Yesterday Syria fell off the Internet. Clean cut. Then it came back. Why was it cut? Why did it come back? Gyanendra kept Nepal off the Internet for months. Why did Bashar not continue what he started?
Why did Assad act on Tuesday? Perhaps just from fear and a sense that the Internet is, overall, an aid for insurrection. Perhaps it was just a way to send a signal, or maybe it was more tactical. If the Internet gets shut down, rebels may try to access information in ways easier to track. It may be the equivalent of cutting the power to a house and then waiting to see where the flashlights go on. The fact that the Internet came back on a day later gives more credence to that idea. The most sinister possibility is that YouTube videos generally follow massacres. Perhaps the government was planning something that it wanted to keep from the Web.
The war in Syria has been fought in fog, even in this era of supposedly total information. As Dexter Filkins writes so powerfully in the magazine this week: we aren’t sure what’s happening and we don’t know what to do. Having one of the main sources of information shuttered—for a day now, and maybe again later—just leaves us even more in the dark.