The Null Device

The Blast Shack

Bruce Sterling (who, of course, wrote The Hacker Crackdown) places the WikiLeaks situation in context:
Part of this dull, icy feeling, I think, must be the agonizing slowness with which this has happened. At last — at long last — the homemade nitroglycerin in the old cypherpunks blast shack has gone off. Those “cypherpunks,” of all people.
Now, I wish I could say that I feel some human pity for Julian Assange, in the way I do for the hapless, one-shot Bradley Manning, but I can’t possibly say that. Pity is not the right response, because Assange has carefully built this role for himself. He did it with all the minute concentration of some geek assembling a Rubik’s Cube.
If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does.
Even though, as major political players go, Julian Assange seems remarkably deprived of sympathetic qualities. Most saintly leaders of the oppressed masses, most wannabe martyrs, are all keen to kiss-up to the public. But not our Julian; clearly, he doesn’t lack for lust and burning resentment, but that kind of gregarious, sweaty political tactility is beneath his dignity. He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid.

There are 2 comments on "The Blast Shack":

Posted by: unixdj Thu Dec 23 20:53:25 2010

This essay is beautifully written by a well-informed person, but I can't agree with all its premises. First, there's this quote: "Julian Assange's extremely weird version of dissident "living in truth" doesn't bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged." Of course. That's what being a dissident is. He wants to change the system, and to argue against this means to take the conservative position. Progress *is* change, by definition; the real issue here is whether the proposed change is for the better.

Bruce's argument for the need of discretion in diplomacy comes from the idea that diplomacy in its current form is needed or desirable, which is similarly conservative as it seems to be based on the fact that "it's been always done this way". While I don't want to reject this notion outright, I wouldn't take it for granted either. Nor do I think diplomacy will collapse - it's not the first time a system is forced into openness, and most adapt. [continued]

Posted by: unixdj Thu Dec 23 20:54:34 2010

[...] And if it's true that "When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results", maybe we should replace these diplomats with people who don't tend to hold opinions that would provoke wars when spoken out loud and who don't get provoked into wars that easily?

Furthermore, while I accept the need of limited secrecy in most systems, I think that many organizations have too much of it. In particular, I don't grant my government any right to do things behind my back with my sponsorship and *in my name*, dammit. And Bruce complains about loss of secrecy on behalf of the government who spies on its own citizens without a warrant. I just can't take it seriously. So, sorry, no sympathy.

It seems to me that the more open a government is, the better it is to be its citizen. If this is true, forcing governments into transparency looks like a good strategy if your aim is to improve people's lives on a massive scale.