Secrecy terrorism challenges our sanity
G. S. 
<georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>
initial posting 8 April 2011- last update 25 April 2011

URL: http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2011-04-08.htm

      EITHER I am insane (i.e. going “crazy”) OR a wave of insanity is sweeping much of the world. These are not mutually exclusive possibilities. They could both be true without the rules of logic being violated. Nevertheless, I maintain that I am utterly sane. And therefore, that it is much of the world that is being “swept by a wave of insanity”. How can I be so sure that I am correct? OK, the story goes as follows:

      On 4 April a trusted friend wrote me saying that my Yahoo e-mail account must have been hacked. Soon thereafter messages from other friends confirmed an effort to steal money from them, under the guise of helping me meet an emergency. I assumed the attempted scam was just for theft. If so, the would-be thief failed -- none of my friends sent any money. It is conceivable, though very improbable, that a secondary goal of the would-be thief was to make trouble for me. If that was a goal the scam was partially successful in that
   1. It made two friends fear a “security breach” which they tried to counter.
   2. They acted in ways that caused problems for me with my account.

The need to destroy secrecy
      My two friends were of course trying both to protect me from the hacker, and my other friends from being robbed. They behaved rationally within the prevailing global climate of dishonesty for which secrecy is the supposed remedy. As we all know very well, the addiction to secrecy has become a mania. Governments are frantic to “guard their secrets”, as though it is legitimate for them to hide their terrible actions from public scrutiny and criticism. Until it is common knowledge that all governments, all concentrated powers of coercion, must be abolished, we will continue to see the torture of perfectly decent people of conscience like Bradley Manning and the attempted silencing of Julian Assange “by whatever means necessary” by the world’s nation-states. It’s not that the United States (Bradley Manning’s torturer) and Sweden (Julian Assange’s would-be hunter) are particularly evil and corrupted to the core — all nation-states are evil and corrupt. They have to be to “do their job”, to keep the majority of people repressed, unable to challenge the gulf between themselves and the privileged minority. Failure to comprehend this fundamental fact marks a separation between liberals and true anarchists. Liberals continue to hope that by means of the law, with honest political campaigning, decent, progressive elected officials, and so on, society can be gradually improved. Anarchists don’t share such naïve hopes.

Breaking the secrecy chains
      “The good news”, as they say, is that the vast majority of human beings are perfectly decent, not wishing to do harm to anyone who is not hurting them. The caveat, who is not hurting them acknowledges that each of us is human, and thus has a natural impulse, if someone is hurting us, to want revenge. That’s a tough challenge to us, because if we want to build a world of mutual trust, then we must aim to be friends with everyone. That means we have to try to understand that people who hurt us are acting without realizing the harm they are causing. The solution to that situation is education, not punishment. We can’t punish them into changing their behavior towards us. If we try to coerce them to act contrary to their feelings towards us, that will result in building up their resentment. [1]

      Trite observations about how to influence so-called “public perceptions” of reality must be as ancient as efforts to coerce people. It’s notorious, or should be, that Machiavelli’s The Prince is not infrequently cited as a source of guidance for political actions. When quoted in order to supposedly lend weight to the author’s political analysis, the obvious conclusion we should draw is that the author believes Machiavelli’s overall outlook is correct. Regardless of whether or not the author is a compassionate person, as for example I tend to believe Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher was, acceptance of Machiavelli’s perspective leads to the most brutal social actions. It is the basic conviction that people, no matter how well intentioned, are fundamentally horribly destructive, that is the root cause of the almost universal damage done by humans. It’s a truism that “people are no damned good. Humans are a damaged species.” With that belief nothing but endless suffering can result. [2]

      Our most urgent task, for all of us who want our children and grandchildren to have a chance for decent lives, is to abolish the chains of secrecy. If we are, as I believe, capable of influencing one another’s perceptions, then we ought to strive to make secrecy an arcane affliction of the past. The idea that we need to be secretive — that we have anything we should be ashamed of or fearful of revealing is — for the overwhelming majority of humans — not only unjustified but ridiculous. We are all so similar in everything that makes us human, our drives for nourishment, for adequate shelter, for love - for sex, for self-respect and acknowledgement by other people of our contributions to their well-being, of our value as members of the commuity, of our deserved place in the local social structure, and so on. We all have some infirmities. They don’t dehumanize us, but simply affirm our humanity and help us accept with grace the infirmities of others, who we ought to value as co-travelers along the path of life.

The professionalized opposition
      Everyone who devotes substantial effort to becoming expert in some group of skills naturally values that accomplishment. With the technology for instantaneous global communication becoming a reality, the so-called information revolution was born. This opened, as never before, the possibility for many people to learn how to become skilled at rapidly dispersing information to large numbers of people. Because the dominant global social structure is that of essentially unbridled capitalism, the majority by far of new employment opportunities in information manipulation is for work that promotes, either directly or indirectly, the exploitation of the world’s poor people. By far most of this new employment is for direct exploitation, in advertising and allied activities aimed at convincing people to strive to increase their consumption. Buy, borrow and buy for greater satisfaction is the mantra. The popular consciousness is drowned with visions of souped-up sports cars, flights to remote vacation resorts, sex escapades, and for those to whom these are unimaginable pleasures, they are assured that “life goes better with Coke” (Coca-Cola).

      Marketing is “the name of the game”. There is nothing benign in the pursuit of marketing. The single goal is to increase buying to maximize the profits of commercial enterprises. Useless gadgets such as electric pencil sharpeners are promoted as “modern conveniences”, electric motor-driven compactors for kitchen trash, and so on. All the useless and non-essential gadgetry is packaged for display in flashy containers with no function but to attract the attention of the potential consumer seeking to escape boredom in a mega-shopping mall, the packaging itself an endless stream of trash that must then be disposed of. Not civilization but the idiocy of commercialization a la mode.

      In the globalized pursuit of material wealth and the natural resources that such wealth depends on, the scale is now so huge that many people are becoming aware of the dangers inherent in continuing on this path. But the gradually growing fear is impeded by propaganda from the commercial sector, and since people prefer not to think about terrifying prospects, the developing consciousness of the real emergency humanity is faced with is not sufficient to move people to actions with real significance. Talk of so-called “carbon trading” proliferates. Part of the deadly scam promoted and controlled by the interests of the hyper-rich.

Harvard’s ambiguous role
      Jillian C. York is one of the most straightforward people I have encountered in expressing her views on matters that involve her relationship with an institution that provides some of her financial support. She co-authored a paper of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, a part of the Harvard Law School, December 2010. [3] This paper, titled “Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Against Independent Media and Human Rights Sites” indicates the emergence of a massive constellation of efforts aimed at preventing open informed discussion of socially vital issues. The article concludes on pp. 56-57, with

      Closing Note DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] is inextricable from other internet security challenges that independent media and human rights sites face. Despite the high-profile nature and seriousness of DDoS attacks, it may not be the most serious challenge these organizations face. Our survey results indicate that a large majority of independent media sites subject to DDoS attacks were also subject to filtering, intrusions, or defacements and that, even though DDoS attacks are a significant concern for independent media, filtering of sites and off-line perseution of authors and sources (sometimes resulting from online intrusions) are a higher priority. And we found in our media research, interviews, and working meeting many stories of complex interactions between different vectors of attack against independent media and human sites, including filtering, off-line persecution, intrusions, defacements, malware, and DDoS attacks. These results suggest that DDoS needs to be considered in conjunction with other vectors of attack, and that these attacks can have synergistic effects that can be difficult to mitigate individually. The rise of DDoS as a technique for silencing human rights and independent media sites is the symptom of a larger problem: the shortage of technical talent in administering these websites and the increasing isolation of the websites from the core of the network. There is no simple technical solution to this problem. Moving to dedicated DDoS-resistant hosting leaves serious vulnerabilities open, like keylogging software targeted specifically to site administrators. We cannot consider DDoS alone, rather, we need to approach IT security for human rights and independent media sites as a whole.

      Then on pp. 58-66 is a glossary of 31 terms, many previously unknown to me.

      A brief introduction to the subject of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), by Jillian York is on the website Media With Conscience (MWC) News [4], a site with 41 columnists, though she is not listed among them. Also reflecting her intense interest in the world of disinformation theory is her article on the website of the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs. [5]
 

[8 April 2011. This open letter, still to be completed, will
in all likelihood continue as long as I live.]

NOTES
[1] Resentment of coercion. A textbook example of how coercion builds resentment is the development among Palestinians of a deep and abiding hatred of the Zionist project of conquest.

[2] Machiavelli’s The Prince. In his scholarly three-volume study of Leon Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher prefaces the first volume with the revealing quote, “. . . there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. . . .”

[3] Berkman Center paper of December 2010 titled “Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Against Independent Media and Human Rights Sites”. Authors: Ethan Zuckerman, Hal Roberts, Ryan McGrady, Jillian York, John Palfrey.
    “Ethan Zuckerman is a senior researcher at the Berkeman Center for Internet and Society. Hal Roberts is a fellow at the Berkeman Center. Ryan McGrady is a PhD student at North Carolina State University. Jillian York is a staff member at the Berkeman Center. John Palfrey is a faculty co-director of the Berkeman Center.”
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/2010_DDoS_
Attacks_Human_Rights_and_Media.pdf

[4] Media With Conscience (MWC) News has Jillian’s brief introduction to DoDS in an article titled “Harvard Study Reveals Hacker Power” at http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/7458-hacker-power.html .

[5] University of Toronto School of Global Affairs article, “US Centcom targets online violent propaganda”, posted at http://citizenlab.org/2011/04/us-centcom-targets-online-violent-propaganda/


George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>

      If you know folks who want to ‘save the world’, starting with global open communication — no censorship, I’ll be glad to add them to my Notes of an anarchist physicist listserv [noaap]. To subscribe write me, including your first and last names, please, or send a blank e-mail to noaap-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

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Initial posting of this page: 4 April 2011.
Last update: 25 April 2011