By Bradley Harrington
“The Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen.” — Julian Assange, “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet,” 2012 —
Many of us free-thinking types, back in the 1990s, believed that the rise of the Internet — based as it is on the decentralization of knowledge and information — offered a significant tool with which to combat the growth of tyrannical power structures both here in the United States and in the rest of the world as well.
By the early 2000s, however, it was becoming clear that this promise was fading fast for anyone astute enough to follow the trends. By 2013, Edward Snowden’s NSA data dumps proved what a few of us already knew: That America’s federal government, throwing liberty, property and privacy to the winds, had set up an all-powerful Surveillance State that made George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” machinations look like a twilight walk in the park.
So, just in case some of you have been living in caves out there in the hinterlands for the last five years, let me spell it out for you: All of your data communications — let me repeat that, ALL — have, for quite a while now, been sucked up into colossal data streams and stored in gigantic data centers that span the entire globe. Complete with indexing.
Or, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange describes it in the same book quoted above:
“The new world of the Internet longed for independence. But states and their friends moved to control our new world — by controlling its physical underpinnings. They leached into the veins and arteries of our new societies, gobbling up every relationship expressed or communicated, every webpage read, every message sent and every thought Googled, and then stored this knowledge, undreamed-of power, in top-secret warehouses forever.”
How does an advocate of liberty and individualism combat such a nightmare? HOW do we go about smashing this omnipotent State to regain our once-cherished freedoms? Short of shooting everybody responsible, chucking all of our electronics into the nearest river and returning to a pre-industrial state, that is?
It’s easy to think we’re just doomed to collapse into totalitarian chaos and destruction no matter what we say or do, isn’t it? If you DO think that, however, you’d be wrong — and the man who has showed us the way out is none other than Assange himself.
The same factors that allow our out-of-control government to engage in these kinds of deceitful, intrusive shenanigans — technological advancements and a massive stranglehold on our communications — also contain the seeds of their own obliteration. For, cybernetically speaking, the greater the complexity of a system, the more vulnerable it gets and the harder it is to maintain its equilibrium.
Or, as Assange states it: “To deal with powerful conspiratorial actions we must think ahead and attack the process that leads to them since the actions themselves cannot be dealt with. We can deceive or blind a conspiracy by distorting or restricting the information available to it. We can reduce total conspiratorial power via unstructured attacks on links or through throttling and separating. A conspiracy sufficiently engaged in this manner is no longer able to comprehend its environment and plan robust action.” (“Conspiracy as Governance,” 2006.)
THIS is the purpose of WikiLeaks and what it was founded to do: Disrupt the government’s conspiratorial communications.
Or, as Assange continues in the same essay: “The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms and consequent system-wide cognitive decline … Hence, in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems.”
And, as Paul Rosenberg puts it: “They’re [WikiLeaks] not reacting after the events, as in exposing dirty laundry. They are acting in advance, disrupting their enemy’s ability to function in the future. And here’s where it gets even better: A network of this type invariably reacts to leaks by closing itself tighter against untrusted links … Once the obscure conduits of elite power become so paranoid that they can no longer conspire among themselves, WikiLeaks has won.” (“What Julian Assange is Really Doing,” www.freemansperspective.com, April 18, 2017.)
In the meantime, what’s the best tool we have available at our disposal? Cryptography.
Or, as Assange relates, we need to “fortify our space behind a cryptographical veil. To create new lands barred to those who control physical reality, because to follow us into them would require infinite resources. And in this manner to declare independence.”
And, Dear Reader, once we’ve done so, we will have won as well.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on June 4, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.