Tonight I sit in front of the computer screen, my fingers hanging on the keyboard ready to—once again—translate what I am trying to communicate into script AND…the words don’t come. I am at a loss to understand, let alone write about Andrew Nikiforuk’s January 27 post on The Tyee Huawei to Hell . For years, I, like so many others, have regarded Nikiforuk’s columns/books/writing as examples of journalism in the public interest—at its best!

For many Tar Sands :Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent has been the go-to book for understanding the tar sands—their rationale, their social and environmental  impact on Canada and the world. In Nikiforuk’s words we come to see the mulitidimensional impact oil has had on our lives; on the goals and meaning of civilization. In Slick Water Nikiforuk removes the blinders/smoke screen that keeps us from seeing the ways we have been deceived by government, industry and our own blind-sided greed to chase after the so called benefits of dirty oil without counting the cost.

And then… and then! I clicked on Nikiforuk’s post on TheTyee Huawei to Hell subtitled “Where China’s 5G giant wants to take us. Why Canada must block the road.” AND THEN…I am shocked to the bottom of my being. How could Andrew Nikiforuk write such inanity? I struggle to understand and understanding doesn’t come. Surely the CIA hasn’t taken over The Tyee! or managed to intercept one of NIkiforuk’s email submissions and insert their own propaganda onto the website! Surely not…but…what else can possibly make sense of such an rigidly constructed,  unabashed propaganda piece? 

Nikiforuk starts the rant with a backhanded personal slur on Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer (CFO), of Huawei–China’s largest private company. Nikiforuk seems to try to blunt any sympathy for  Wanzhou’s lengthy confinement  in Vancouver awaiting hearings on an extradition request from the United States over her alleged attempts to thwart the illegal US economic sanctions on Iran by snide comments on the value of her Vancouver home: “are we  also to pity Meng, because she has been confined to one of her two multimillion-dollar Vancouver mansions and must wear a GPS bracelet along with her Jimmy Choo stilettos.“ How merciless! What a snide, meaninglessly denigrating remark. Clearly good research does not make for a sensitive journalist!

The whole personal attack has no relevance other than personal denigration– the value of Wanzhor’s home and, indeed, her extradition hearing have no relevance to Nikiforuk’s diatribe against Huawei.

From there Nikiforuk launches into a vituperatively bilious attack on the whole of China. Nikiforuk criticizes China’s National Intelligence Law that “requires any company to co-operate with state intelligence work” —as though it was a uniquely Chinese statute…as though he has never heard of the Snowden papers and its revelations about the ubiquitous internet spying of the US National Security Agency. “…cooperate with state intelligence work”?!!!

Could Nikiforuk have missed the fact revealed by the Snowden papers that secret court orders in the US allow the National Security Agency NSA to access to all personal phone records in the US –and beyond?—and it has been doing that for a long time?

Could Nikiforuk have missed the Snowden revelations that the NSA is collecting virtually all phone records in the United States?

Could Nikiforuk have also missed the fact that the NSA program PRISM is accessing the servers of US tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and most others—that these tech giants are compelled by law to provide the NSA with user data?

Did Nikiforuk miss the revelation that the British spy agency taps fiber optic cables all over the world and shares its data with the NSA?

While Nikiforuk points the finger at China, he seems oblivious to the Snowden revelations that the NSA spies on foreign countries, including all its closest partners targeting at least 122 world leaders.

Did Nikiforuk actually miss the revelation about NSA’s XKeyscore program that searches nearly everything a user does on the Internet? Or did he find it inconsequential that the US agency has developed a series of tricks to circumvent web encryption forcing companies to install backdoors weakening encryption making personal and business computers more vulnerable to attacks from all sources?

While Nikiforuk points to China, the NSA has developed software that hacks into computers world wide infecting them with malware that makes them more vulnerable to attack—even from China.

NSA spying knows no limits or boundaries intercepting 200 million text messages every day through a program called Dishfire. Under the all seeing eye of NSA the US easily intercepts and stores cell phone messages.

And yet! Nikiforuk wants you to make sure China doesn’t see any of your messages because China has a law that “requires any company to co-operate with state intelligence work.”? Yikes!

In some kind of Alice in Wonderland view Nikiforuk condemns Huawei as “…a manifestation of the imperial goals of the Chinese government, which is committed to winning a global war in artificial intelligence.” And—of all things—China“uses a variety of technologies, including systems made by Huawei that support facial recognition…”

As a consequence Nikiforuk asserts, Huawei is not just another technology firm but a manifestation of the imperial goals of the Chinese government, which is committed to winning a global war in artificial intelligence. You can just hear Nikiforuk snorting in disgust as he reveals that systems made by Huawei “support facial recognition…”—yikes it seems Nikiforuk has never been on the street nor into a pub in BC where our ubiquities facial recognition is in full purview. Or is it just a problem when the Chinese use it?—which seems to be what Nikiforuk is suggesting in his one-sided diatribe on the misbehavior of Huawei.

My gosh, Nikiforuk is so confused by his bile toward China that he can state snidely that, in the full light of the Snowden revelations, “…we are to believe that Huawei is just another company like Facebook and Google with nothing but purity in their corporate hearts and dedicated to the gods of convenience and efficiency.” Facebook and Google—purity in their corporate hearts?—yikes-a-palousa Nikiforuk has missed a whole decade of revelations about corporate behavior on the internet!

Then Nikiforuk’s argument comes entirely unglued suggesting that as “The [Chinese Communist Party] recognizes the threat posed by an open internet to its grip on power — and, conversely, the opportunities that dominance over global cyberspace could offer by extending that control.”…then, in Nikiforuk’s perverse reasoning, it follows directly that “Huawei has played a prominent role in making the world a more insecure and totalitarian place.” After all Huawei produces “surveillance cameras, command and control centres, facial and license plate recognition technologies, data labs, intelligence fusion capabilities and portable rapid deployment systems for use in emergencies.”

And, according to Nikiforuk, the proof of how vile Huawei is can be deduced by the fact that “About 40 per cent of the world’s population is now enmeshed in cellular systems designed by Huawei.”

Continuing the attack on Huawei, Nikiforuk notes that “Successive waves of gadgets and their networks have eroded our freedom, abolished our privacy, undermined our democracies and blunted our spirits with algorithms designed to make people more predictable and docile”. And Huawei is to shoulder the blame for all of this?

While Nikiforuk bemoans that “Contrary to Huawei’s assurances, computer researchers have repeatedly warned that ‘new types of security threats and challenges will arise along with the deployment of novel 5G technologies and services,’ because Huawei’s 5G makes the whole system easier to hack. What an absurd, in the face of any logic or facts, backhanded  assertion—that the development of 5G technology is uniquely dependent on Huawei!

For one brief moment NIkiforuk seems to wake up long enough to realize “Canada must also establish a national office to assess all emerging technologies regardless of national origin and their threats to democracies.” Then he moves on to quote from a former US brigadier general  who now works for a right wing US think tank, “The danger is “existential to democracy” when “allowing totalitarian regimes — or any government — full knowledge of everything you do at all times…” Unfortunately Nikiforuk seems to have missed the crucial “or any government” qualifier.

In the whole propaganda piece Nikiforuk misses the most obvious point that though 5G needs to be reconsidered, Huawei is no more of a security threat  than any other national interest in developing a technology that wants to track our every movement and thought.

It amazes me that Nikiforuk can’t or won’t see that, as one comment on the post notes: “This is a pure war for dominance between US and China. When the US cannot compete fair and square, it resolves to mafia way.”

It makes me very sad to see Andrew Nikiforuk posting what is so blatantly US propaganda in its attempts to seize all the control Nikiforuk so one-sidedly accuses Huawei  of. I do hope he will, in a future post look at the devastating consequences of 5 G development –regardless of who develops it.

As another Tyee comment so poignantly observes: “Whether engineered by Huawei or Nokia, 5G cinches the technological noose on every aspect of human life.”

Norm Reynolds