How To Beat The System With Your Hands

By | May 4, 2005

I remember reading about this extraordinary woman last year and wondering why more wasn’t made of her defiant protest: Now she seems to be getting some recognitions, such as this Washington Post piece — Sign-language interpreter had hand in Ukraine’s election (from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

During the tense days of Ukraine’s presidential elections last year, Dmytruk staged a silent but bold protest, informing deaf Ukrainians that official results from the Nov. 21 runoff were fraudulent.

Her act of courage further emboldened protests that grew until a new election was held and the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was declared the winner.

Apart from her bravery, I love the technological subversiveness. In totalitarian states, technology is usually pinned down pretty firmly, especially in state media. The idea that one person, an interpreter in the corner of the screen, could be subverting the whole propaganda effort is hugely appealing, as well as lo-tech, and I wonder whether there are more parallels.

Of course, there were the captured American pilots in North Vietnam (and I believe in Japanese-held Asia during World War II) who would communicate messages by blinking in morse code while being interviewed for television. Are there other examples?

I guess the lesson is that technology always leaks. However hard you to try to think of all the leaks to plug, there’s always one you’ve not considered. In this case, a young woman called Natalia Dmytruk.

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