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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Firedrake

.......and meanwhile, somewhere in rural China.......

Someone turns on a shortwave radio and looks for the BBC, Radio Free Asia or the Voice of America. But instead hears this

Meet the Firedrake.

The Firedrake is a long and complex (you could call it intentionally annoying and you wouldn't be too far off the mark) piece of music used by the Chinese government to jam foreign radio broadcasts critical of Beijing.

What makes Firedrake so effective is how thoroughly the cacophony of noise in the piece covers up the foreign broadcasts. It renders everything unintelligible. Even if the foreign broadcaster were to turn up their transmitter wattage to override the Firedrake jamming, it's still no match for the Firedrake's wall of noise.

Not that turning up their transmitter power would have worked anyway. The Firedrake jamming signals are so powerful, they can not only be heard in every nook and cranny in China, but heard CLEARLY around the world, using transmitter powers of several million watts each.

You might be wondering why the Chinese would even deal with shortwave radio in the internet age. But again, there's really TWO Chinas. And two Great Firewalls. There's the big modern, upscale and urban China in massive cities like Shanghai and Beijing. They have the internet and cell phones. And the Great Digital Firewall. But the vast majority of people live in the still very rural areas and are considered "peasant class". They have old radios. And Firedrake. They also are fairly uneducated and provide the vast majority of the farming labour. If you were running a totalitarian government, you don't want to have them hear anything that would make them QUESTION the life you have prescribed for them now would you?  

And that's the purpose of Firedrake. It keeps the airwaves status quo. And the Chinese people (and everyone else around the world) safe from any bad thoughts about Beijing....... 

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