said this, Lt. Commander Soler strode into view, feigning a look of gruff indignation.
“So this is where you got to, Miss Myung-Bo! Bloody nuisance, been trekkin’ all over the shop tryin’ to find your sorry arse… Thanks to you I’ll hafta cut our tour short. My group of Learners will be mighty miffed an’ no mistake… She give you ladies any trouble?”
The twins shook their heads in unison. Melissa sighed once more, this time inwardly. They weren’t lying.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♋