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John Perry Barlow gave internet activists only half the mission they need.
"It was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, of all places, where John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996. That might have been an odd place for a poet and former Grateful Dead lyricist to pen a foundational document of internet activism, but it was also an apt one: Barlow’s manifesto, and the movement it undergirds, helped give us the dynamic—but also often deleteriously corporatized—internet we have today.

Barlow died on Wednesday at the age of 71. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the cyber civil liberties organization that he co-founded in 1990—where I used to work—shared in a blog post that he passed quietly in his sleep. He leaves us a legacy that has shaped the mission of the people fighting for the open internet. That mission is an incomplete one."



"I can’t help but ask what might have happened had the pioneers of the open web given us a different vision—one that paired the insistence that we must defend cyberspace with a concern for justice, human rights, and open creativity, and not primarily personal liberty. What kind of internet would we have today?"

[via:https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-252 ]
johnperrybarlow  individualism  californianideology  libertarianism  internet  web  online  2018  open  openness  creativity  liberty  cyberspace  justice  socialjustice  humanrights  race  racism  inclusion  inclusivity  openweb  aprilglaser  government  governance  law  eff  policy  corporatism  surveillance  edwardsnowden  nsa  netneutrality  sopa  pipa  fcc  privilege  power  prejudice 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"



"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."



"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Anab Jain, “Design for Anxious Times” on Vimeo
"As 2014 rushes past us, a venture capital firm appoints a computer algorithm to its board of directors, robots report news events such as earthquakes before any human can, fully functioning 3D printed ears, bones and guns are in use, the world’s biggest search company acquires large scale, fully autonomous military robots, six-year old children create genetically modified glow fish and an online community of 50,000 amateurs build drones. All this whilst extreme weather events and political unrest continue to pervade. This is just a glimpse of the increased state of technological acceleration and cultural turbulence we experience today. How do we make sense of this? What can designers do? Dissecting through her studio Superflux’s projects, research practice and approach, Anab will make a persuasive case for designers to adopt new roles as sense-makers, translators and agent provocateurs of the 21st century. Designers with the conceptual toolkits that can create a visceral connection with the complexity and plurality of the worlds we live in, and open up an informed dialogue that help shape better futures for all."
anabjain  superflux  2014  design  future  futures  via:steelemaley  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  designdiscourse  film  filmmaking  technology  interaction  documentary  uncertainty  reality  complexity  algorithms  data  society  surveillance  cloud  edwardsnowden  chelseamanning  julianassange  whistleblowing  science  bentobox  genecoin  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  internet  online  jugaad  war  warfare  information  politics  drones  software  adamcurtis  isolation  anxiety  capitalism  quantification  williamgibson  art  prototyping  present 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Unmournable Bodies - The New Yorker
"A northern-Italian miller in the sixteenth century, known as Menocchio, literate but not a member of the literary élite, held a number of unconventional theological beliefs. He believed that the soul died with the body, that the world was created out of a chaotic substance, not ex nihilo, and that it was more important to love one’s neighbor than to love God. He found eccentric justification for these beliefs in the few books he read, among them the Decameron, the Bible, the Koran, and “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville,” all in translation. For his pains, Menocchio was dragged before the Inquisition several times, tortured, and, in 1599, burned at the stake. He was one of thousands who met such a fate.

Western societies are not, even now, the paradise of skepticism and rationalism that they believe themselves to be. The West is a variegated space, in which both freedom of thought and tightly regulated speech exist, and in which disavowals of deadly violence happen at the same time as clandestine torture. But, at moments when Western societies consider themselves under attack, the discourse is quickly dominated by an ahistorical fantasy of long-suffering serenity and fortitude in the face of provocation. Yet European and American history are so strongly marked by efforts to control speech that the persecution of rebellious thought must be considered among the foundational buttresses of these societies. Witch burnings, heresy trials, and the untiring work of the Inquisition shaped Europe, and these ideas extended into American history as well and took on American modes, from the breaking of slaves to the censuring of critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More than a dozen people were killed by terrorists in Paris this week. The victims of these crimes are being mourned worldwide: they were human beings, beloved by their families and precious to their friends. On Wednesday, twelve of them were targeted by gunmen for their affiliation with the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Charlie has often been often aimed at Muslims, and it’s taken particular joy in flouting the Islamic ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s done more than that, including taking on political targets, as well as Christian and Jewish ones. The magazine depicted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a sexual threesome. Illustrations such as this have been cited as evidence of Charlie Hebdo’s willingness to offend everyone. But in recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations, and its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy, and mockery of the victims of a massacre. It is not always easy to see the difference between a certain witty dissent from religion and a bullyingly racist agenda, but it is necessary to try. Even Voltaire, a hero to many who extol free speech, got it wrong. His sparkling and courageous anti-clericalism can be a joy to read, but he was also a committed anti-Semite, whose criticisms of Judaism were accompanied by calumnies about the innate character of Jews.

This week’s events took place against the backdrop of France’s ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab. Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.

On Thursday morning, the day after the massacre, I happened to be in Paris. The headline of Le Figaro was “LA LIBERTÉ ASSASSINÉE” Le Parisien and L’Humanité also used the word liberté in their headlines. Liberty was indeed under attack—as a writer, I cherish the right to offend, and I support that right in other writers—but what was being excluded in this framing? A tone of genuine puzzlement always seems to accompany terrorist attacks in the centers of Western power. Why have they visited violent horror on our peaceful societies? Why do they kill when we don’t? A widely shared illustration, by Lucille Clerc, of a broken pencil regenerating itself as two sharpened pencils, was typical. The message was clear, as it was with the “jesuischarlie” hashtag: that what is at stake is not merely the right of people to draw what they wish but that, in the wake of the murders, what they drew should be celebrated and disseminated. Accordingly, not only have many of Charlie Hebdo’s images been published and shared, but the magazine itself has received large sums of money in the wake of the attacks—a hundred thousand pounds from the Guardian Media Group and three hundred thousand dollars from Google.

But it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech. It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions. The A.C.L.U. got it right in defending a neo-Nazi group that, in 1978, sought to march through Skokie, Illinois. The extreme offensiveness of the marchers, absent a particular threat of violence, was not and should not be illegal. But no sensible person takes a defense of those First Amendment rights as a defense of Nazi beliefs. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were not mere gadflies, not simple martyrs to the right to offend: they were ideologues. Just because one condemns their brutal murders doesn’t mean one must condone their ideology.

Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.’s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.

The killings in Paris were an appalling offence to human life and dignity. The enormity of these crimes will shock us all for a long time. But the suggestion that violence by self-proclaimed Jihadists is the only threat to liberty in Western societies ignores other, often more immediate and intimate, dangers. The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world, and one important thing they share is an expectation of proper respect for Western secular religion. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. When they commit torture or war crimes, no matter how illegal or depraved, there is little expectation of a full accounting or of the prosecution of the parties responsible.

The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy. This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

France is in sorrow today, and will be for many weeks come. We mourn with France. We ought to. But it is also true that violence from “our” side continues unabated. By this time next month, in all likelihood, many more “young men of military age” and many others, neither young nor male, will have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. If past strikes are anything to go by, many of these people will be innocent of wrongdoing. Their deaths will be considered as natural and incontestable as deaths like Menocchio’s, under the Inquisition. Those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective libert… [more]
tejucole  2015  charliehebdo  politics  society  freedom  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  france  freespeech  freedomofspeech  islam  gravenimages  middleages  medieval  power  language  religion  racism  liberty  violence  inquision  spanishinquision  ideology  edwardsnowden  chelseamanning  johnkiriakou  cia  yemen  nigeria  mexico  centralafricanrepublic  suadiarabia  pakistan  us  drones  #JeSuisCharlie 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Shoshan Zuboff on “Big Data” as Surveillance Capitalism
"VII. HOW TO CONSTRUCT A FUTURE THAT WE CAN CALL HOME

Why is it that the declaration of surveillance capitalism has met so little resistance? Searle’s reasoning is a good guide. Agreement? Yes, there were and are plenty of people who think surveillance capitalism is a reasonable business model. (We’ll have to leave why they think so to another discussion.) Authority? Yes. The tech leaders have been imbued with the authority of expertise and idolized as entrepreneurs. Persuasion? Absolutely. All the neoliberal buzzwords of entrepreneurialism, creative destruction, disruption, etc. persuaded many that these developments were right and necessary. A quid pro quo? Yes, powerfully so. The new free services of search and connection were exactly what we needed and have become essential to social participation. When Facebook went down last month, a lot of Americans called 911 (emergency services).

Was there any use of force or other means to foreclose alternatives? No military force was needed. Instead, as the new logic became the dominant business model for online companies and start-ups, it spawned millions of related institutionalized facts— ancillary and intermediary business services, professional specializations, new language, IPOs, tons of cash, network effects, unprecedented concentrations of information power. All these limit our sense that there can be any alternative. And finally, how about a lack of understanding? This is the most salient reason of all. Most people did not and could not appreciate the extent to which the new “facts” depended upon surveillance. This colossal asymmetry of understanding helps explain why Edward Snowden was necessary. Somebody had to be Ed Snowden

What kind of resistance has been offered and why has it failed to stop the spread of surveillance capitalism? Here I depart from Searle in order to introduce two distinct varieties of declaration that I think can help us understand more about how the future unfolds. I suggest that the kind of resistance that has been offered so far takes the form of what I call the “counter-declaration.” A counter-declaration is defensive. It addresses the institutional facts asserted by the declaration. The process of countering seeks to impose constraints or achieve compromise, but it does not annihilate the contested fact. In addressing those facts, it invariably increases their power. Negotiation inevitably legitimates the other. This is why many governments refuse to negotiate with terrorists. As Searle noted, even talking about something or referring to it increases its reality by treating it as a thing that is already real. It’s a classic quick-sand situation in that the more you fight it, the more it sucks you in.

What are examples of counter-declarations? Google and other Internet companies have been the targets of many privacy-related lawsuits. Some of these efforts have imposed real constraints, such as prohibiting Google Street View cars to extract personal data from computers inside homes, or the class action that resulted in Facebook’s suspension of its invasive “Beacon” program. Legal actions like these can limit certain practices for a time, but they do not topple the institutionalized facts of surveillance capitalism in the target or other companies. Encryption is another counter-declaration. When we encrypt, we acknowledge the reality of the thing we are trying to evade. Rather than undoing that reality, encryption ignites an arms race with the very thing it disputes. Privacy tools like “opt out” or “do not track” are another example. When I click on “do not track,” what I am really saying is “do not track me.” My choice does not stop the company from tracking everyone else.

I want to be clear that I am not critical of counter-declarations. They are necessary and vital. We need more of them. But the point I do want to make is that counter-declarations alone will not stop this train. They run a race that they can never win. They may lead to a balance of power, but they will not in and of themselves construct an alternative to surveillance capitalism.

What will enable us to move forward in a new way? As I see it, we will have to move on to a new kind of declaration that I am calling a “synthetic declaration.” By this I mean a declaration that synthesizes the opposing facts of declaration and counter-declaration. It arises from— and draws to it —new and deeper wellsprings of collective intentionality. It asserts an original vision. If the counter-declaration is check, the synthetic declaration is checkmate.

Does information capitalism have to be based on surveillance. No. But surveillance capitalism has emerged as a leading version of information capitalism. We need new synthetic declarations to define and support other variants of information capitalism that participate in the social order, value people, and reflect democratic principles. New synthetic declarations can provide the framework for a new kind of double movement appropriate to our time.

Are there examples? There are glimmers. The past year brought us Ed Snowden, who asserted a new reality at great personal sacrifice by claiming this to be a world in which the information he provided should be shared information. Wikileaks has also operated in this spirit. The EU Court’s decision on the right to be forgotten points in the direction of a synthetic declaration by establishing new facts for the online world. (In my view, it also faltered, perhaps inadvertently, by also establishing new facts that grant Google inappropriate new powers.

Mathias Doepfner’s open letter to Google chairperson Eric Schmidt, published in FAZ last spring, called for a synthetic declaration in the form of a unique European narrative of the digital, one that is not subjugated to the institutional facts asserted by the Internet giants.

Indeed, I think it can be said that the German people are now drawing on their unique historical experience to produce their own synthetic declaration that insists on a different kind of digital future. Note that The Economist just published an article titled “Googlephobia in Germany.” The aim of such language is to suggest that it’s neurotic and therefore irrational to oppose Google’s practices. It’s a classic counter-declaration that reveals the powerful effect of Germany’s new thinking. The real fear is that Germany might produce a synthetic declaration that opens a space for alternative forms of information capitalism to flourish.

I am mindful of a long list of demands that were damned as “neurotic” and unreasonable in America a century ago, as the contest over 20th century capitalism accelerated: labor unions, a living wage, business regulation, racial equality, womens’ right to vote, a high school education…. For anyone who thinks Germany’s concerns are “phobic,” one need only recall the revelations less than a year ago that the NSA was spying on Joaquin Almunia, the EU official who presides over the Google antitrust case. Or the recently published emails that provide fresh glimpses of the collaborative relationship between the NSA and Google. And should we mention that Google’s chairperson, Schmidt, also sits on the board of the Economist Group?

Our world sorely needs more —and more comprehensive—synthetic declarations that point us in a wholly new direction. We need new facts that assert the primacy of humanity, the dignity of the person, the bonds of democratic community strengthened by individual empowerment and knowledge, and the well being of our planet. This does not mean that we should construct utopias. Rather, it means that we should draw upon the authentic promise of the digital— the promise that we grasped before Ed Snowden entered history.

In the shadow and gloom of today’s institutional facts, it has become fashionable to mourn the passing of the democratic era. I say that democracy is the best our species has created so far, and woe to us if we abandon it now. The real road to serfdom is to be persuaded that the declarations of democracy we have inherited are no longer relevant to a digital future. These have been inscribed in our souls, and if we leave them behind— we abandon the best part of ourselves. If you doubt me, try living without them, as I have done. That is the real wasteland, and we should fear it."
soshanazuboff  via:steelemaley  2014  bigdata  declarations  internet  web  online  edwardsnowden  joaquinalmunia  hannaharendt  hamesburnham  frankschirrmacher  germany  europe  advertising  capitalism  surveillancecapitalism  surveillance  privacy  democracy  counterdeclarations  feedom  courage  law  legal  dataexhaust  data  datamining  google 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Secrets, lies and Snowden's email: why I was forced to shut down Lavabit | Comment is free | theguardian.com
"For the first time, the founder of an encrypted email startup that was supposed to insure privacy for all reveals how the FBI and the US legal system made sure we don't have the right to much privacy in the first place"



"The problem here is technological: until any communication has been decrypted and the contents parsed, it is currently impossible for a surveillance device to determine which network connections belong to any given suspect. The government argued that, since the "inspection" of the data was to be carried out by a machine, they were exempt from the normal search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment.

More importantly for my case, the prosecution also argued that my users had no expectation of privacy, even though the service I provided – encryption – is designed for users' privacy.

If my experience serves any purpose, it is to illustrate what most already know: courts must not be allowed to consider matters of great importance under the shroud of secrecy, lest we find ourselves summarily deprived of meaningful due process. If we allow our government to continue operating in secret, it is only a matter of time before you or a loved one find yourself in a position like I did – standing in a secret courtroom, alone, and without any of the meaningful protections that were always supposed to be the people's defense against an abuse of the state's power."
email  encryption  government  privacy  lavabit  2013  2014  ladarlevison  edwardsnowden  surveillance  law  legal  secrecy  justice 
may 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Who Really Owns The Internet? - The Awl
"Can we solve the issues that you talk about without radically reorganizing the economy?

No. (Laughs) Which I think is why I’ve been so active. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with all these writers who are coming up who found each other through Occupy, and why all of us were willing to participate in that uprising despite all the problems and the occasional ridiculousness of it.

But the economy can be revolutionized or the economy can be reformed, and I don’t discount the latter option. That level of social change happens in unpredictable ways. It’s actually harder to think of a revolutionary event that has had a positive outcome, whereas there have been lots of reforms and lots of things that people have done on the edges that have had powerful consequences. Would I like to see an economic revolution? Definitely. But I think there are a lot of ways to insert a kind of friction into the system that can be beneficial.

This book is about economics, and the amazing, probably very American ability to not talk about economics—particularly with technology, which is supposed to be this magical realm, so pure and disruptive and unpredictable that it transcends economic conditions and constraints. The basic idea is that that’s not the case.

To a lot of people this is self-evident, but I was surprised at how outside the mainstream conversation that insight was. When money is brought up, there’s this incredible romanticism, like the Yochai Benkler quote about being motivated by things other than money. But we’re talking about platforms that go to Goldman Sachs to handle their IPOs. Money is here. Wake up!"



"When I defend institutions in this book, I knew I might provoke my more radical friends. The position that everything is corrupt—journalism is corrupt, educational institutions are corrupt, publishers are corrupt—sounds great. And on some level it’s true. They’ve disappointed us. But we need more and better—more robust, more accountable—institutions. So I tried to move out of the position of just criticizing those arrangements and enumerating all their flaws and all the ways they’ve failed us. What happens when we’ve burned all these institutions to the ground and it’s just us and Google?"



"Do you have advice for what people—people like me—who write or produce other work for the Internet can do about this situation?

I’m encouraged by all these little magazines that have started in the last few years. Building institutions, even if they’re small, is a very powerful thing, so that we’re less isolated. When you’re isolated, you’re forced into the logic of building our own brand. If you build something together, you’re more able to focus on endeavors that don’t immediately feed into that. That’s what an institution can buy you—the space to focus on other things.

What would help creators more than anything else in this country are things that would help other workers: Real public health care, real social provisions. Artists are people like everybody else; we need the same things as our barista.

I quote John Lennon: "You think you’re so clever and classless and free. One thing we need is an end to artist exceptionalism. When we can see our connection to other precarious people in the economy, that’s when interesting things could happen. When we justify our position with our own specialness…"
2014  astrataylor  internet  economics  occupywallstreet  ows  ip  intellectualproperty  universalbasicincome  marxism  miyatokumitsu  precarity  davidburrgerrard  interviews  small  institutions  scale  art  artists  markets  capitalism  automation  utopia  andrewblum  vancepackard  plannedobsolescence  libertarianism  edwardsnowden  freedom  socialmedia  libraries  advertising  benkunkel  publicbroadcasting  quotas  propaganda  technology  web  online  jessemyerson  utopianism  labor  work  artlabor  strickdebt  ubi 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Lighthouse: IMPROVING REALITY 2013 - FILMS
"HOW ARE ARTISTS, TECHNOLOGISTS & WRITERS SUBVERTING OUR NOTION OF REALITY?

Lighthouse's digital culture conference, Improving Reality, returned for a third year this September. Talks included tours through worlds that artists are growing rather than making, critical revelations of the systems and infrastructures that shape our world, and narratives of radical alternative futures.

We’ve collected together the videos of the days talks, and invite you to join us in the discussion on Twitter and Facebook, or in any way you’d like. Visit the relevant session to watch the videos, and find out more about the themes, issues and ideas up or discussion.

In between sessions were a set of Tiny Talks, interventions from artists and designers involved in Brighton Digital Festival.

Session 1. Revealing Reality
http://lighthouse.org.uk/programme/improving-reality-2013-films-session-one

Social, political and technological infrastructures are the invisible “dark matter” which underlies contemporary life, influencing our environment and behaviour. This session explores how the spaces where we live, such as our cities, are being transformed by increasingly interlinked technological and architectural infrastructures. We will see how artists and designers are making these infrastructures visible, so that we may better understand and critique them.

Speakers: Timo Arnall, Keller Easterling and Frank Swain. Chair: Honor Harger.


Session 2. Re-imagining Reality
http://lighthouse.org.uk/programme/improving-reality-2013-films-session-two

Our increasingly technologised world, with its attendant infrastructures, is in a constant state of flux. This session explores how artists, designers and writers are imagining how our infrastructures may evolve. We will learn what writers might reveal about our infrastructures, using tools such as design fiction. We will go on tours through worlds that artists are growing, rather than making, using new materials like synthetic biology and nanotechnology. And we’ll see how artists are imagining new realities using techniques from futurism and foresight.

Speakers: Paul Graham Raven, Maja Kuzmanovic, Tobias Revell and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Chair: Simon Ings.


Session 3. Reality Check
http://lighthouse.org.uk/programme/improving-reality-2013-films-session-three

The growing reach of technological infrastructures and engineered systems into our lives creates uneasy social and ethical challenges. The recent scandals relating to the NSA, the revelation of the PRISM surveillance programme, and the treatment of whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, have revealed how fundamentally intertwined our civil liberties are with our technological infrastructures. These systems can both enable, and threaten, both our privacy and our security. Ubiquitous networked infrastructures create radical new creative opportunities for a coming generation of makers and users, whilst also presenting us with major social dilemmas. In this session we will look at the social and ethical questions which will shape our technological infrastructures in the future. We will examine algorithmic infrastructures, power dynamics, and ask, “whose reality we are trying to improve”.

Speakers: Farida Vis, Georgina Voss, Paula Le Dieu, and Justin Pickard. Chair: Scott Smith."
timoarnall  kellereasterling  frankswain  honorharger  paulgrahamraven  majakuzmanovic  tobiasrevell  alexandradaisy-ginsberg  simonings  faridavis  georginavoss  paulaledieu  justinpickard  scottsmitt  reality  art  systems  infrastructure  politics  technology  darkmatter  behavior  environment  architecture  2013  flux  change  nanotechnology  syntheticbiology  materials  futurism  ethics  surveillance  nsa  edwardsnowden  bradleymanning  civilliberties  security  privacy  algorithms  networks  ubiquitouscomputing  powerdynamics  towatch 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Snowden leaks: the real take-home - Charlie's Diary
"The big government/civil service agencies are old. They're products of the 20th century, and they are used to running their human resources and internal security processes as if they're still living in the days of the "job for life" culture; potential spooks-to-be were tapped early (often while at school or university), vetted, then given a safe sinecure along with regular monitoring to ensure they stayed on the straight-and-narrow all the way to the gold watch and pension. Because that's how we all used to work, at least if we were civil servants or white collar paper pushers back in the 1950s.

But things don't work that way any more. A huge and unmentionable side-effect of the neoliberal backlash of the 1970s was the deregulation of labour markets and the deliberate destruction of the job for life culture, partly as a lever for dislodging unionism and the taproots of left-wing power in the west (yes, it was explicit class war by the rich against the workers), and partly because a liquid labour market made entrepreneurial innovation and corporate restructuring easier (I love these capitalist euphemisms: I swear they'd find a use for "final solution" as well, if only some naughty, bad people hadn't rendered that clause taboo two-thirds of a century ago)."



"We human beings are primates. We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street. (Another is hierarchicality: yield to the boss.) Such rules are not iron-bound or immutable — we're not robots — but our new hive superorganism employers don't obey them instinctively, and apes and monkeys and hominids tend to revert to tit for tat quite easily when unsure of their relative status. Perceived slights result in retaliation, and blundering, human-blind organizations can slight or bruise an employee's ego without even noticing. And slighted or bruised employees who lack instinctive loyalty because the culture they come from has spent generations systematically destroying social hierarchies and undermining their sense of belonging are much more likely to start thinking the unthinkable.

Edward Snowden is 30: he was born in 1983. Generation Y started in 1980-82. I think he's a sign of things to come.

PS: Bradley Manning is 25."
culture  employment  society  2013  charliestross  loyalty  genx  geny  generationy  millennials  edwardsnowden  government  intelligence  nsa  generations  neoliberalism  economics  hierarchy  behavior  work  policy  politics  bradleymanning  security 
august 2013 by robertogreco
NSA-Proof Your Email! Consider your Man Card Re-Issued. Never be Afraid Again. — Weird Future — Medium
"The watchword is self-reliance. They’re coming to take what’s yours, so you’d better be ready. Federate your email, buy a generator, make sure you’ve got good locks, and for God’s sake, carry a handgun. There are monsters in the streets and some idiot is arming them.

But how to defend against the errors of the masses unwilling to take care of themselves? Every message in my outbox is in some fool’s inbox; plain as day, as if I’d sent it straight to PRISM myself. NSA-proof? Not without a massive shift of collective action undertaken by a society of people who’ve spent the past decade or so dumping as many photos, feelings, and fantasies online as time and bandwidth would allow. Why not? I certainly did. It’s nice to have friends."



"These are, after all, ecological problems. And when you find yourself in a flood zone, or a wildfire warning area, or tornado country, self-reliance only goes so far. No amount of preparation will protect you if you find yourself staring at an onrushing column of smoke and all your neighbours built their houses with kindling. No amount of home renovation will fix the water if, somewhere upriver, some monster with an obligation to protect shareholder interests is filling the streams with mercury.

Even the Unabomber, holed up in his cabin in remotest Montana, couldn’t help but see passenger jets criss-crossing the sky."



"“There’s a second half to the prison’s design and no one seems to remember this. The second half is that the prisoners are isolated from one another. If they could coordinate, those few lonely bastards in the tower wouldn’t stand a chance. But their clients are kept separated and when the hammer comes down on one of them, all the rest can’t help but think ‘at least it wasn’t me’.”

She was close now, uncomfortably so. The urge to flee was overwhelming.

“That’s where the real power of the panopticon lies. It is spread around the circumference in the cell of every inmate. It’s like Disney. ‘Don’t worry little Dumbo, the power of surveillance was in you all along.’

“But how are you advising one another, in the face of our mounting influence? You’re writing Instructables about how to mask your personal digital fingerprint and telling yourselves that our victims had it coming because they didn’t take basic steps.

“So while we’re consolidating our strength, you idiots are all coaching one another into joint construction of solitary confinement.”"



"My hosts found me hours later in the marina’s bar, working my way through the fourth in a series of tall drinks with plenty of ice.

I said nothing about my encounter in the showroom. What was there to tell? That I’d had a conversation with my own paranoid delusions? That the security state had personified itself to lecture me about a french philosopher who’d died in 1984?

No. That was craziness, best left to the memory banks. The security state isn’t a person, it’s people. There’s so many of them and they’ve been given leave to take so many liberties that they’ve managed to become the environment. Like a demented terraforming project, they’re sucking down our communications and we’re breathing their air.

This is an ecological disaster and it demands an ecological response. We shouldn’t be protecting ourselves. We should be protecting each other.

My hosts were in fine spirits. The shopping trip had been a success and the boxes they had in tow carried the promise of excellent reclining. Good reclining is crucial in cottage country."
civics  security  privacy  timmaly  2013  canon  community  activism  collectivism  nsa  edwardsnowden  surveillance  internet  web  online  storytelling  panopticon  indivisualism  self-reliance 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Bradley Manning and the Two Americas — Medium, Long — Medium
"If you see America as a place within borders, a bureaucratic and imperial government that acts on behalf of its 350 million people, if you see America as its edifices, its mandarins, the careful and massive institutions that have built our cities and vast physical culture, the harsh treatment of Manning for defying that institution makes sense, even if it was, at times, brutal.

But if you see America as an idea, and a revolutionary one in its day, that not only could a person decide her fate but that the body of people could act together as a great leader might lead — and that this is a better way to be — Manning didn’t betray that America.

The second America doesn’t have that name anymore. It morphed and grew just as the first, promulgated for a moment from the east side of the mid-North American continent, but going on to become a sense of democracy, the rights of man. It merged with the other spirits born of the Enlightenment and became the force behind science, technology, free speech, and populist will.

Then the ideas of self-determination and the freedom to know blossomed as they never had before in the dying days of the 20th century. The second America became a strange and amorphous transnational creature. It became networked.

The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now.

Both Americas were so successful they are at this point slightly startled to find they have to share the world with the other. All the while, the law, a poor third player in this drama, has tried to straddle the two like a man trying to stand on two battleships while they drift apart."



"Ford, in his funny and slightly cynical way, was identifying a quality so profound to the Internet its people usually didn’t even realize it was new. This idea that participation was more important than qualification, that what made your opinion important was that you had an opinion. This was a new thing in the world, with its own magic. The Why-Wasn’t-I-Consulted faction showed up as open source and free software. It was there when bloggers took on the hoary greats of the news business. It powered Wikipedia, which shocked the world by doing better than anything the old world of accredited expertise could do. The un-consulted could not only appear as a creative force; they could appear as critique, suddenly coalescing into an Anonymous DDOS, or a street protest. They began to make their demands known, from Spain to Cairo to New York, talking across borders and ideological divides, creating distributed media, and above all, having opinions on things."



"Ellsberg related the story of a panel on which he debated his own actions and those like him, with someone who seemed to him a surprisingly vigorous opponent. “I asked him after we’d had a debate, whether we really disagreed as much as had appeared in the debate,” Ellsberg continued,

“And he said ‘Oh, I think you’re evil.’ That was a little startling. And I said really? Why do you think that? He said ‘You undermine authority and that’s evil.’”

Can we really do without authority? Can we make a better world by letting everyone in on the secrets, by letting everyone act according to their conscience? Our system, for better or worse, isn’t about that. Democracy as we know it, the democracy invented in the 18th century, was never about everyone being equal. It is about getting rid of bad leaders peacefully, and hopefully arriving at better ones, more closely aligned with the people, committed to serving them better.

I asked Ellsberg, “Weren’t you undermining a system?” Speaking of himself and Manning, Ellsberg answered: “[We were] undermining the sense that the American state is a force for good on the whole in the world… I have no doubt that the majority of Americans think that we intend to and prefer to support democracy in the world.” Instead, he explained, we are a self-interested empire with no particular regard for global democracy. “What Bradley Manning did, and what I did, with these two large leaks… what they revealed was the long term or wide spread operations of an empire.”"



"And Snowden in the time since has revealed the dirty details of its mass surveillance, its tools of control.

The empire hasn’t liked that enforced openness one bit, as Obama made clear to Price at breakfast. But in September of that year, the empire had a new problem. The spirit of the Arab Spring and the Spanish summer protests moved into a park in Lower Manhattan, and set up camp, just as they had done elsewhere. They were lit up not only by anger but by a network. Occupy Wall Street was born, and spread across the U.S. and the Western world faster than an epidemic can travel, faster than the sound of their own voices. The spread of Occupy was constrained only by the speed of light and thought. Once again, WikiLeaks and even more the still quiet, still-in-custody Manning became one of the movement’s many rallying points.

This was because at its core, Occupy Wall Street was a disagreement with power about what America is. Not a new disagreement, but one whose tension and time had come — a disagreement that became a battle."



"This is an age of unprecedented classification and unprecedented access, of openness and secrecy that are filling the world like gasses, just as they pervade the space of Manning’s military courtroom. Despite its unassuming setting, this trial has been the beginning of a fight over how the Internet is redefining democracy. The contradictions are not mere metaphors, they are architectural, they are logistical; they invade our cities, our politics, and even our bodies."



"No one knows yet what happens when we conflict with our minders.

Manning allegedly told Lamo, the person who turned him in, “God knows what happens now, hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… if not… i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens.”

At this moment, Snowden has vanished into Russia, Assange still passes time in trapped in an embassy. The embattled NSA has announced it will be letting go of 90% of its systems administrators. Afghanistan and Iraq are wracked with seemingly endless violence, while the whole Middle East teeters in uncertainty. In America, people are upset and confused, and our European allies have been in turns condemning us and dealing with domestic scandals as it’s come out they’ve been surveilling with us, too. Our government is fighting constitutional scandals on every side, while privacy services shut down or flee our borders. The world is shrouded in confusion and fear.

Manning, now 25, awaits his sentence. His future is more understandable than ours right now. While we spin into conflict about information, about access, about who gets consulted, Manning will go away into the quiet of a military prison, retired, for now, from the information war he helped start."
quinnorton  2013  bradleymanning  democracy  us  internet  wikipedia  authority  control  edwardsnowden  security  privacy  secrecy  transparency  whistleblowing  truth  power  barackobama  julainassange  wikileaks  information  freedom  global  arabspring  loganprice  activism  complacency  canon  worldchanging  ows  occupywallstreet  danielellsberg  richardnixon  informationwar  adrianlamo  paulford 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Next Time, Pay Attention. | Quinn Said
"When the extra-judicial harassment of drug addicts began, in the 80s, or even back in the 60s, no one cared. “Ew, they’re drug addicts.”

We filled our prisons with young blacks and latinos destroyed by the drug trade, sent our Vietnam vets there, our crack addicts and tweekers. We got used to not caring about them. We hired police and taught them it didn’t matter what they did to those people and their communities.

When the extra-judicial harassment of Arabs began, in the 90s and then many times worse after 9/11, it was, we said, to be expected. “Well, they’re Arabs.”

On a few occasions, I stood outside in a protest of Arab registration in America where a still unknown number of men went into DHS offices, and never came home. We all watched the surveillance and intimidation of Muslim and Arab communities in America, the UK and Europe and said to those governments, it’s ok, because those communities have extremists.

Now the extra-judicial harassment of journalists has begun. And a bunch of folks are saying “How could this happen?”

You’ve been letting it happen and grow for 50 years. Congratulations on noticing. Now do something about it, because you’re next."
quinnnorton  2013  nsa  edwardsnowden  warondrugs  society  activism  history  hegemony  politics  us  terrorism  profiling  harassment  rights  abuseofpower  journalism  glenngreenwald  dhs 
august 2013 by robertogreco
BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - BUGGER
"The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.

It is a belief that has been central to much of the journalism about spying and spies over the past fifty years. That the anonymous figures in the intelligence world have a dark omniscience. That they know what's going on in ways that we don't.

It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do.

But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different.

It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.

I want to tell some stories about MI5 - and the very strange people who worked there. They are often funny, sometimes rather sad - but always very odd.

The stories also show how elites in Britain have used the aura of secret knowledge as a way of maintaining their power. But as their power waned the "secrets" became weirder and weirder.

They were helped in this by another group who also felt their power was waning - journalists. And together the journalists and spies concocted a strange, dark world of treachery and deceit which bore very little relationship to what was really going on. And still doesn't."
mi5  uk  government  spying  adamcurtis  history  intelligence  espionage  incompetence  waste  security  bureaucracy  2013  coldwar  edwardsnowden 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Ecuadorian Library — Geek Empire — Medium
"Cablegate merely kicked the kneecap of the archaic and semi-useless US State Department. But Edward Snowden just strolled out of the Moscow airport, with his Wikileaks personal escort, one month after ripping the pants off the National Security Agency.

You see, as it happens, a good half of my essay “The Blast Shack” was about the basic problem of the NSA. Here was the takeaway from that essay back in 2010:
One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers ― in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind.
Well, dear readers, nowadays we do pay that some mind. Yes, that was then, while this is now.


So, I no longer feel that leaden discontent and those grave misgivings that I felt in 2010. The situation now is frankly exhilarating. It no longer has that look-and-feel of the Edgar Allen Poe House of Usher. This scene is straight outta Nikolai Gogol.

This is the kind of comedic situation that Russians find hilarious. I mean, sure it’s plenty bad and all that, PRISM, XKeyScore, show trials, surveillance, threats to what’s left of journalism, sure, I get all that, I’m properly concerned. None of that stops it from being hilarious.

Few geopolitical situations can ever give the Russians a full, free, rib-busting belly laugh. This one sure does.

If Snowden had gotten things his own way, he’d be writing earnest op-ed editorials in Hong Kong now, in English, while dining on Kung Pao Chicken. It’s some darkly modern act of crooked fate that has directed Edward Snowden to Moscow, arriving there as the NSA’s Solzhenitsyn, the up-tempo, digital version of a conscience-driven dissident defector.

But Snowden sure is a dissident defector, and boy is he ever. Americans don’t even know how to think about characters like Snowden — the American Great and the Good are blundering around on the public stage like blacked-out drunks, blithering self-contradictory rubbish. It’s all “gosh he’s such a liar” and “give us back our sinister felon,” all while trying to swat down the jets of South American presidents.

These thumb-fingered acts of totalitarian comedy are entirely familiar to anybody who has read Russian literature. The pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” have more suavity than the US government is demonstrating now. Their credibility is below zero.

The Russians, by contrast, know all about dissidents like Snowden. The Russians have always had lots of Snowdens, heaps. They know that Snowden is one of these high-minded, conscience-stricken, act-on-principle characters who is a total pain in the ass.

Modern Russia is run entirely by spies. It’s class rule by the “siloviki,” it’s Putin’s “managed democracy.” That’s the end game for civil society when elections mean little or nothing, and intelligence services own the media, and also the oil. And that’s groovy, sure, it’s working out for them.

When you’re a professional spy hierarch, there are few things more annoying than these conscience-stricken Winston Smith characters, moodily scribbling in their notebooks, all about how there might be hope found in the proles somehow. They’re a drag."



"But Snowden sure is a dissident defector, and boy is he ever. Americans don’t even know how to think about characters like Snowden — the American Great and the Good are blundering around on the public stage like blacked-out drunks, blithering self-contradictory rubbish. It’s all “gosh he’s such a liar” and “give us back our sinister felon,” all while trying to swat down the jets of South American presidents.

These thumb-fingered acts of totalitarian comedy are entirely familiar to anybody who has read Russian literature. The pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” have more suavity than the US government is demonstrating now. Their credibility is below zero.

The Russians, by contrast, know all about dissidents like Snowden. The Russians have always had lots of Snowdens, heaps. They know that Snowden is one of these high-minded, conscience-stricken, act-on-principle characters who is a total pain in the ass.

Modern Russia is run entirely by spies. It’s class rule by the “siloviki,” it’s Putin’s “managed democracy.” That’s the end game for civil society when elections mean little or nothing, and intelligence services own the media, and also the oil. And that’s groovy, sure, it’s working out for them.

When you’re a professional spy hierarch, there are few things more annoying than these conscience-stricken Winston Smith characters, moodily scribbling in their notebooks, all about how there might be hope found in the proles somehow. They’re a drag."

[See also the response by Cory Doctorow: http://boingboing.net/2013/08/05/how-sterlings-the-ecuadori.html ]

[And this related NPR segment: "Classic Russian Literature Sheds Light On Putin’s Russia" http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2012/05/10/putin-chekhov-dostoyevsky ]

[Something else that comes to mind:
The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/BUGGER ]
politics  wikileaks  nsa  spying  brucesterling  gogol  nikolaigogol  edwardsnowden  russia  cablegate  authority  democracy  hierarchy  power  control  lies  bradleymanning  secrecy  julianassange  cypherpunks 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Information Consumerism: The Price of Hypocrisy - Überwachung - FAZ
"In as much as the Snowden affair has forced us to confront these issues, it’s been a good thing for democracy. Let’s face it: most of us would rather not think about the ethical implications of smart toothbrushes or the hypocrisy involved in Western rhetoric towards Iran or the genuflection that more and more European leaders show in front of Silicon Valley and its awful, brain-damaging language, the Siliconese. The least we can do is to acknowledge that the crisis is much deeper and that it stems from intellectual causes as much as from legal ones. Information consumerism, like its older sibling energy consumerism, is a much more dangerous threat to democracy than the NSA."
edwardsnowden  2013  evgenymorozov  ethics  technology  nsa  informationconsumerism  consumerism  hypocrisy  piracy  politics  morality  economics  civics  citizenship  markets  capitalism  law  legal  internetofthings  internet  web  freedom  iot 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Henry A. Giroux | The Violence of Organized Forgetting
"America has become amnesiac - a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed. Politicians such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich along with talking heads such as Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Anne Coulter are not the problem, they are symptomatic of a much more disturbing assault on critical thought, if not rationale thinking itself. Under a neoliberal regime, the language of authority, power and command is divorced from ethics, social responsibility, critical analysis and social costs.

These anti-public intellectuals are part of a disimagination machine that solidifies the power of the rich and the structures of the military-industrial-surveillance-academic complex by presenting the ideologies, institutions and relations of the powerful as commonsense.[1] For instance, the historical legacies of resistance to racism, militarism, privatization and panoptical surveillance have long been forgotten and made invisible in the current assumption that Americans now live in a democratic, post-racial society. The cheerleaders for neoliberalism work hard to normalize dominant institutions and relations of power through a vocabulary and public pedagogy that create market-driven subjects, modes of consciousness, and ways of understanding the world that promote accommodation, quietism and passivity. Social solidarities are torn apart, furthering the retreat into orbits of the private that undermine those spaces that nurture non-commodified knowledge, values, critical exchange and civic literacy. The pedagogy of authoritarianism is alive and well in the United States, and its repression of public memory takes place not only through the screen culture and institutional apparatuses of conformity, but is also reproduced through a culture of fear and a carceral state that imprisons more people than any other country in the world.[2] What many commentators have missed in the ongoing attack on Edward Snowden is not that he uncovered information that made clear how corrupt and intrusive the American government has become - how willing it is to engage in vast crimes against the American public. His real "crime" is that he demonstrated how knowledge can be used to empower people, to get them to think as critically engaged citizens rather than assume that knowledge and education are merely about the learning of skills - a reductive concept that substitutes training for education and reinforces the flight from reason and the goose-stepping reflexes of an authoritarian mindset.[3]"



"The rise of the punishing state and the governing-through-crime youth complex throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order but imagines a new one, one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present.[55] In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope or what I call educated hope, and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. The challenges that young people are mobilizing against oppressive societies all over the globe are being met with a state-sponsored violence that is about more than police brutality. This is especially clear in the United States, given its transformation from a social state to a warfare state, from a state that once embraced a semblance of the social contract to one that no longer has a language for justice, community and solidarity - a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic vision. Until educators, individuals, artists, intellectuals and various social movements address how the metaphysics of casino capitalism, war and violence have taken hold on American society (and in other parts of the world) along with the savage social costs they have enacted, the forms of social, political, and economic violence that young people are protesting against, as well as the violence waged in response to their protests, will become impossible to recognize and act on.

If the ongoing struggles waged by young people are to matter, demonstrations and protests must give way to more sustainable organizations that develop alternative communities, autonomous forms of worker control, collective forms of health care, models of direct democracy and emancipatory modes of education. Education must become central to any viable notion of politics willing to imagine a life and future outside of casino capitalism. There is a need for educators, young people, artists and other cultural workers to develop an educative politics in which people can address the historical, structural and ideological conditions at the core of the violence being waged by the corporate and repressive state and to make clear that government under the dictatorship of market sovereignty and power is no longer responsive to the most basic needs of young people - or most people for that matter.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation's wealth, shape the parameters of the social state, control the globe's resources, and create a formative culture for producing engaged and socially responsible citizens is no longer a rhetorical issue, but offers up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. At stake here is the need for both a language of critique and possibility. A discourse for broad-based political change is crucial for developing a politics that speaks to a future that can provide sustainable jobs, decent health care, quality education and communities of solidarity and support for young people. Such a vision is crucial and relies on ongoing educational and political struggles to awaken the inhabitants of neoliberal societies to their current reality and what it means to be educated not only to think outside of neoliberal commonsense but also to struggle for those values, hopes, modes of solidarity, power relations and institutions that infuse democracy with a spirit of egalitarianism and economic and social justice and make the promise of democracy a goal worth fighting for. For this reason, any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of predatory capitalism. Too many progressives and people on the left are stuck in the discourse of foreclosure and cynicism and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a "sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things."[56] This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities such as Chicago, Athens and other dead zones of capitalism throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values and infrastructures that make critical education and community the center of a robust, radical democracy. This is a challenge for young people and all those invested in the promise of a democracy that extends not only the meaning of politics, but also a commitment to economic justice and democratic social change."
2013  henrygiroux  neoliberalism  annecoulter  michellebacjmann  ricksantorum  newtgingrich  glennbeck  billo'reilly  politics  policiy  criticalthinking  power  control  wealth  militaryindustrialcomplex  surveillance  edwardsnowden  forgetting  racism  sexism  patriarchy  prisonindustrialcomplex  authoritarianism  fear  policy  ideology  society  race  democracy  economics  capitalism  latecapitalism  educationindustrialcomplex  socialchange  socialjustice  justice  stuarthall  education  solidarity  youth  labor  protest  culture  future  hope  change  violence 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Trevor Paglen: Turnkey Tyranny, Surveillance and the Terror State - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
"A few statistics are telling: between 1992 and 2007, the income of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States rose by 392 percent. Their tax rate fell by 37 percent. Since 1979, productivity has risen by more than 80 percent, but the median worker’s wage has only gone up by 10 percent. This is not an accident. The evisceration of the American middle and working class has everything to do with an all-out assault on unions; the rewriting of the laws governing bankruptcy, student loans, credit card debt, predatory lending and financial trading; and the transfer of public wealth to private hands through deregulation, privatization and reduced taxes on the wealthy. The Great Divergence is, to put it bluntly, the effect of a class war waged by the rich against the rest of society, and there are no signs of it letting up."



"…the effects of climate change will exacerbate already existing trends toward greater economic inequality, leading to widespread humanitarian crises and social unrest. The coming decades will bring Occupy-like protests on ever-larger scales as high unemployment and economic strife, particularly among youth, becomes a “new normal.” Moreover, the effects of climate change will produce new populations of displaced people and refugees. Economic and environmental insecurity represent the future for vast swaths of the world’s population. One way or another, governments will be forced to respond.

As future governments face these intensifying crises, the decline of the state’s civic capacities virtually guarantees that they will meet any unrest with the authoritarian levers of the Terror State. It won’t matter whether a “liberal” or “conservative” government is in place; faced with an immediate crisis, the state will use whatever means are available to end said crisis. When the most robust levers available are tools of mass surveillance and coercion, then those tools will be used. What’s more, laws like the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides for the indefinite detention of American citizens, indicate that military and intelligence programs originally crafted for combating overseas terrorists will be applied domestically.

The larger, longer-term scandal of Snowden’s revelations is that, together with other political trends, the NSA’s programs do not merely provide the capacity for “turnkey tyranny”—they render any other future all but impossible."
trevorpaglen  surveillance  terrorism  2013  edwardsnowden  climatechange  authoritarianism  thegreatdivergence  disparity  wealth  wealthdistribution  tyranny  global  crisis  society  classwar  class  deregulation  privatization  taxes  taxation  unions  debt  economics  policy  politics  encarceration  prisons  prisonindustrialcomplex  militaryindustrialcomplex  socialsafetynet  security  terrorstate  law  legal  secrecy  democracy  us  martiallaw  freedom  equality  fear  civilliberties  paulkrugman  environment  displacement  socialunrest  ows  occupywallstreet  refugees 
june 2013 by robertogreco
DEMILIT: The Dark Matter of the Security State
"The everyday of the security state is an always emerging rabble. What’s actually going on behind the scenes would not be terribly surprising, truth be told. It is the business of surveillance, run as a giant institution, with hierarchies and command chains, jealousies and dirty tricks, dry-erase boards, office rules, and sworn allegiances and company barbecues. One could take the approach of measuring stuff in purely physical forms: How many miles of fiber optic does the NSA require? How many teraflop-bytes of data storage? How many Sharpies? How many cubicles; how many codenames—how much of all this stuff? In the end, one would gets an almost infinite and Borgesian infographic—but an infographic nonetheless.

Meanwhile, what are the common extensions of the NSA and the rest of the security state: the next-door neighbor that makes a trust app on a laptop in their garage and licenses it to the government? What are the very particular machinations—the NSA jokes, for instance? Where are the mom-and-pop shops that devise a few lines of code? Who are the otherwise unemployed Hollywood or New York actors, screenwriters, producers, and gaffers that make an NSA recruitment video? Who installs the internet wiretaps, and where do they buy their lunch? Where does the paralegal grab drinks with the data analyst, and what banal intimacies do they share with the bartender?

Snowden (and others before him) revealed a certain “globality” to the NSA. But it is with a whole, vast array of human relationships, transactions, and negotiations with which the security apparatus wraps the world several times over. There seems to be a certain shared pleasure pulsating through the networks, as if delighting in the publicness of their own transgressions—which makes the Snowden revelations something quasi-theatrical; another hedonistic chance to show state power by disciplining him. This flow would be the actual “dark matter” that a salivating agency like DARPA could never boil down into a business requisition. Through the tendrils of this mesh, furthermore, flow the very constructs like “bravery” and “justice,” repeated as mantra, like a glue that bonds the intersections—words that are lobbed against those who poke out of the darkness. Snowden did his part, but it is never enough. Now it’s time to start."
2013  demilit  nsa  edwardsnowden  journalism  security  us  global  darkmatter  darpa  flow  cia  surveillance 
june 2013 by robertogreco
L'Hôte: authoritarianism from the inside
"The conceit of this piece by Josh Marshall is that there's some great mystery to why some people feel differently than he does about whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. In fact it's brutally simple: Marshall sees nothing to fear from authority and the state, because he is one of the Chosen People of authority and the state. Meanwhile, those who are not among the elect fear and distrust authority, because it daily oppresses them. This fear and distrust is as rational as a thing can be, but Marshall cannot bring himself to believe in it.

Marshall has that in common with Jeffrey Toobin, Richard Cohen, and David Brooks: no reason to fear the police state. Why should they? They are, all of them, American aristocrats: white, male, rich, and properly deferential to anyone with a title or a badge or authority or an office. Of course they don't know why anyone would worry about limitless surveillance. They themselves have nothing to fear because they are the overclass. They can't imagine what it might be like to be Muslim or black or poor or to have any other characteristic that removes them from the ranks of the assumed blameless."

[via http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jacobs/insiders-and-outsiders/ where Alan Jacobs responds with agreement]
2013  alanjacobs  freddiedeboer  left  traditionalists  cslewis  georgeorwell  1984  animalfarm  civilliberties  surveillance  exclusion  power  authority  authoritarianism  davidbrooks  bradleymanning  edwardsnowden  policy  government  society  difference  jeffreytoobin  richardcohen  policestate  culture 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Insiders and Outsiders | The American Conservative
[In reaction to: http://lhote.blogspot.com/2013/06/authoritarianism-from-inside.html ]

"…this is one of the key points where the people of the real Left, like Freddie, and traditionalists, like me, find their interests and viewpoints converging. We suspect the vast and ever-increasing powers of the militaristic surveillance state for very similar reasons: we see its infinite voraciousness, its lust either to consume or erase differences, and its willingness to persecute and prosecute anyone who won’t get on board.

This convergence is not new…

However, the concerns of the two groups are not identical. Traditionalists tend to focus on forming and sustaining their own “little platoons” in freedom from governmental interference; they want to be allowed to stay outside the main stream of American culture, at least to some degree. The genuine left is more focused on how to help those people who are forcibly excluded from that main stream, who, far from worrying about how to stay out, can’t figure out how to get in. But these are general tendencies. Traditionalists can also care about the forcibly excluded, and leftists can promote the flourishing of pockets of difference.

Our ideas about what constitutes a good society may be too different for us to make common cause in the arena of electoral politics, but we should at least listen to one another more often — and explore conversations that could tell us just how far a shared commitment to civil liberties can take us."
2013  alanjacobs  freddiedeboer  left  traditionalists  cslewis  georgeorwell  1984  animalfarm  civilliberties  surveillance  exclusion  power  authority  authoritarianism  davidbrooks  bradleymanning  edwardsnowden  policy  government  society  difference  jeffreytoobin  richardcohen  policestate  culture 
june 2013 by robertogreco

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