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robertogreco : secrecy   21

Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
25 days ago by robertogreco
John Berger: ‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’ | Books | The Guardian
"After lunch we move into his study, a den of paintings, a place of light, its windows thrown wide, looking on to trees. He tries to make himself comfortable on the white sofa, an arthritic back giving him trouble. As a writer, Berger has that rare and wonderful gift of being able to make complex thoughts simple. He once said, in a BBC interview with Jeremy Isaacs, that he likes, in all his work, to follow the advice of the photographer Robert Capa: “When the picture is not good enough, go closer…” His eye for detail remains unrivalled and consistently surprising (think of his irresistible observation that cows walk as if they were wearing high heels). Reading him is like standing at a window – perhaps a bit like the window of this study – with no one blocking the view. “The way I observe comes naturally to me as a curious person – I’m like la vigie – the lookout guy on a boat who does small jobs, maybe such as shovelling stuff into a boiler, but I’m no navigator – absolutely the opposite. I wander around the boat, find odd places – the masts, the gunwale – and then simply look out at the ocean. Being aware of travelling has nothing to do with being a navigator.”"



"In 1944 he joined up, refusing a commission with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry, and became a lance corporal at a training camp. He preferred the company of working-class recruits, for whom he became a scribe, writing their letters home. In a sense, he has continued to do this all his life: telling other people’s stories lest they vanish. In a conversation with Susan Sontag, he once said: “A story is always a rescuing operation.” And he has also said (in The Seasons in Quincy): “If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen. For me, a storyteller is like a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.”"



"And what does he think about Brexit? He leans back on the sofa (we have now shifted from the overheated study into a cooler parlour, a sofa crawl in operation) and admits it has always been important to him to define himself as European. He then attempts to describe what he sees as the bigger picture: “It seems to me that we have to return, to recapitulate what globalisation meant, because it meant that capitalism, the world financial organisations, became speculative and ceased to be first and foremost productive, and politicians lost nearly all their power to take political decisions – I mean politicians in the traditional sense. Nations ceased to be what they were before.” In Meanwhile (the last essay in Landscapes) he notes that the word “horizon” has slipped out of view in political discourse. And he adds, returning to Brexit, that he voted with his feet long ago, moving to France.

We talk about what it is for a person to adopt a foreign country as home, and about how it is possible to love a landscape like a familiar face. For Berger, that face is the Haute-Savoie. “This is the landscape I lived in for decades [he left only after Beverly died; his son Yves still lives there with his family]. It matters to me because during that time, I worked there like a peasant. OK, don’t let’s exaggerate. I didn’t work as hard as they did but I worked pretty hard, doing exactly the same things as the peasants, working with them. This landscape was part of my energy, my body, my satisfaction and discomfort. I loved it not because it was a view – but because I participated in it.”

He explains: “The connection between the human condition and labour is frequently forgotten, and for me was always so important. At 16, I went down a coal mine in Derbyshire and spent a day on the coal face – just watching the miners. It had a profound effect.” What did it make you feel? “Respect,” he says quietly. “Just respect. There are two kinds. Respect to do with ceremony – what happens when you visit the House of Lords. And a completely different respect associated with danger.” He says: “This is not a prescription for others, but when I look back on my life I think it’s very significant I never went to a university. I refused to go. Lots of people were pushing me and I said, ‘No. I don’t want to’, because those years at university form a whole way of thinking.” And you feel free from that? “Yes.”"



"As he nudges closer to 90, Berger feels his own way of seeing has changed surprisingly little, although, he points out, technology has changed the way younger generations explore art. He admits, then, to his enthusiasm for texting: “I’ve been a fan for a long while because it’s like whispers – and with that goes intimacy, secrecy, playfulness…” But there is nothing fixed about the way he sees. He believes one never sees the same picture twice: “The second time I saw the Grünewald altarpiece was after a terrorist attack – it was the same painting yet I saw it differently.” The importance of certain painters has shifted too. He reveres Modigliani less, admires Velázquez more: “When one is young, one likes drama, excitation, bravura – Velázquez has none of this.”"



"But Berger’s greatest strength in old age is his ability to live in the present. “I cultivated this early on – and this is the paradox – because it was an escape from prescriptions, prophecies, consequences and causes.” The present moment is key to his thinking too. In Ways of Seeing, he suggests that paintings embody the present in which they were painted. Defining the secret of reading aloud well, he says it is “refusing to look ahead, to be in the moment”. And he says that a story puts its listener “in an eternal present”. He has also written about the circularity of time. Does he think that applies to an individual life? Is there, in old age, a way in which one starts to hold hands with one’s younger self?"
johnberger  art  seeing  listening  2016  observation  noticing  storytelling  writing  robertcapa  presence  migration  reading  marxism  globalization  capitalism  participation  labor  participatory  texting  intimacy  secrecy  playfulness 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Peter Galison, 2011 Sheffrin Lecture at UC Davis - YouTube
"Peter Galison delivered a lecture on the political history of secrecy from the Espionage Act to Wikileaks at UC Davis for the annual Sheffrin Lecture in Public Policy on June 1, 2011. Galison is the Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University.

The Sheffrin Lecture in Public Policy supports an annual lecture by distinguished scholars from across the social science disciplines on the day's most relevant issues of national public policy.

The annual series was established in 2008 by former Dean of the UC Davis Division of Social Sciences Steve Sheffrin, and his wife Anjali."
petergalison  2011  secrecy  law  politics  history  tolisten 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Education’s war on millennials: Why everyone is failing the “digital generation” - Salon.com
"Both reformers and traditionalists view technology as a way to control students — and they're getting it very wrong"



"In addressing the hundreds of thousands who watch such videos, students aren’t the only ones in the implied audience. These videos appeal to many nonacademic viewers who enjoy watching, from a remove, the hacking of obstreperous or powerful systems as demonstrated in videos about, for instance, fooling electronic voting booths, hacking vending machines, opening locked cars with tennis balls, or smuggling contraband goods through airport x-ray devices. These cheating videos also belonged to a broader category of YouTube videos for do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts— those who liked to see step-by-step execution of a project from start to finish. YouTube videos about crafts, cooking, carpentry, decorating, computer programming, and installing consumer technologies all follow this same basic format, and popular magazines like Make have capitalized on this sub-culture of avid project-based participants. Although these cultural practices may seem like a relatively new trend, one could look at DIY culture as part of a longer tradition of exercises devoted to imitatio, or the art of copying master works, which have been central to instruction for centuries."



"Prior to the release of this report, Mia Consalvo had argued that cheating in video games is expected behavior among players and that cheaters perform important epistemological work by sharing information about easy solutions on message boards, forums, and other venues for collaborations.

Consalvo also builds on the work of literacy theorist James Paul Gee, who asserts that video game narratives often require transgression to gain knowledge and that, just as passive obedience rarely produces insight in real classrooms, testing boundaries by disobeying the instructions of authority figures can be the best way to learn. Because procedural culture is ubiquitous, however, Ian Bogost has insisted that defying rules and confronting the persuasive powers of certain architectures of control only brings other kinds of rules into play, since we can never really get outside of ideology and act as truly free agents, even when supposedly gaming the system.

Ironically, more traditional ideas about fair play might block key paths to upward mobility and success in certain high-tech careers. For example, Betsy DiSalvo and Amy Bruckman, who have studied Atlanta-area African-American teens involved in service learning projects with game companies, argue that the conflict between the students’ own beliefs in straightforward behavior and the ideologies of hacker culture makes participation in the informal gateway activities for computer science less likely. Thus, urban youth who believe in tests of physical prowess, basketball-court egalitarianism, and a certain paradigm of conventional black masculinity that is coded as no-nonsense or—as Fox Harrell says—“solid” might be less likely to take part in forms of “geeking out” that involve subverting a given set of rules. Similarly, Tracy Fullerton has argued that teenagers from families unfamiliar with the norms of higher education may also be hobbled by their reluctance to “strategize” more opportunistically about college admissions. Fullerton’s game “Pathfinder” is intended to help such students learn to game the system by literally learning to play a game about how listing the right kinds of high-status courses and extracurricular activities will gain them social capital with colleges."



"However, Gee would later argue in “The Anti-Education Era” that gamesmanship that enables universal access and personal privilege may actually be extremely counterproductive. Hacks that “make the game easier or advantage the player” can “undermine the game’s design and even ruin the game by making it too easy.” Furthermore, “perfecting the human urge to optimize” can go too far and lead to fatal consequences on a planet where resources can be exhausted too quickly and weaknesses can be exploited too frequently. Furthermore, Gee warns that educational systems that focus on individual optimization create cultures of “impoverished humans” in which learners never “confront challenge and frustration,” “acquire new styles of learning,” or “face failure squarely.”"



"What’s striking about the ABC coverage is that it lacked any of the criticism of the educational status quo that became so central for a number of readers of the earlier Chronicle of Higher Education story—those who were asking as educators either (1) what’s wrong with the higher education system that students can subvert conventional tests so easily, or (2) what’s right with YouTube culture that encourages participation, creativity, institutional subversion, and satire."



"This attitude reflects current research on so-called distributed cognition and how external markers can help humans to problem solve by both making solutions clearer and freeing up working memory that would otherwise be tied up in reciting basic reminders. Many of those commenting on the article also argued that secrecy did little to promote learning, a philosophy shared by Benjamin Bratton, head of the Center for Design and Geopolitics, who actually hands out the full text of his final examination on the first day of class so that students know exactly what they will be tested on."



"This book explores the assumption that digital media deeply divide students and teachers and that a once covert war between “us” and “them” has turned into an open battle between “our” technologies and “their” technologies. On one side, we—the faculty—seem to control course management systems, online quizzes, wireless clickers, Internet access to PowerPoint slides and podcasts, and plagiarism-detection software. On the student side, they are armed with smart phones, laptops, music players, digital cameras, and social network sites. They seem to be the masters of these ubiquitous computing and recording technologies that can serve as advanced weapons allowing either escape to virtual or social realities far away from the lecture hall or—should they choose to document and broadcast the foibles of their faculty—exposure of that lecture hall to the outside world.

Each side is not really fighting the other, I argue, because both appear to be conducting an incredibly destructive war on learning itself by emphasizing competition and conflict rather than cooperation. I see problems both with using technologies to command and control young people into submission and with the utopian claims of advocates for DIY education, or “unschooling,” who embrace a libertarian politics of each-one-for-himself or herself pedagogy and who, in the interest of promoting totally autonomous learning in individual private homes, seek to defund public institutions devoted to traditional learning collectives. Effective educators should be noncombatants, I am claiming, neither champions of the reactionary past nor of the radical future. In making the argument for becoming a conscientious objector in this war on learning, I am focusing on the present moment.

Both sides in the war on learning are also promoting a particular causal argument about technology of which I am deeply suspicious. Both groups believe that the present rupture between student and professor is caused by the advent of a unique digital generation that is assumed to be quite technically proficient at navigating computational media without formal instruction and that is likely to prefer digital activities to the reading of print texts. I’ve been a public opponent of casting students too easily as “digital natives” for a number of reasons. Of course, anthropology and sociology already supply a host of arguments against assuming preconceived ideas about what it means to be a native when studying group behavior.

I am particularly suspicious of this type of language about so-called digital natives because it could naturalize cultural practices, further a colonial othering of the young, and oversimplify complicated questions about membership in a group. Furthermore, as someone who has been involved with digital literacy (and now digital fluency) for most of my academic career, I have seen firsthand how many students have serious problems with writing computer programs and how difficult it can be to establish priorities among educators—particularly educators from different disciplines or research tracks—when diverse populations of learners need to be served."



"Notice not only how engagement and interactivity are praised and conflated, but also how the rhetoric of novelty in consumer electronics and of short attention spans also comes into play."
education  technology  edtech  control  reform  policy  power  2014  traditionalism  traditionalists  plagiarism  pedagogy  learning  schools  cheating  multitasking  highered  highereducation  politics  elizabethlosh  mimiito  ianbogost  jamespaulgee  homago  betsydisalvo  amybruckman  foxharrell  geekingout  culture  play  constraints  games  gaming  videogames  mckenziewark  janemcgonigal  gamesmanship  internet  youtube  secrecy  benjaminbratton  unschooling  deschooling  collaboration  cooperation  agesegregation  youth  teens  digitalnatives  marshallmcluhan  othering  sivavaidhyanathan  digital  digitalliteracy  attention  engagement  entertainment  focus  cathydavidson 
june 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
Data Havens of Iceland // Culture Digitally
[Also available here: http://savageminds.org/2014/02/06/data-havens-of-iceland/ ]

"Since Iceland’s pretty spectacular financial crash, and the subsequent protests that kicked the government out of office, information technology and politics have cropped up in many projects of reform.  In a lot of ways the crisis was framed as a problem of secrecy – too much secrecy had allowed for massive banking risks and backroomban deals, and this was a problem more public information could solve.  The politics of information freedom, then, have been appealing and are taken up in a range of ways: for example, the so-called “crowdsourced constitution,” Iceland’s ongoing connections with WikiLeaks, and most recently the election of three Pirate Party MPs – the first Pirates elected to a national parliament.

But the part of this turn that interests me most – and the piece that my research aims to address – is the way that information is used to carve Iceland out a new niche.  In recent years Iceland has been pitched as an “information haven”: an attractive place to store the data of the world.  The idea is that data stored in Iceland is subject to Icelandic laws – so by passing “information friendly” legislation (favoring free speech, online privacy, and intermediary liability protection), and building data centers where information can live (an easy sell in Iceland thanks to the cool climate and inexpensive geothermal power), Iceland can change the rules of the game. In my research I ask how these efforts reconfigure the internet and re-imagine the nation, by following the “information haven” as it’s materially made."
cloud  iceland  infrastructure  data  2014  secrecy  transparency  datahavens  privacy  law  legal  information  freespeech  datacenters 
february 2014 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
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
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
Matthew Battles – What is a specimen
"The little ivory characters are examples of tupilaq, a genre of carved critter widespread among the Inuit and other peoples of the far north. The tupilaq that live outside of museum time, outside of gallery time, are evil spirits called into being by a shaman for the purpose of making mischief. They carry curses to rivals and enemies. Made from bone and fur and other materials, the tupilaq are powerful magic — and dangerous for those who wield them, for if discovered, their powers turn back on their users unless an immediate public confession is made. Secrecy and darkness are the native habitat of the tupilaq; they lose their power when exposed to the sociable light."



"Objects arrive webbed in connections, and hoard their most intimate gestures and relations in unreachable treasure-houses. A collected object is a kind of vessel, freighted with an irredeemable record of acts and things, inaccessible worlds of sense and event, a tissue of phenomenal dark matter caught up in time’s obliterative machinery."



"Forged in an organismic manufactory, tooled by genes (it’s symbols all the way down), a tooth takes its place for a time in a network of perception and action: catching the piercing resonance of whale song bounding in the deep canyons — testing and metering the shifting temperatures of Arctic air — tearing and gripping the trauma-tautened flesh of smolt salmon."



"I want a museum with the modesty to realise that the objects of its interest do not take their sole, true, or final form beneath its gaze. As seen by science, objects withdraw their auras — burning coronas that connect sense and experience to the deep past — and when the galleries and museums are in ruins, they will expose new banners to time’s unfolding."



"Upon leaving the dermestid room, you had to stand in the airlock and brush down your clothes. There was an aroma of putrefaction in the room, but it was faint — you got used to it. The sound, however, was oppressive. The place hummed with a static song of tens of thousands of beetle grubs, hairy and grey, all chewing at sinew and dried muscle."



"Although to call the specimens dead does not sound quite right. For the specimens had transcended or exceeded death, had passed beyond its dominion by means of a process that arrested, ostensibly in perpetuity, their participation in the carbon cycle, the wheel of disarticulation and recombination, that is life on earth."



"An act of predation subsumes and reincorporates phenomenal animal affordances; the scientific sacraments of collecting and accessioning, by contrast, call forth abstract and motive truths, just as the expertise of the shaman reveals and directs the powers of the tupilaq spirits."



"Only later, upon its post-mortem discovery, was this dead creature turned into data. Now roughly preserved and enshrined in the Smithsonian, the dead insect serves as holotype for the computer bug. Like the tupilaq, computer bugs are ungovernable spirits evoked by a kind of transubstantiation. As the uncanny architecture of the computer unfolded itself in Harvard’s labs, the bug found its way not only into the machine’s works but into a new role as an object in our midst — a role that took its place among the object’s other histories and meanings, its penumbra of qualities.

This patterned assemblage of purposes, roles, and given characteristics, this accidental and ephemeral fate, I want to call by the name habit. An effigy, an insect, an animal’s measured, pinned-out pelt — we have our ways of domesticating these objects, of bringing them to ground, fixing them in amber or in print. The precise practices vary with what habits we bring to bear (from science to shamanism) and the collections they inhabit. And here is a clue — for dwelling in the word ‘inhabit’ is ‘habit’ itself. What if the habits in question are not ours, but those of the objects themselves?

A habit is not only a way of acting, but also a costume of a kind. Some objects — books, dice, celery stalks, lens caps — have deeply ingrained habits, while others — seashells and stars, perhaps, but also bottlecaps, icicles, and plastic six-pack yokes twirling in the mid-ocean gyre — wear their habits more lightly. And some objects take on the habit of naphtha and indelible ink, of cotton wool and alum, of cabinet drawer and taxonomic order.

The word ‘habit’ catches for me a sense of the shoddy assortment of qualities that knits an object into the fabric of things, weaving into one whole its social roles, the cultural codes it keys, and its whence-and-whither entanglements with deep time."



"After a long moment, the bat fled in a blur, disappearing into Chicago’s booming late-autumn breeze. It disappeared into the invisible cabinet of its unmeasured curiosity, its habit secreted in the wind."

[Previously: http://hilobrow.com/2013/01/29/resistant-objects/ ]
matthewbattles  objects  collections  museums  nature  aura  2013  tupilaq  meaning  meaningmaking  taxonomy  whales  animlas  teeth  inuit  art  culture  srg  edg  glvo  specimens  life  death  memory  memories  storytelling  holotypes  preparators  procedures  metadata  autotelos  naturalhsitory  georgescuvier  secrecy  darkness  magic  eowilson  history  bugs  computerbugs  habits  time  qualities  shamanism  science  understanding  misunderstanding 
may 2013 by robertogreco
n+1: Lions in Winter, Part Two
"The result is a bad dialectic between the casual readers, who like to check out books, & the fussy, over-educated “elite” readers, who want obscure volumes."

"More than anything, this rhetoric reveals the fundamentally anti-democratic worldview that has taken hold at the library. It is of a piece with what the new Masters of the Universe have accomplished in the public schools, where hedge funders have provided the lion’s share of the backing for privatization, & in the so-called reforms to our financial system, where technocrats meet behind closed doors to decide what will be best for the rest of us."

"Communicate & market—this is what “managed democracy” looks like."

"An internal culture of collegial debate, protected by an understanding that senior librarians had a form of tenure which gave them security to express themselves candidly, has been replaced at the library by what… is a culture of secrecy & fear."

[Part 1: http://nplusonemag.com/lions-in-winter ]
finance  technocrats  schoolreform  privatization  publicschools  elites  power  philanthropy  oligarchy  manageddemocracy  collegiality  debate  inclusion  decisionmaking  management  organizations  fear  secrecy  change  democracy  newyorkpubliclibrary  culture  research  2012  books  library  libraries  nyc  nypl  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Wikileaks in 10 - Preoccupations
"Early last Monday, I gave a 10 minute talk about Wikileaks to our top two years (12 & 13). I hope I managed to keep some of the variety. The way in, stepping stones and some points made: …"
wikileaks  davidsmith  johnnaughton  secrecy  security  journalism  whistleblowing  internet  web  hierarchy  power  policy  government 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Project Names and Borges Numbers
"Reporters do this sort of thing every day. It's neat, but not amazing. But when the consultant had finished his meeting, he said to himself, "Well, Walnut's a tree, it's something to eat ... and it's an exchange in the San Jose telephone directory." And he asked the first friend he encountered on his way out, "Say, what's the current status on BUtterfield?" And by the time he left the plant he knew all about Project Butterfield too, and how far over budget it was, and why it would never work either.

Now, I'm not saying this story is true.. but it's one of my favorites.

(I have often thought that it would be useful to create a list of names, chosen such that knowing one name on the list provided the least possible information about the rest of the list. We would, of course, call such an enumeration "Borges numbers," after the numbering scheme described in J. L. Borges' story "Funes the Memorious.")"
borges  naming  history  information  ibm  1995  via:migurski  funesthememorius  projectnames  secrecy  security  tomvanvleck  names 
january 2011 by robertogreco
The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks - Jaron Lanier - Technology - The Atlantic
"Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy.

We sanction secretive spheres in order to have our civilian sphere. We furthermore structure democracy so that the secretive spheres are contained and accountable to the civilian sphere, though that's not easy.

There is certainly an ever-present danger of betrayal. Too much power can accrue to those we have sanctioned to hold confidences, and thus we find that keeping a democracy alive is hard, imperfect, and infuriating work.

The flip side of responsibly held secrets, however, is trust. A perfectly open world, without secrets, would be a world without the need for trust, and therefore a world without trust. What a sad sterile place that would be: A perfect world for machines."
wikileaks  politics  privacy  internet  hackers  jaronlanier  2010  julianassange  trust  democracy  anarchism  anarchy  power  secrecy  dictatorship  structure 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Truth Telling and the End of Democracy | Dailycensored.com [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2374656637]
"The vast majority of the information Wikileaks shared with the world, however, was misclassified as secret. … Many of these documents should have been releasable into the public domain in compliance with the federal Freedom of Information Act, … “Secret” classifications are supposed to be used for data whose release would cause “grave damage” to national security—not for documents whose release would cause grave embarrassment to individuals in the government …Misclassifying documents, in order to keep them out of the public domain, is a form of censorship…<br />
<br />
Lost in the hullabaloo over Wikitreason is any outrage in the fact that the leaked documents evidence a disturbing pattern of government officials knowingly and purposefully lying to the American people and press about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.<br />
<br />
The attempted criminalization of dissent."
wikileaks  dissent  julianassange  2010  afghanistan  iraq  government  freedomofinformationact  freedom  secrecy  conspiracy  nationalsecurity 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Truth Telling and the End of Democracy | Dailycensored.com [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2374656637]
"The vast majority of the information Wikileaks shared with the world, however, was misclassified as secret. … Many of these documents should have been releasable into the public domain in compliance with the federal Freedom of Information Act, … “Secret” classifications are supposed to be used for data whose release would cause “grave damage” to national security—not for documents whose release would cause grave embarrassment to individuals in the government …Misclassifying documents, in order to keep them out of the public domain, is a form of censorship…

Lost in the hullabaloo over Wikitreason is any outrage in the fact that the leaked documents evidence a disturbing pattern of government officials knowingly and purposefully lying to the American people and press about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The attempted criminalization of dissent."
wikileaks  dissent  julianassange  2010  afghanistan  iraq  government  freedomofinformationact  freedom  secrecy  conspiracy  nationalsecurity 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Preoccupations's Wikileaks Bookmarks on Pinboard
Through his bookmarks on Delicious, David Smith is building a valuable reference on the topic of Wikileaks surrounding Cablegate. See also his bookmarks for Julian Assange: http://pinboard.in/u:preoccupations/t:Julian_Assange
wikileaks  2010  davidsmith  julianassange  privacy  us  security  amazon  espionage  paypal  search  hosting  internet  web  information  dns  freespeech  sweden  france  cloud  cloudcomputing  censorship  democracy  policy  politics  whistleblowing  secrecy  government  activism  journalism 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Toward a Taxonomy of Secrets
"While most of the literature on information security accepts the existence of secrets as a given and proceeds to develop various solutions for the preservation and handling of secrets, it is our intent to step back from this and consider briefly the basic nature of secrets. We will explore the various types of secrets and the different motivations that lead to the creation and keeping of secrets. The information presented on this topic may be viewed as a rudimentary taxonomy of secrets, which may be fleshed out further if it is deemed useful by the community. We will also consider the implications that might be drawn about how best to deal with secrets. In all cases where we refer to the keeper of the secret, it should be assumed that this term may refer to either an individual or an organization, such as a corporation, religious body, or government, unless other distinctions are explicitly made."
cryptography  government  taxonomy  secrets  security  privacy  research  secrecy  military 
november 2010 by robertogreco
What if there are no secrets? « BuzzMachine
"Is the Wikileaks story an example of crossing a line? First, we have to ask where the line should be. I think it has to move so that our default, especially in government, is transparency. Rather than asking what should be made public we should ask why something should be kept private. Imagine if all government information and actions were public except matters of security and personal and private identification. There will be pressure to head there.
wikileaks  transparency  government  privacy  2010  jeffjarvis  honesty  secrecy  secrets  communication  memory 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Obama threatens to veto greater intelligence oversight - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
"The refusal of the Bush administration to brief the Intelligence Committees on its most controversial intelligence programs was once one of the most criticized aspects of the Bush/Cheney obsessions with secrecy, executive power abuses, and lawlessness. The Obama administration is now replicating that conduct, repeatedly threatening to veto legislation to restore real oversight."
law  us  barackobama  georgewbush  intelligence  oversight  transparency  secrecy  power  abuse  lawlessness 
march 2010 by robertogreco

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