Hello there, Bloggers: welcome to your front-row seat. Getcher peanuts here.
Reports are coming in, that the Western democracies are trying to kill Wikileaks: kill it fast and kill it dead, and they’re not too fussy about doing it in the open, either. Isn’t that interesting?
Well, if you don’t think it’s interesting, I guess there’s every possibility that you’re not reading this…possibly also, there’s every possibility that you’re the sort of person who doesn’t invite me to your Christmas parties…
And I actually have quite a lot to say about it, but I’m still working it up, so consider this an abstract, rushed out in the hopes it’ll beat the next wave to the shore. Have you heard the stories? You can donate to the KKK through Mastercard if you want to, but you can not donate to Wikileaks; if you want to put your money in a Swiss bank you can do it if you are a dictator, but not if you are Julian Assange. Wikileaks on Twitter? You can, again, find the KKK there…but Wikileaks, no way. Check out this guy, who says PayPal’s frozen his account because he’s donated to Wikileaks. Check out this story, of the CIA placing a Wikileaks mirror site online hoping to gather data on you if you’re curious about Wikileaks. Which, as the link tells us, did not happen…but who among us doesn’t find such a thing plausible? If this is a tempest in a teapot, it’s a mighty big teapot still, and there’s still a tempest in it…and it’s gaining strength. Internet businesses seem oddly emotionally-engaged with the idea of Julian Assange being a troublemaker, and the thing’s just starting to smell kind of funny, you know? The Orange Revolution found a home on Twitter, but Assange can’t; one wonders how Amazon, recent defenders of your right to buy a How-To guide for pedophiles if you want, looks on the great whistleblowing controversy of our times…
[EDIT: Oh no but wait…one doesn‘t wonder that…]
And so: is it all orchestrated? It is certainly beginning to look as though it is massively orchestrated. You’ve got the somewhat suspicious legal pursuit of Assange by Swedish authorities, you’ve got his incarceration without bail in the UK. You’ve got U.S. talking heads invading your living room each night telling you it’s all about national security. They’re calling it cyberterrorism, and who can blame them? They’ve probably been waiting years to call something cyberterrorism; the word “cyberterrorism” is probably like Viagra for journalists, slightly better than that for Republicans.
But, it’s the wrong word. “Terrorism”: that’s an inapt metaphor for what we’re seeing here. If you were in London recently, you probably already know what the better metaphor is.
What we’re witnessing here is a riot.
A slow-motion virtual riot, and we’re all inside it: you and me and the NYT.
And the funny thing about that is, that the Western democracies have rather a lot of online instruments that operate as virtual analogues for grabbing someone off the street and arresting them, but not too many for dispersing crowds…in fact they’re only got one each, and only one of them has one that can be deployed with anything like swiftness and anything like quiet. That’d be, of course, the United States and its Patriot Act — the only thing like a fire hose and a tear-gas cannon in the online world as of this moment. Oh, those Internet analogies, all the “virtual X” metaphors and the “cyber-Y” similes…everyone’s always racing to bang them out on the anvil, it’s a game, it’s a contest, it’s a sport, it’s a job…in some rare cases, like the whole “copyright infringement is not theft” argument, it’s a series of combat manoeuvres played out on a very small piece of active ground surrounded by a vast no-man’s-land of people flicking channels after work and not really caring…but now, right now, it’s something else as well.
Right now, it’s a recruitment drive. It’s a guilt trip. It’s a personal appeal from Jimmy Wales. Please let us do this. The Western democracies have an enviable record of success with the whole “requiring and securing assent from citizens” thing, because all they’ve ever had to do to get it is yoke your interests with theirs and then apply the necessary leverage. “You must put up with an X while I enjoy a Y because otherwise neither of us get anything”. It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma reconstructed as extortion, through the mere addition of whatever amount of force it takes to bend it into that shape. Everybody knows it. Everybody’s used to it. I’ll drive my Porsche while you take the bus; by the way the fares are going up and the hours are being cut; but it is necessary.
This time, though…the necessity isn’t too evident, is it?
Because whistleblowers may well constitute metaphorical WMDs to people in government, but to ordinary citizens they’re not explosive at all. In fact they make rather a jolly noise. Here we are, all of us, milling around in the street and beginning to tap our feet to that merry tune, just a little. Just unconsciously. At any moment we may begin to sing, and then what will anyone be able to do about us? No amount of state or corporate control of narrative will be able to convince us that singing’s not worth doing once we are doing it, and then the “terrorism” thing will stop working, it will be too late to deploy the online capabilities of the Patriot Act, we will all be living in an SF novel from the 1970s and they will be stuck with Wikileaks forever…!
So the only thing to do, is try to kill it now. Kill it fast and kill it deader than dead, do it in a hurry and don’t bother about being clever, don’t worry about code-names or plausible deniability, just get rid of it now, and then later we can make up some story, it won’t matter so long as the infodumps stop coming.
Like I said, you’d have to be blind not to see it. And I think we do see it, don’t you?
I mean, me personally…what I see…
…Is that it isn’t going to work.
But it is going to be interesting, it is going to be very interesting indeed, to see these governments bet their right to lie and then lose it. You know, I use Wikipedia every day, and I definitely find it a benefit…but I’m very happy to tell you that I will never be giving poor sad-faced Jimmy a single red cent to support it. Never. Just not going to happen. Basically, my position on that is: if it goes, it goes.
And this general principle of mine might be extended some fair little way beyond Jimmy, too. If you know what I’m saying.
So: good afternoon to you, Internet! How fresh and clean the world looks out there; I have no idea why I’m sitting in here, when I could be out and about in it.