Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I am not Anonymous - but they have a point.

Our message is simple: Do not lie to the people and you won't have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won't have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won't have to worry about getting in trouble for it."
It goes on to warn, "do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent."
This is the response of Anonomous to NATO's public musing of how to respond to this widespread network of electronic civil disobedience, which they are trying to represent as "cyber warfare."

The fact that their first response is to publicly muse (quoted below) as to who to shoot does not inspire me with confidence for the future of civilization; at least, not within the framework of the current order of things.

We are dealing with the consequences of a collision between the presumption of an entrenched and increasingly paranoid world leadership and the increasing ability for people worldwide to compare notes and perspectives, share data and network around them. Moreover, the same technology makes large concentrations of power less and less valuable, while being revealed as being less and less effective.

Consider the brutal lesson of Iraq; the great logistical, financial and military concentration of  power against a people who's conventional military was destroyed in days. Turned out that relying on a conventional military as a deterrence against US might was a waste of time. The humble roadside bomb has achieved more against the US than all of the Republican Guards.

This illustrates the problem we all face - the problems we face are ones that cannot be addressed by the institutions we have, and the institutions we have see any attempt to come up with better solutions as direct threats to their power. Now, history has shown what happens time and time again. The status quo, entrenched against an inarguable shift in the circumstances it was founded upon can never win. But it can play for a disasterous outcome, in which everyone loses.

The world is littered with the enigmatic ruins of civilizations in which what little we know is exactly that; faced with change enforced by inarguable circumstances, they chose to argue instead of doing anything useful.

Please consider that Anon has really done nothing more than embarrass governments with their own secrets and rather ineptly concealed crimes of commission and indifference. They have produced documentaries of the sausage-making that is realpolitic and what passes for rational allocation of increasingly scarce world resources. 

Now, I would bet money that many within the various hactivist collectives thought that a few little examples would in fact nudge the world's leadership onto a more rational path. But instead, we get this from NATO (same source)

NATO's report, issued last month, warned about the rising tide of politically-motivated cyberattacks, singling out Anonymous as the most sophisticated and high-profile of the known hacktivist groups:

"Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted," the report read, also asking, "Can one invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty after a cyber attack? And what response mechanisms should the Alliance employ against the attacker? Should the retaliation be limited to cyber means only, or should conventional military strikes also be considered?"
Boy, talk about bringing a gun to a knife fight. And if you think that's a silly reversal, that the gun will always win... you don't know enough about fighting with knives in the dark.
The only truly deadly ammunition Anon has is the truth, and their weapons upgrades come from Authoritarian responses to the truth, which is starting to convince the thoughtful, intelligent and wired people in the world that the people they work for in the trade of routing, storing and securing data really cannot handle the truth. 
They are in the position of not merely suspecting, but knowing for a fact that the people they report to are less qualified to make important decisions about the future of the world than they are themselves.

Now, all of this is as predictable as the night following the day and rocks rolling downhill. But NATO's reaction is stunningly out of touch. Oh, I'm not at all surprised that someone came up with a military response as an option - obviously, it's a military alliance. It should have been considered in order to be dismissed as a completely nonviable option.  But saying that out loud in public? It shows a complete failure to grasp what military force can possibly achieve.

Suggesting a co-ordinated world war against the ULTIMATE in diffuse targets, a transnational movement of largely independent activists armed with a technology they understand better than our "decision makers" demonstrates catastrophic cognitive failure. Or at least, it demonstrates the totally wishful hope that you, the reader, will remain wishfully complacent long enough for the decision-makers themselves to cash out.

The (rather short) article concludes:
Quite when Anonymous started modeling itself after fictional terrorist organizations is unclear, but the message is just the opposite: NATO is on warning. How they'll respond to this—if they'll respond—remains to be seen, but I doubt that I'm the only person hoping that any response will be far more measured than bringing up conventional military strikes again.
Measured? How about "rational" and "relevant?"

Ok, please folks, don't presume that this is written from any particular political viewpoint or bias. I'm going to leave that to you. Politics and ideology must work from a grounding in reality. You have to deal with "how things are" in order to get to where you can usefully dispute how you wish things to proceed.

Now, I cannot possibly overstate this. Anon is right. The fact that Anon, Wikileaks and LulzSec exist at all, much less scored as many obviously easy "victories" is an illustration of a new reality; the flipside to the erosion of individual rights and the spread of the national-security survaillance state.

Who shall guard the guardians?

Let me point out the painfully obvious.  Where, folks, do you think these leaks come from? Where, people, do you think the expertise was developed? How, dear people, do you think they knew your security was woefully inadequate? Perhaps, most importantly, why do you think they take such serious risks? Just for "Lulz?"

Anonomous hides - obviously - within it's targets. In all probablity, it knows how to evade security because it helped develop the protocols.

But worse, dear people, you have a lot of very, very intelligent people who are annoyed that they are forced to labor in the buggy-whip factories when it's time to make automobiles. 

Yes, this is about DRM, and Intellectual Property, and trans-nationalism. It's about the recognition that while there will be a New World Order, it will actually be entirely new, not all that orderly, and will not be a planetary nation-state, much less the theocratic feudalism that the Bachmans and Bin-Ladins of the world fantasize about. I can't even truly imagine what it will be, much less expect that it will suit my own fancies of how things ought to be - but I do know something must change.
Most people would probably put up with a religious theocracy if it were an otherwise fair, rational, sane and stable place, where people were mostly left alone if they didn't' rock the boat. But in return they would expect a degree of personal security for themselves and their children that people like Michelle Bachmann dismiss as outright parasitism, a communistic expectation of "entitlements" on the order of, you know, not starving alone in the dark.

You can't really dismiss the majority of the population as being "disposable assets" and "useless mouths" without some significant number of them deciding that that rationale may as well apply to you - and thinking that exiting this mortal coil with a loud bang as close to you as possible is as painless a death as they can ever hope to expect, should they loyally depend on you for continued leadership.

You see, this is not really about politics. It's about reality. It's about the fact that the people in charge of the world seem to be unable to grasp it, or are politically unable to come to grips with it.

ALL governments and societies exist because we consent to be governed, to participate and contribute. If we are forbidden our part, if our rights are denied for arbitrary reasons, if our security and dignity as persons are dismissed as unimportant, that consent will be increasingly conditional, even as the respect for the forces of law and order are eroded by the increasingly violent and intrusive flailings of our leaders.
There are a number of very real threats facing us; Climate Change, peak oil, a looming global shortage of water are three, just off the top of my head. Anyone who cares to know about these issues can study them and they can further compare what is known with the policies put in place to deal with these issues by those who are entrusted with the duty to plan ahead and prepare for matters of common concern. To say the match between data and policy created in reaction to data is "a loose fit" would be something of an understatement.
We really do not have the luxury of time - for that time has been squandered by those loudly shouting that reality is all some conspiracy intended to make them change their way of life.

Well, the change is necessary. And it is inevitable. Those who do change have a future, those who don't will join the Anasazi and the Aztecs and their works will one day be mentioned in the same breath with the fabled gardens of Babylon. Why?
Because "reality is what happens whether you believe in it or not." That phrase, coming P.K. Dick - someone known for dabbling in altered perceptions and belief structures - bears a good deal of freight. Standing in the way of that train of thought leads to pretty much the same thing as standing in the way of an actual train.
If you call a general agreement among people qualified to have an opinion that climate change a conspiracy, you are dangerously stupid, on the order of  "stupid enough to play Russian roulette with a semiautomatic pistol."   If you are out there calling on people to pray for rain - as the Governor of Texas did recently - rather than doing anything at all useful in terms of leadership, legislation or allocation of disaster relief funds - you deserve to be on the short list for inclusion in that great volume,  "Footnotes in History."

If you think the answer to peak oil is to drill for more oil - you really don't grasp the concept. And you can't be permitted to fuck up things you don't understand. Because we are all on this one planet. There is no escape for most of us. So those of us in a position to see the inevitable really have little choice in the matter.

Let me underline this, folks. The leaks come from within. They come from people who have access to the data, understand the data, tried to communicate the importance of the data to the organizations they were loyal to - only to be shushed or crushed.

That has been happening, not just for a few weeks or a few years, but for literally decades. 

But you see, it used to be possible to actually shut people up. It used to be possible to contain and manage the rate of leakage. It used to be possible to control communications.

But do you really think that the emergent powers are all that interested in supporting an obviously dysfunctional social order? The people you absolutely must trust to empower and enforce your vision of how you would wish the future to unfold are professionally and personally incapable of believing the bullshit.

They work at DARPA, and CERN; they are data analysts for the RCMP. They are the cryptographers at NSA, they are the hackers the Chinese and Indian governments are sure they have subverted, and they are the media figures the CIA thinks fondly are under their control. And they all talk to each other.
It used to be "we know where you live" was enough. But no longer - for the risk of actual detection is lower than it ever was, while the sheer volume of data that can be trafficked makes it worth the risk. Bradly Manning was ...um... not exactly a sterling example of competent trade-craft. And yet, even he managed to get the data out. Keeping him in a supermax isn't going to shut that barn door.
The IT managers you need to keep your websites up, the  social media consultants you rely on for your image management, the data security specialists and the political advisers, The ones who have to know your agendas and secrets so they can keep them hidden - They have to want to do that.  
It's hard to want to do that when you say things in public that show that you are either crazy, or pretending to be in order to be elected. 
They are the ones who deal with the numbers you need to make your decisions, and they know what the spreadsheets say, what the raw data means and they are increasingly able to speak to one another and make sure that proprietary, secure data that proves that you are full of shit gets into the right hands, without them losing their ability to continue leaking crucial data.

I fully expect the response to Anonymous to be something utterly idiotic, along the lines of Stalin shooting any general competant enough to lead a successful coup against him, while Hitler was on his doorstep.

We have already seen signs of this sort of nonsense in France, (the "civil internet" idea, where nobody is permitted to speak the obvious about the offensive idiocy of their leaders.) We've seen how utterly ineffective attempts to restrict the flow of information are, even in totally authoritarian regimes.

Consider just how much data can be compressed onto ONE tiny SD card. Consider the fact that truly robust encryption techniques are widely available. Consider that the people you most worry about know these things by heart. 

Again, I am not speaking politics here. I'm not speaking to the moraltity or ethics of Anon. I'm sure the membership has as many opportunists and idiots as any other group. But this is one of those points in history when you either get it or you don't. There came a time when it became obvious that Constantinople would fall - and that was clear long before it actually did. The smart people left. And they started leaving a generation before the fall.

There will be no NeoConservative New World Order, because it's got as much relevance to the future of humanity as Hadrian's Wall.  The current way of doing things doesn't work; it merely gets in the way of those able and willing to do something that's useful. Increasingly, manipulation and subversion are needful tactics for individuals to master worldwide, so why on earth should they respect any government or transnational interest group that must be bribed or simply avoided?

The real problem with NATO's response is the failure to understand the great truth of humanity. As a species, interested on a very visceral level in our personal and species survival, we demand of our "top ten percent" just one simple, basic decision:

"Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way."

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