Instapundit: Meet The New Oligarchs, Same as the Old Oligarchs


Instapundit Glenn Reynolds surveys data about declining public trust in social media and tech companies and concludes that the cyber-chickens are coming home to roost.

It's made worse by the increasing politicization of Silicon Valley, and the transformation of its leaders from rebels into what Joel Kotkin calls "the new oligarchs," people who once talked about technology as liberation, but who now seem more interested in using technology as an instrument of control. It's not just NSA spying; it's that the companies gather data on everyone, with comparatively little legal oversight.

You might have been OK with that a decade or two ago, when Silicon Valley seemed full of people who would stand up to the Man. Now, they are The Man (or The Woman) in many ways, or in cahoots with them. Might the information you gave to OKCupid be used against you someday? Your only protection, really, is their good nature. And how good is that?

Read the whole thing.

And then read Instapundit's excellent "5 Privacy Laws I Would Put on the Books Right Now." Snippet:

4. Emphasize Reciprocity

Private citizens should be entitled to do anything that government entities can do without a warrant. For example, when I'm out in public anyone can see my license plates. But I'll bet that police or prosecutors or judges would object if I started tracking their "public" movements everywhere they went. If they can fly a drone over my backyard without a warrant, then I should be able to do the same to them. Government officials should have no more protection from that sort of thing than the rest of us. This will encourage both more transparency and a more serious attention to privacy. 

NEXT: Did Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Reason Interview Sink Her at Brandeis?

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  1. Private citizens should be entitled to do anything that government entities can do without a warrant.

    Private citizens should be able to do without a warrant much more than the government can do without a warrant.

    1. Not necessarily. All a “warrant” does is shield the government from trespassing charges and make anything they find admissible in court.

      I am not sure I should be able to do anything the government can’t do without a warrant. Just because the government needs a warrant to barge into your house doesn’t mean I am not guilty of trespass if I do it.

      1. Uh, no. All it does is make what they find admissible in court. They’re shielded from trespassing charges by fuck you that’s why.

        1. Yes that is true. But that is only because our government sucks. Originally the purpose of a warrant was to shield the sheriff from liability for otherwise criminal acts. It wasn’t until later that our robed overlords invented the concept of sovereign immunity out of thin air.

          1. And even then it only matters if you can afford an attorney. A public pretender will likely not challenge the inadmissible evidence because his job is not to defend people, but rather to get plea deals for the prosecution.

            1. I know a lot of public defenders and I don’t think that is true. The ones I know do a very conscientious job. The problem is that they are given few resources and thus have very little ability to investigate the case themselves. A good private practice attorney has his own private investigator and can go out and double check the cops’ work. The PD’s office has maybe one or two investigators that strictly do murder cases and such because that is all the time they have.

              I would also so say that the reason why evidence gets in is not because the PDs don’t object. It is because the cops lie, are coached by the DAs to say the right things, and the judges believe them no matter how obvious it is they are lying.

              If the Cop gets up and says your client consented and the judge believes him, there isn’t much you can do as a PD no matter how big of a lie that is.

              1. and the judges believe them no matter how obvious it is they are lying.

                Isn’t that a bit of self preservation on their part?

                I mean, if they question the cops when they lie, what happens when the judge gets pulled over or calls 911?

                They might get treated like a peasant instead of getting special treatment.

                1. That’s not a fight I think even the cops would be out to get into. Short of out-and-out murder, a judge’s ability to screw with people outdoes that of a cop.

      2. All a “warrant” does is shield the government from trespassing charges and make anything they find admissible in court.

        It also authorizes the initiation of force. Let’s not forget that.

        Those SWAT teams kicking down doors, etc. are getting a lot more from their warrants than just immunity from trespassing laws. Without the warrant, they are committing multiple violent felonies.

      3. Reason shoudl be allowed to censor comments made on its site.

        Government should not be allowed to do so…even if it owns the sites.

        I should be able to withhold my emails from public view.

        Every email the government has ever produced or received should be viewable by anyone.

        The list goes on.

    2. Fwiw, the first sentence does not preclude the second sentence.

  2. Does that knife have a boyonet lug on it?

    student went on a stabbing rampage through the classrooms and halls of a high school outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, authorities said. As many as 20 students were hurt, some with life-threatening injuries

    1. But the school had a zero tolerance policy against weapons. He could have been expelled for just bringing it to the parking lot. How could this happen? Schools are weapons free zones.

      1. There must not have been a sign prominently displayed proclaiming the school to be a Knife Free Zone.

    2. Military-style assault knife?

      1. Aren’t they all?

        1. Game of Thrones has created millions of teen Arya Stark wannabes.

          1. Apparently it was a black knife with top serrations and a persuader tip, named Needle.

      2. We need to do something about assault knives, especially chef’s knives. Those things are in every house and thousands of businesses all over America. And most of them are within reach of children!!

        1. I had a manager many years ago who said “You know why you never hear about restaurants being robbed? It’s because you’ve got a bunch of guys out back with ten inch knives!”

          1. Who also really know how to use them. And since you have worked in a kitchen, you know better than I that there are a lot of people who work in them that you really don’t want to screw with, knife or not.

            1. there are a lot of people who work in them that you really don’t want to screw with, knife or not

              That’s the truth. One day I gave this guy a ride home, and he told me the story of how after some gang banger killed his brother, he walked up to the dude and shot him in broad daylight in front of witnesses. He didn’t care. And he was one of the nice ones.

            2. Um, yeah, and sometimes they’ll still try to kill you even if they’re only having a bad day. I worked at a hotel bar & grill in my early 20s where a head chef got fired for throwing a knife in the direction of a server. It missed her by a few inches and landed in the wall directly behind her.

            3. John, if you haven’t already, read Kitchen Confidential. Nothing in that book surprised me, but only because I’ve been there. Either way it’s a heck of an entertaining read.

              1. I read it a while back sarcasmic. It is a good book and very eye opening for anyone who hasn’t worked in the industry. It wasn’t that surprising to me since I have worked in places similar to kitchens in that they were places where people who had no where else to go ended up. It only surprised me in that I didn’t realize kitchens were in many ways just like metal shops.

  3. “oligarchs”

    I am so fucking sick of the recent uptick in the usage of this word.

    1. where IS that fucking ‘up’ arrow?

  4. I am on the board of an IEEE affiliated non-profit, and rub elbows with many top-notch engineers who are members of IEEE here in Boston.

    In my experience, they are exactly who Lenin was describing when he said “The capitalists will sell us the rope we hang them with.”

    Their attention is often entirely on the cool tech they are envisioning. Some of them have come up with pretty scary ideas, and are reveling in the free money the government is throwing at them. And on the occasion when I ask them about some way that their tech could be used to violate the rights of people here at home, I get the Nigel Tuffney ours-go-to-11 blank stare.

    1. It’s really unfortunate that liberal arts is dying concept in education. If these guys had even the slightest perspective that even a cursory education in history would give them, they could at least see how their wondrous tech can be used for eveil as well as good.

      1. Meh, it’s no different than a gun. It’s a tool that can be used for good or evil.

        Don’t focus on the technology, focus on the power you grant its user and, perhaps more importantly, the mechanisms in place for checking that power.

        1. Except that some of this technology literally can only be used for evil.

          One guy was working on a tool to identify terrorists via their social media comms. I talked with him for half an hour, and it became clear that it had nothing to do with terrorists; essentially, his system would map out people communicating on white networks on any arbitrary key-word set, and it would map out who was active in the organization by monitoring the timing of communications in relation to specific incidents on time and space, integrating data from a wide variety of media (twitter, phone calls, emails, blog commentary, etc).

          Very quickly it became apparent to me that any disciplined cadre would not even pop up on this thing. It would, however, be perfect for mapping out the sort of grass roots organizations that characterize the Tea Party. And quelle surprise, people who who have a centrality in the networks developing to opposite to the U.S. governments’ policies are now finding themselves the target of very pervasive official harassment.

          I haven’t seen that guy in two years, not since he was crowing about getting a fat DHS contract.

          I am trying to think of a benign use for this tech, and not coming up with it. It’s expensive to develop and deploy, and the information that is gleaned is not much superior to existing cheaper market surveying tools. Only the state would be willing to throw so much money at something like this, and have the access to the infrastructure needed for it.

          1. I’m not a computer guy, so a lot of what you said went over my head…

            But why can’t this be used solely for persons “other than Americans” to find terrorists abroad? Isn’t that the actual legitimate purpose of these agencies?

            Why would that be evil? IMHO, it’s not evil until it’s turned on US citizens.

            1. Terrorists abroad tend not to use to organize their attacks.

              As an investigative tool this is worthless (John had a great comment that I can’t scare up for the life of me explaining why these information hoovers don’t give investigators anything they couldn’t find through normal investigative work).

              This tool is only useful when you are trying to investigate a conspiracy that hasn’t done anything that would justify getting a warrant… ie the organizers of True The Vote.

        2. I agree. The problem , as I see it from tarran’s post, is that these people don’t seem to have any idea that any/all technology, no matter how cool, can be used for nefarious purposes. Thus if these engineers had been taken a course or two in history while an undergrad they might see that while they are developing their really cool tech.

          I wonder if there is any kind of course like that offered anywhere – how major technical advances were used for both good and evil. Where would you start? Fire? Stone tools?

          1. So, what are you saying? Stop developing technology because it can be used for evil?

            1. Stop developing technology for the government that can be used primarily for evil.

              1. My rule of thumb is that if you need a government grant, particularly a DHS or DARPA one to make your idea come to life, it’s probably a bad idea.

                I know we can come up with exceptions to this, but for most tech ideas it’s a good one. I’ve only seen one project funded entirely by defense department grants that I liked (the dude was working on a water filtration system that would have dramatically positive health effects in the third world, if it worked as well as he claimed it would).

                Usually it’s silly crap (eg. a mobile, SUV-borne anthrax incinerator) or stuff that is one step below a mobile oppression palace in potential for abuse.

              2. Manhattan project? Net good or net evil?

            2. Seriously? You read that in my comment? That’s impressive.

              1. Seriously? You read that in my comment? That’s impressive.

                Sorry Restoras, I’m assuming that was aimed at me.

                I didn’t read your last paragraph well and didn’t pick up on the sarc. My apologies.

                1. No worries.

          2. All technology can be used for evil. Just like all men can be instruments of evil. It’s how men conduct themselves that matters.

            OK, maybe not aspirin, but in general.

            1. Exactly right.

      2. It’s good to know I am not the only one who laments the decline of liberal arts.

  5. You might have been OK with that a decade or two ago, when Silicon Valley seemed full of people who would stand up to the Man. Now, they are The Man (or The Woman) in many ways, or in cahoots with them.

    They become successful, so the government goes after them. This forces them to seek to influence government in order to protect themselves. Then they use that influence for other purposes.

    1. That and after Microsoft’s competitors bought off the Clinton Administration to go after them, the rest of the industry realized there was money in them there lobbyists.

      1. Isn’t that what I said?

        1. I just meant it wasn’t all defensive on their part. Some of it was them realizing they could buy government influence not to just be left alone but to attack their competitors.

          1. Once one competitor benefits from lobbying government, the rest must follow suit or perish. It’s hard to blame the businessman for protecting his interests.

            Gotta attack this problem at its source. Restrict the entity with the power.

    2. Why compete when you can regulate?

  6. Regarding the illustration accompanying this blog item, I love that album cover, and it would have been striking and iconic in any universe. But in this universe, it was also inspired by and in direct response to other media content: Kubrick’s “2001.” The rejection of the authority claimed by high-technology (Kubrick’s monolith) is the point of the Who’s cover shot. That is to say, the image isn’t only suitable for this article because the album contains “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The image’s own message is very appropriate here.

    1. Plus, there’s no piss stain for Moon!!!!

      1. Most of it is actually rain water from film canisters poured on the concrete slab? the guys couldn’t perform. 😀

  7. and the transformation of its leaders from rebels into what Joel Kotkin calls “the new oligarchs,” people who once talked about technology as liberation, but who now seem more interested in using technology as an instrument of control.

    It is a sad day when you miss Bill Gates and the word processor file wars.

    Sure Bill wanted to force me to use Word documents…

    But at least he didn’t steal my private information save it in large databases and sell and/or give it away to various government agencies all while lobbying government for greater and greater control of the internet to the detriment of his customers and competition.

    1. You have a lot more faith in Microsoft than some of us.

  8. In CA, license plate data of “public safety” employees, and that includes DA’s and Judges, are “firewalled”. Sometimes even from the DMV.

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