January 24, 2011

In terms of power, influence, and ability to harm others, it’s a safe bet that Volksfront rates somewhere beneath, oh, the US government. To pretend that Aryan Nations has any sway over international, national, or even rural Idaho government is to…pretend. To think that publishing the home address of some potbellied blue-collar BNP yobbo from Manchester is somehow sticking it to “€œthe man”€ is to reveal your own head’s stuck so far up your own ass, you can”€™t see the forest for the plebes. And when careers are being terminated and threats are being made, it’s hard to argue that you aren”€™t ideologically blacklisting people and encouraging their social persecution. Hence, McCarthyism.

I”€™ve yet to see WikiLeaks publishing the home addresses of anyone belonging to black-power, gay-rights, radical-anarchist, or pro-jihadist groups. I can”€™t recall seeing a single self-proclaimed communist’s home phone number being listed on WikiLeaks. Maybe it’s only McCarthyism when you”€™re hunting for Marxists.

If they”€™d leaked everyone on Earth’s phone numbers, at least it wouldn”€™t have been hypocritical. If they”€™d kept everyone’s digits private, there would have been some journalistic consistency. But when Assange’s expressionless crash-test dummy face delivers homilies about how truth wants to be free, his definition of “€œtruth”€ appears to be confined to “€œany data that will make progressivism’s enemies look bad.”€ It’s a highly selective version of truth rather than the whole big unmanageable shebang.

And make no mistake”€”the whole big shebang is unmanageable. Many of these vaporous constructs known as “€œfreedoms”€ and “€œrights”€ are irreconcilable. Assange may feel he has the freedom and right to publish details from international high rollers”€™ bank accounts, but doesn”€™t that bump heads with their privacy and property rights? Why is the anarchist Assange suddenly concerned with forcing people to pay taxes to corrupt, warmongering statist entities, anyway? What about the ideological rights of some British factory worker concerned about his livelihood? Shouldn”€™t he have the freedom and right to associate, or not associate, with whomever he wants? Shouldn”€™t he have the right to live free from worrying that some skinny radical jackass with a black bandana covering his face is going to throw a petrol bomb through his window?

By publishing private membership lists, isn”€™t Assange imposing his own control-freak version of oppressive “€œsurveillance culture”€ on those whom he finds politically distasteful? Is it really that far removed from the Watergate burglary or China’s recent attempt to hack Google’s databases for lists of anti-Chinese activists?

In the end it’s meaningless to draw distinctions between whistleblowers and tattletales, truth-tellers and snitches, earnest investigators and sadistic voyeurs, reporters and stalkers. No matter what the leaker’s motivations, the day is nigh when everyone will know everything about everyone else and we”€™ll need to stay awake watching the watchers who watch those who are watching over us.

In the eternal clash between the right to information and the right to privacy, privacy is doomed. At Assange’s recent bail hearing, he requested that the address where he”€™d be staying under house arrest be kept private. His request was denied.

Governmental transparency will come marching hand-in-hand with private transparency. Assange seems to believe that technology will ultimately free us. I tend to side with Ted Kaczynski’s dystopian prognosis”€”technology will leave us with nowhere to hide. Assange likely views himself as a freedom fighter, but he may be an unwitting facilitator of our inevitable technological enslavement. I fear we”€™re all being systematically fed into the “€œcloud”€ as if it were a giant holographic wood chipper, and there’s no turning back. In a hundred years, what we commonly think of as “€œthe self”€ may no longer exist. Biometric technology may have advanced to the point where our DNA sequences and even our thoughts are all an indelible matter of public record. We may reach a point where everything in existence has already been leaked and will always remain leaked.

It sounds like a bad science-fiction novel. So did this back in 1975.



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