The Hacker Politics of Julian Assange

Aaron Bady draws on Julian Assange's writing to explain the WikiLeaks founder's goals and strategy. Bady's whole post is worth reading; here's a sample:

[Assange] begins by describing a state like the US as essentially an authoritarian conspiracy, and then reasons that the practical strategy for combating that conspiracy is to degrade its ability to conspire, to hinder its ability to "think" as a conspiratorial mind. The metaphor of a computing network is mostly implicit, but utterly crucial: he seeks to oppose the power of the state by treating it like a computer and tossing sand in its diodes....

[H]is underlying insight is simple and, I think, compelling: while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to "think" as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy. The more closed the network is to outside intrusion, the less able it is to engage with that which is outside itself...

[Via Will Wilkinson.]

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  • ||

    It'd be nice if he threw some sand at the diodes of the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, North Koreans*, etc

    *I'm just joshing. North Koreans actually have vaccuum tubes.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I don't know why this argument keeps popping up. WikiLeaks regularly publishes documents from other countries, China and Iran among them. Dunno if they've done anything on Russia in the past, but they say there's some big Russian revelations coming up.

  • ||

    It probably comes up because I haven't seen anything on here about it. Come on, I want more secrets.

  • 0x90||

    Not so much in regards to people on here, but I can theorize on where that thinking comes from in the wider (especially the right wing) public. Many people had never even heard of Wikileaks before they released the Iraq helicopter video. So, for example, take the Palins of the world (I'd be surprised if she could've given any sort of definition for 'Wikileaks' even before about a week ago): the logical progression would be such that Wikileaks must be (a) anti-Bush, and when that fails to hold, due to revelations regarding this administration, (b) anti-American. That is not the case, but one can definitely imagine that this is the basic pattern of reasoning in alot of cases right now.

  • wayne||

    Good point about Wikileaks' previous obscurity.

    Judging from the complete hatchet job Wikileaks did on the helicopter video, I am quite skeptical of their motives.

  • Jesse Walker||

    The worst was the person I saw declaring that WikiLeaks would never expose anything like climategate -- apparently unaware that the climategate emails were published on WikiLeaks.

  • nekoxgirl||

    For that alone Wikileaks would have my support, regardless of if whatever else they are doing is "bad for the troops." The global warming crazies are in a position to do way more damage to the Western world than Iran or Arabs or whoever the hell we are suppose to be fighting in the Middle East.

  • Steve||

    Then WikiLeaks, like the ACLU, gets it right on occasion. I'm all for exposing government action which breaks the law, but many of these releases seem to do nothing more than make it harder to defend the US.

    If that the goal, fine -- just be honest about it. Hiding behind feigned morality just doesn't cut it.

  • Les||

    The goal is to expose all government action. The government lies all the time, but doesn't want to prosecute itself, making such lies "legal."

    And I believe it's rather clear that the only thing the U.S. has to defend itself against are the enemies we make when we pretend we're defending ourselves.

  • Steve||

    While my views have evolved from the isolationism of my youth to a more simple non-interventionism, I believe it is foolish to think that we have NO role on the world stage, just not a very big one, very often.

    On those rare occasions, military (thus government) secrets are a requirement.

  • 0x90||

    There also seems to be a similar dynamic on the left wing side of the question, except that what I see there is almost a mirror image of the right: Wikileaks was more widely known, and known as being cool because it was assumedly anti-Bush. But now that it goes against their guy, it's just irresponsible, and the person behind it must be a loose cannon. Expect to see 'broken clock' characterizations being applied to help explain the anti-Bush projection in a non-self-condemning way.

  • ||

    The worst was the person I saw declaring that WikiLeaks would never expose anything like climategate -- apparently unaware that the climategate emails were published on WikiLeaks.

    I'm beginning to think I can't trust anything written by blog commentators.

  • johnl||

    Jesse this is incorrect. Climategate wasn't broken by wikileaks, and they played really no role in that story.

  • ||

    They didn't break the emails (that was some site hosted in Russia), but the documents were "published on Wikileaks" as Jesse said.

    There is hypocrisy on both sides in this case, the conservatives are right that NYT seems to have a double standard about when they publish illegally obtained documents, while meanwhile the conservatives who gleefully rejoiced over ClimateGate seem to have the same double standard inversed.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    the conservatives are right that NYT seems to have a double standard about when they publish illegally obtained documents, while meanwhile the conservatives who gleefully rejoiced over ClimateGate seem to have the same double standard inversed.

    I think that's a false comparison. The NYT's excuse is clearly hypocritical. In both cases, the docs were obtained illegally, so that excuse does not stand.

    The conservative objection to the Wikileaks documents is not just that they were obtained illegally, but that they endanger national security. I think that's likely overblown, but I don't think it's the same thing as the climategate emails.

  • ||

    My point is not about the effect - the Left would say global warming impacts national security too. My point was that the Right had no problems using stolen ClimateGate emails to gain political points and heralded the whistleblowers for uncovering this "conspiracy."

  • cynical||

    It's the same thinking that leads to any sort of prejudice. When you only start paying attention to someone (or a group of someones) when they do something you dislike, then your entire perception of them will be colored in that light regardless of the evidence.

  • BeltwayLurker||

    You mean the edited/doctored video that was done in a mannor to make innocent aviators appear to be war criminals. Now, when this twink does something like that to the Chinese I will believe he is an equal opportunity shithead.

  • Suki||

    I think you mean "manner".

    Collateral Lies here.

    Assange is worse than pond scum. Unless you are some pond scum fetish freak.

  • ||

    If Assange is "pond scum", what are the governments he is exposing equivalent to?

  • BeltwayLurker||

    The only reason you don't know is because you drank the koolaid. You probably believe his chop job in "Collateral Murder" too.

  • Brett L||

    Its a strange mechanical/electronic analogy failure. Not sure sand has any effect on the operation of diodes or other electronic components. We use it for circuit boards.
    Sand in gears, bad; water on electronics, bad.

  • ||

    You've apparently never operated computers in a desert where the sand is like talc and gets in everything because the HVAC system is pressurized the wrong way and people prop doors besides.

  • BeltwayLurker||

    Letting the smoke out. Best.

  • Kevin Carson||

    Well, he's certainly thrown some in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

  • BeltwayLurker||

    He elevated their status afaiac

  • ||

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  • I think I luv you, shannon||

    Can you post your picture and personal email?

  • ||

    So his goal is to increase secrecy and the conspiratorial nature of the US government, and make it less open?

    He's not for open and transparent government, he's for making the US government less effective.

  • Law Student||

    I think either goal is a good one so who cares. The State Department and the military should have the same open scrutiny as we expect of every other part of the government. If what is revealed is embarrassing then maybe they shouldn't be doing those things.

  • ||

    Well, almost nothing revealed was embarrassing. The most embarrassing things were our diplomats having low but fairly accurate view of certain allies, including allies of convenience, and the unacknowledged universal practice of gathering HUMINT on other countries' diplomats.

  • BeltwayLurker||

    Messing with UN diplomats is bad for Obama's base financial support.

  • Les||

    From Slate:

    A secret cable from April 2009 that went out under Clinton's name instructed State Department officials to collect the "biometric data," including "fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans," of African leaders. Another secret cable directed American diplomats posted around the world, including the United Nations, to obtain passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, and other data connected to diplomats. As the Guardian puts it, the cables "reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network."

    Clinton's defensive response, calling the leaks an "attack," is pretty indicative of embarrassment.

  • Suki||

    Even worse, a bunch of idiots who can't keep stupidity out of their memos are ordered to get frequent flier and credit card numbers from their foreign peers? Can't FBI/NSA get that from a combination of name and date/time/location of use? Personal encryption keys, how does that work with a non-spy? "You are so hot, will you tell me your key if I buy you a drink?"

  • ||

    No, you don't believe that either goal is a good one. You don't believe that a US government that was more conspiratorial, more secretive, subject to less scrutiny, and more likely to have private actions differing from its public statements would be a good thing.

    Assange is actively agitating for a US government more likely to do embarrassing things, with less open scrutiny.

  • ||

    Assange is actively agitating for a US government more likely to do embarrassing things, with less open scrutiny.

    huh? so fear of being exposed is going to make them more reckless?

  • Larry Craig||

    Makes sense to me...

  • ||

    huh? so fear of being exposed is going to make them more reckless?

    Fear of being exposed is, in his own words, likely to make the government more closed and less in touch with the outside world and outside opinion. It is likely to make the government engage in less information sharing and more fiefdoms and secret conspiracies.

    Yes, that does make the government more reckless. Open governments are less reckless; his goal is a more closed government.

    More reckless, but more bumbling and ineffective.

    At first I thought that he simply favored open government, and that the expected reaction of the US government towards more secrecy was unintended by him. But it's clear that he actually favors a more secretive, less open US government.

  • ||

    You can argue the effect will be a more closed government, but do you really believe that's his goal?

  • ||

    I didn't until I read the linked post. Did you read it? Even the part that Jesse excerpted made it clear that this is Assange's goal (and perhaps this is the person Jesse linked to drawing his own conclusions, but it seems fairly accurate.)

    I naively thought that Assange was merely someone who wanted open government. Instead apparently he's operating from an assumption that the US government is inherently an evil conspiracy that will be fundamentally unjust no matter how open it is, so his actual goal is to make the US government less open in order to make it more ineffective. He's a "heighten the contradictions" type of guy, in one paraphrase.

    Since I usually fall into the meliorist camp, of course I disagree with him. I think that governments are inevitable, but that more open governments are more just than closed ones.

  • ||

    If he forces government to be so secretive that it can no longer be effective, what's the problem? Give me secret, ineffective government over open, effective government anyday.

    Moreover, I think the reality is he wants more open, ineffective government. Exposing the crooks makes people more cynical about government and less able to defend politicians, diplomats, spooks, etc. and will encourage people towards limited government.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Give me secret, ineffective government over open, effective government anyday

    You mean like the Soviets?

  • cynical||

    Good thing that Wikileaks is more than just one person, then. I'm pretty sure the organization's goal is not to piss off statists per se, but to expose wrongdoing, regardless of the culprit. Because statists tend to make an exception for wrongdoing when they're the ones doing it (both in the legal and extralegal sense), and because justice systems are usually capable of dealing with ordinary persons who do wrong, it stands to reason that their efforts are best directed at states, for the most part.

  • ||

    "He's not for open and transparent government, he's for making the US government less effective."

    Isn't there a great American tradition for that sort of thing?

    Going back to the XYZ Affair and the Zimmerman telegram at the very least...

    In fact, in both of those "leaks", people did this sort of thing to incite the American people to support war--not go against it.

    That's the only big difference I see between what's happening now and what happened way back when--there's nothing really new about this.

    The only thing that's relatively new is the government's inability to control media outlets like it used to do. When a handful of companies controlled all the news most Americans saw, it was a lot easier to stifle this sort of thing.

    It's like we're back to the days before radio and television made Americans so easy to control--and that's all good news for this libertarian.

    Be sure your sins will find you out?

    I love it.

  • ||

    I am thinking if you had ended up stuck in the Aragon in a trench as a result of the US involvement in World War I, something that was primarily triggered by the XYZ affair, you wouldn't have loved it so much. If such disclosures could causes wars then, why don't they still have the potential to do the same now?

  • ||

    It's hard for people to imagine that something as silly as a leaked telegram or a fire or a ship sinking somewhere could put public opinion over the top and go pro-war...

    ...but I've seen it happen! Public opinion's a funny thing. It can turn on a letter containing anthrax, some photos of what may or may not be mobile weapons labs and some stovepiping about yellocake in Niger.

    Sittin' in a trench somewhere suffering mustard gas attacks, machine gun blasts, etc--all because of a telegram and 'cause a ship sank somewhere? It's hard to believe, I'm sure...

    But public opinion's a funny thing. Anything can put it over the top--one way or the other. It's hard to believe how big a war's gonna get when you're in the midst of it starting--but getting that ball rolling?

    It just takes a little push at the right time to put public opinion over the top. ...one way or the other. That's life in a democracy. 5% of the people change their minds about something--and everything changes.

  • MJ||

    The Zimmerman Telegram was WWI, The XYZ affair happened during the Adams' administration during the Quasi-War with France, if memory serves.

  • ||

    Yeah, that's right.

    So, somebody published memos of understanding between various world leaders that people would be outraged about...if only they knew!

    Oh noes!

    There's nothing new under the sun.

    And what are the big differences between this and the "The Plame Affair"?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N....._and_Plame

    From what I know? The only difference is that Joe Wilson outed the Bush Administration in the New York Times and WikiLeaks outed the Obama Administration on the internet--in other words, that's hardly any real difference at all!

    As long as the New York Times or the MSM doing it--is that what makes it okay in some people's minds?

    Unless you're in the military or doing espionage or treason or something, I don't see why exposing the truth should be considered such a terrible thing to do. The Nixon Administration said all the same things when they were getting outed by Woodward and Bernstein.

    Same as it ever was.

    We've seen this movie dozens of times since 1789.

  • ||

    The cables revealed that the private thoughts of the US government foreign policy are unsurprising and essentially match public statements, with the only exception being that the US has a lower opinion of many allies and individual politicians in allies than diplomats will say publicly.

    Apparently Assange would prefer that the US government be less open and more prone to engaging in conspiracies and actions different from its stated goals, because that would make its foreign policy more blundering and ineffective.

  • cynical||

    No, from reading the article, I took away:
    1) In a free society, openly advancing an authoritarian agenda is likely to be unpopular (questionable assertion, but still...)
    2) Therefore, any move toward authoritarianism must be plotted and executed in secret, until the society is eventually compromised enough that further steps can be taken openly. As a result, the authoritarian strain in society and in government must function like a conspiracy.
    3) It's much harder to free an authoritarian society than to keep a free society free.
    4) Thus, it's best to constantly attack authoritarians while they are still in the "secret plot against freedom" phase. Leaking achieves this by encouraging witholding of information that could implicate a person as a participant in the conspiracy.

    The point is not to make government less open. The open part of government doesn't need to be leaked in the first place. It's not to alter the flow of information between government and governed, or even within the legitimate part of government, but instead to disrupt internal communications within the parts of government that would lead to public backlash if exposed. An open government would be unaffected by Wikileaks, and an unaccountable tyranny has little to fear from it, but a closed government in a society that has the means to punish government wrongdoing when discovered can be affected.

    The main flaw in the plan is that it all comes to naught unless the information is actually used to punish the conspirators. Evidence doesn't act on itself, and quite a few people are comfortable with a less free society, even if they don't fully comprehend the ultimate implications for themselves.

  • ||

    Wow, the post you linked to is totally insane:

    The same is true of WMD; while no one in possession of the facts could rationally conclude that Saddam Hussein then (or Iran now) are actually, positively in pursuit of WMD’s,

    Really? No one in possession of the facts could rationally conclude that Iran is actually in pursuit of a nuclear weapon? That's inconceivable? Really now?

  • ||

    I just listened to a book on tape dealing with modern utopianism and totalitarian regimes. The lecturer, who, for the entire series, seemed very moderate in his views, even a little left-leaning, seemed to accept that Iraq did engage in some pretty serious WMD activities, even after the known use of chemical weapons and the attempt to build nukes that was forestalled by the Israeli attack.

    Which makes me wonder what the truth is. Conventional wisdom is that the WMD stuff was bullshit, but I've always been reluctant to completely join that position, given the WMD activities we know his regime was involved in (e.g., the aforementioned gassing of Iranians and the Kurds, the bombed out nuke facility). Of course, the truth on this is about impossible to get with all of the political chaff in the way.

  • ||

    I tend to believe that Western governments believed in good faith that Hussein had and/or was actively pursuing WMDs, mainly because (1) he had used them in the past and (2) he put a great deal of effort into making it look that way.

    He scammed us, believing the scam was a deterrent rather than a provocation. He bet wrong. Boo hoo.

    Western intelligence agencies fell for the scam for a couple of reasons. First, of course, they have a bureaucratic imperative to believe the worst of the enemies of the day - it increases their funding and influence. Second, they have bureaucratic risk aversion - better to overreact to potential risks, than to let anything slip by that you will be blamed for.

  • 0x90||

    Third, because no irrefutable evidence materialized in the public eye confirming the contrary. I don't care if people see the current flap as consisting of the airing of dirty diplomatic laundry; it's the principle of what's happening that matters. Today it might just be something nasty that Hillary said about so-and-so, but tomorrow it might be something much more pivotal. I want this type of activity happening 24/7/365.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Those, plus a couple of dozen guys with pocket knives had just killed 3,000 people in the US mainland and here was a dude in Iraq who we believed (and who encouraged the belief) had chemical, biological and the desire to acquire nuclear weapons and then to use them against us.

  • ||

    There is one other factor as well. Our entire intelligence aparatus is based on signal intel. We had no real human sources in Iraq. So basically, we were reading Saddam's mail. Now understand that a totalitarian system is based on lies and brute force. If you don't do your job, you get shot. But, your boss will get shot if he doesn't do his job. So everyone is happy to believe it if you tell a lie that everything is okay. A lot of the sig intel we had on Iraq was Iraqis lying to each other and Saddam about their cababilities.

  • Nobody saw this coming||

  • BeltwayLurker||

    No kidding. And these jackasses even dismiss Sadam's use of chem. Weapons on the Kurds to say with a straight face he never had them and did not want them.

  • T||

    Brady is unclear in his thinking about the issue. Just off the top of my head, he's confusing internal communications with external communications and presumes blocking external equates to blocking internal.

    Muddled and incoherent, try again. Less attempts at pithy sentences and more effort on a coherent thesis.

  • ||

    Apparently Assange is convinced that the US government is a conspiracy, and is trying his hardest to make it so. He sounds like a feverish conspiracy theorist who wants to "heighten the contradictions." His interpretations of the documents are laughable.

    The fact that US law doesn't engage in prior restraint and doesn't prosecute publishers is a large part of what keeps the private and public statements of the US government relatively in sync. (And note that a lot, though surely not all, of what GWB was attacked for was saying in public what our diplomats believe in private.)

    I hope that the governments fails to take his stupid bait, and doesn't actually try to prosecute him. Luckily Assange's motives don't really matter much.

  • cynical||

    "Apparently Assange is convinced that the US government is a conspiracy, and is trying his hardest to make it so."

    What a loon. Just because a small group of people works in secret to perpetrate unlawful* acts doesn't mean that they're a conspiracy.

    *if you believe in the supremacy of the Constitution.

  • ||

    So Assange releases a bunch of material that paints the US in a largely favorable light, and his goal is for the US to increase secrecy and its conspiratorial nature?

    If he didn't exist, neocons would have to invent him.

  • Vaccine||

    You're really missing the point, aren't you? The point isn't the CONTENT of the documents, it is that they were leaked. The fact that they were leaked means people will change how they behave, i.e., the circle of the conspiracy grows smaller and tighter. Now, you can doubt that that will be the effect, but at least try to understand the premise.

  • ||

    You're really missing the point.

    I understand his premise. It is indeed one possible reaction of the government, even a likely one. I've stated that multiple times.

    His premise is that the US government is equally unjust no matter what, so the best thing to do is to make it as conspiratorial and closed as possible, which may make it more reckless but certainly more bumbling and more ineffective.

    OTOH, I believe that a more open government can go quite a way in ameliorating the necessary evil that is a government, so I disagree with his premise.

  • Vaccine||

    Not sure how I'm missing the point, since you basically restated my summary of Assang's premise. But I'm glad you really do get it!

  • ||

    You're missing the point of my original comment that you responded to.

    The neocons actually do favor more government secrecy than I'm comfortable with. So, like I said, since his goal is more government secrecy, they should in private be happy about this.

  • T||

    Hmm. Reckless, bumbling, ineffective, yet heavily armed, possessing of great power, and lacking much accountability.

    Yeah, I can see how that would be a better situation for everyone.

  • Mike M.||

    Assange's apparent view of our government as being like the Borg Collective, where the drones all share the same thoughts and objectives and work together as one to achieve the goals of the hive mind isn't compelling at all. It's actually incredibly childish.

    If this ridiculous view of our government were accurate, Bradley Manning would never have provided him the information in the first place; he would have assimilated Assange and turned him into another drone.

  • ||

    The public only sees the results of what information fed into the machine puts out. This gives us a chance to look at the information being fed into the machine directly. I fail to see the childishness of it all. Just because we don't know how the state department made its final decisions, clever people looking over this information can certainly connect the dots.

  • ||

    The public only sees the results of what information fed into the machine puts out.

    Unfortunately, this is also true of the "new" Wikileaks, ever since they adopted their splashy media strategy and hyped releases, instead of making submission easy and browsing everything submitted easy.

    The charitable explanation was that it was too difficult to draw attention to the good stuff and people needed gatekeepers to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    But it's pretty easy to start another site like the old Wikileaks. It's pretty easy to upload Reason's brief to other places.

  • ¢||

    WikiLeaks regularly publishes documents from other countries, China and Iran among them.

    They used to do that, and then they stopped, and they took all those things offline, and they altered their submission/publication policy so that basically nothing new gets published, except in these showy media-blitz type deals they do now, instead of working as a repository for leaked stuff, like they used to be—or so I hear.

    The site's never loaded for me.

    And the operation is so obviously a front, I don't understand why anyone pays any attention to it.

  • Jesse Walker||

    then they stopped, and they took all those things offline

    Did they? I noticed that one of those old doc dumps was missing when I went looking for it the other day, but I just assumed the URL had changed.

  • ||

    And the operation is so obviously a front, I don't understand why anyone pays any attention to it.

    A front for what? The People's Front of Judea?

  • nekoxgirl||

    No, it's the Judean People's Front!

  • 0x90||

    According to them, they switched strategy, as the media doesn't report when they just dump the data and send out a blanket press releases. So they purposefully play it up and give specific outlets exclusive access, in order to get reporters to start the ball rolling. I don't know why old stuff would be removed -- maybe so, or maybe you just don't know how to find it. I'll see if I can find the time to check it out for you.

  • C'mon man||

    They apparently channel everything through the Kochs.

  • ||

    This whole thing is driving the right wingers into a frenzy. Look at the number of posts in this thread alone by Thacker.

    Assange seems like kind of a dick, and his motivations do seem like more of him fucking with authority than being noble.

    I'm fine with that. In fact, I like it, especially since it exposes government secrets.

    And as I said before, Wikileaks is now the Citizens United for the right. They are going apeshit over it.

  • ||

    I don't think that the government should try to prosecute him at all. And I don't really care what his motives are, but I do think that he's been revealed as an idiot conspiracy theorist.

    I would have been happier if Assange believed in open government, though. I do think that government secrets should be able to be exposed. Assange apparently doesn't.

    He has a complicated theory of wanting the US government to react to these leaks by making secrets to be harder to be exposed and becoming more secretive, because he believes that the government will be equally evil whether open or closed, and he prefers a more bumbling (but more reckless) government.

    It is an interesting look into his motivations. I didn't realize that he was a "heighten the contradictions" type of guy.

  • mj86||

    "And as I said before, Wikileaks is now the Citizens United for the right. They are going apeshit over it."

    Where? Most of them seem to be pointing out that these leaks are only embarassing in the mundane sense that they prove we cannot keep others secrets. The King of Saudi Arabia comes off much worse than we do.

  • nekoxgirl||

    Don't know what you've been reading but on the earlier post, John was comparing the Wikileaks leaks to leaking the plans for the Normandy invasion in WWII.

  • ||

    Before or after the invasion?

  • mj86||

    So one guy is now "the right"?

  • Spur||

    I believe the 'apeshit' bit refers to vaguely veiled calls for him to be killed or having wikileaks seen as Al Qeada or classified as a terrorist organization or having a non-American citizen tried for treason and that somehow wikileaks is worse for America than say the Invasion of Iraq or the endless war in Afghanistan and other non-sense.

  • Kevin Carson||

    This ties in with one of my favorite themes: the achievement of the desktop revolution (as Tom Coates put it) in blurring the distinction between the quality of work that can be accomplished at work and what can be accomplished at home. The average worker in the information or cultural realm is probably more productive with open-source desktop- or browser-based productivity software than he is with the klunky proprietary crap he has to use at his job. And the effective cost of a printing press or sound editing studio is now a few hundred dollars.

    The most important possibility for such desktop production, though, is the regulatory state. Back when only a giant organization could afford the enormously expensive machinery for manufacturing, it required a large organization like a state to act as countervailing power. And the state itself could only be countervailed by another centralized, hierarchical branch of the state.

    Now the desktop and network revolutions have put it within the reach of anyone who can afford a desktop computer to be a regulatory state or civil rights division of one.

  • cynical||

    Just wait until we get desktop nukes!

    But seriously, that's only useful in maintaining a free society. States are built on orderly violence, and a single person is still fairly outmatched in that regard.

  • ||

    Assange's "insight" is hardly novel: organizations act as giant information filters, with each level filtering out information that they don't think works to their benefit.

    Calling it conspiratorial is a good way to obfuscate. That's what every organization does; nothing "conspiratorial" about it unless you want to strip the word of all meaning.

    Further, the first thing you learn when you look at information security is that security and access (and thus security and usability) are diametrically opposed. The fact that organizations seize on security as a way to increase their internal control of information is hardly surprising, since internal control of information is what organizations do.

    This all strikes me as a bunch of hand-waving, explanatory of nothing, unless Assange is a kind of idiot-savant - incredibly naive about how the world works, yet weirdly capable of creating and maintaining a very high profile document dump.

  • Vaccine||

    So his view of organizations isn't novel and he may misuses the word "conspiracy." So what? His approach to hindering those information flows by increasing the "paranoia" of the organizational elements *IS* new, and interesting. Will it work? Probably not. But it is interesting.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Thacker is 100% correct here. The outcome of this will be less, not more, open government. It also means fewer friendly governments will be willing to work with our diplomats for fear of their private correspondence being exposed.

  • Ray Pew||

    It also means fewer friendly governments will be willing to work with our diplomats for fear of their private correspondence being exposed.

    I doubt that. Governments NEED to deal with each other, since they are the only players in this field.

    What this will likely do is alter the accessability of "sensitive" documents.

  • nekoxgirl||

    Our government will never be open until we put its constitutional limits back in place. If its solely up to the Executive branch to decided whether we've been good children and deserve to know what its been up to, we've already lost.

  • Almanian||

    private correspondence being exposed
    accessability of "sensitive" documents

    Reason - come for the dialogue, stay for teh pron.

  • DJF||

    “”””It also means fewer friendly governments will be willing to work with our diplomats for fear of their private correspondence being exposed.””””

    Good, if they are working in secret together then they are probably doing things that citizens in both countries don’t want done.

  • John F.||

    I for the life of me cannot see what people find so fascinating or compelling about the thinking of Julian Assange. He sounds like pretty much every other wounded-narcissist computer nerd I used to play Doom with on our high school computer network.

  • Jack Campbell||

    And you sounds like a wounded-narcissist computer nerd Doom player jealous that everyone is talking about the guy you always fragged with the BFG9000.

  • John F.||

    I'm not wounded.

  • ||

    So, Assange is basically trying to force the US government to be more closed and more secretive, in the belief this will make it less effective?

    I don't suppose he's looked at whether closed and secretive governments are more likely to do the things he thinks they should do, and less likely to do the things he doesn't think they should do. Because, as near as I can tell, the more closed and secretive a government is, the worse it is. Being closed and secretive seems positively correlated with repression and kleptocracy, as far as I can tell.

  • ||

    Presumably he's one of those vaguely anarchist types who believes that the difference between an open hegemon and a closed one is merely a "rounding error," so he thinks that it's better to concentrate on making the US government less effective, because the ameliorating effects of being more open are so small and outweighed by the extra effectiveness?

    I agree with you, that an empirical look at real governments would disprove his theory, but, eh, there are people with his belief out there.

    It is such a sideshow to the question of whether he should have the right to publish, which of course he should.

    Conditioned on the banal contents of the documents, I guess it raises the chance that the person publishing would have these beliefs. I'm still surprised; I thought he would just be a "open government is good" type of person.

  • 0x90||

    Yes and no -- the position he articulates is very generalized and does not stand up under certain conditions. Namely, in the case of entities whose main distinguishing characteristic is their claim to rightful monopoly on the use of force over a given area.

    So apparently, as far as governments are concerned, his view is predicated upon the idea of concurrent governments which compete for tax dollars. Oops.

  • 0x90||

    On second thought though, I find a nice hole in my own logic. I am presuming above that a government has the option to be secretive, when in actuality, that statement is incomplete. More accurately, the options would be:

    1. try to be honest
    2. try to be secretive, and fail

    Even the very policies which intend to establish the framework of secrecy are subject to being outed at any time. As such, it might be argued that, given the ubiquity of digital communications, there do indeed exist non-trivial motivations toward openness, even in the case of a coercively monopolistic entity.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Haven't had a chance to RTparticularFA, but Assange is looking more and more heroic by the day.

    I await the bank data dump with eager anticipation.

    The fact that he's got a broader plan re: cracking nation states, is fucking incredible and inspiring; sci-fi scale, broadview stuff IMHO. I hope it leads to Patrick McGoohan tearing off the mask *underneath* the Patrick McGoohan mask that's underneath the monkey mask that's underneath the black and white mask underneath the white hood. I'm betting it's either Cornelius or Mathias under there. Complete with frogmen and set to "All you need is love" too.

    Google "wikileaks+history+insurance", or look for "wikileaks insurance" on pirate bay. Amazing.

    "history_insurance" = a huge, well seeded torrent that is completely encrypted. No one knows what it is. Something new? Unredacted version of previous dumps? A threat (bluff?) by Assange to ward off any hostilities by the US? The forthcoming bank dump? It has already been released. All Assange or his colleagues need to do is tweet the password and its unleashed. (Or maybe the password will be automatically released, and only Assange can stop it: a dead-man switch to guard against his own assassination?)

  • Almanian||

    RELEASE THE KRAKEN!

  • Troll||

    I was hoping for more from this thread. How much is the State dept budget? I sure hope they get more substantive intelligence than this. Medvedev is a puppet? The Arabs are double-dealers?

    Who fucking knew, huh? I don't see the big deal here. It's not like lat and long coords for N Korean nukes. If this is what constitutes foreign intrigue, I am glad I did not bother to sit for the FSO test.

  • ||

    His approach to hindering those information flows by increasing the "paranoia" of the organizational elements *IS* new, and interesting.

    Espionage agencies have been doing to each other for years. Its common knowledge that the more paranoid you can make a spy operation, the more you degrade it.

    I'll give him points for using the internet for this, though. Like I said, idiot-savant.

    The fact that he's got a broader plan re: cracking nation states,

    Since the likely result is to make nation-states more insular and repressive, he's certainly taking the long way around.

    I kind of like the project, in general terms. It's Assange's naively ignorant worldview and motivation that I find depressing.

  • ||

    I still don't get the logic behind "making nation-states more insular and repressive". If the nation state believes in what its doing for its citizens, then it should not have to worry about what leaks out. If its gaming the system for its own advantage, it was setting itself up to be a repressive regime. The only thing the leaks do is reveal the nature of the beast early in the game. I don't see how the leaks can change the overall motivation.

  • ||

    And now wanted by interpol:

    http://www.interpol.int/public....._52486.asp

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    he may have to follow your example and make like a tree

  • Jeffersonian||

    I can't stand Assange's voice or appearance. To me it's almost a physical reaction. He's everything that I hate about the anti-American Europeanized internationalist left. He has no philosophy except for being conspiracy minded. Instead, anyone who looks at these documents will quickly conclude the only conspiracy is that the typical leftwing theories are completely incompatible with reality just like they have been since the French Revolution!

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    "He has no philosophy except for being conspiracy minded."

    http://www.ted.com/talks/julia.....leaks.html

  • ||

    Jeffersonian, so you're saying you'd rather just stay in the dark then and let the governments and corporations do whatever illegal actions they want as long as they keep it secret? The alternative to Wikileaks = waiting for the biased, State-dicksucking media to grow balls, which will never happen.

    Moreover, Assange is not specifically anti-American. The current documents he's using have American origin, and America's superpower status and global expansionism leads to more materials due to more involvement, which leads the pro-American biased like you to believe that he specifically hates America. It seems like he hates most all governments (truly oppressive government moreso than America) and has a very cynical (and justifiably so) attitude towards politicians, bureaucrats and corporations. If he's conspiracy minded, it's because the aforementioned have proven time and time again there is very little to trust.

  • Nat Wilcox||

    To paraphrase Balko later in the day, can you guess which portentious boatload of postmodern blather is satire?

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