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Assange, WikiLeaks, Cloud, and Fascism Renewed

The WikiLeaks Acolytes Are Catalysts for the Opposite of What They Want

Cloud Computing has been flexing its muscles over the past week, much to the discomfiture of the American government and numerous other diplomats worldwide.

The ability for Julian Assange and his acolytes to keep the information flowing on the one hand, and to paralyze websites of those that they oppose on the other, demonstrates the original brilliance of the Internet's decentralized structure and protocol.

These cyber-gymnastics will, unfortunately, most likely provoke a reaction opposite of that intended by WikiLeaks and its supporters. 

Rather than bullying governments into a new era of transparency and disclosure, it is likely to unleash an underlying fascism that will manifest itself in increased calls for insane ideas like Internet kill switches, international prior restraint treaties, and strengthened Patriot Act-type nonsense under the guise of anti-terror laws.

If you think the American government has acted fascistically in the past, well just wait, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Just as it is now clear that the so-called War on Terror transcends political parties, it will become equally clear that a riled-up donkey is at least as dangerous as an angry elephant.

Who Is On Your Side?
Well played, laddies! You now have noted democracy icon Vladimir Putin on your side, and somewhere, China's leaders are smiling.

It struck me as ironic that many of the world's most technically adept people--ie, geeks--are now telling diplomats how to do their jobs. I can't think of a less diplomatic gathering than a roomful (real or virtual) of geeks; perhaps a room full of umpires or DMV employees.

Opaque, misleading, treacherous diplomacy has been a fixture of all civilizations for thousands of years. The revelations coming out of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable fiasco hardly seem to qualify as anything of a major major nature.

As one German diplomat has commented, "you should hear what we say about you (Americans.)" And anyone who's ever worked in an organization of any size can no doubt recount politics and business moves of a far dirtier nature than anything that's come of light from the WikiLeaks leaks.

Diplomatic Code
But the episode does make me wonder what would happen if geeks ran the diplomatic corps. I guess we'd have reports of "a frank exchange of flame," "agree to mutually trash one another," and "my esteemed hopeless idiot colleague."

The flip side of this is the question of what would happen if diplomats wrote software?

If diplomats had created MS-DOS and Windows, for example, we'd have had the Blue Screen of Denial all these years. The Mac OS would throw a smiley face your way rather than a bomb when it crashes.

There would be no "404 error - page not found" but instead a "404 episode - page accord expected." You would never have a "registry error," but instead a "senior-level communique."

In a world of software created by diplomats, we'd no doubt be faced with inscrutable error messages, a confusing welter of non-standard standards, defiant stonewalling from companies whenever anything went wrong, and an inability to find out for sure what is really going on inside our systems.

Oh wait, maybe diplomats did write all this software after all! Maybe geeks are the same people, playing some sort of double-role spy game on the rest of us.

What is True?
Or maybe geeks are simply the yang to diplomats' yin--whereas diplomats are liars who speak facts as if they are opinions, geeks are truth-tellers who speak opinions as if they are facts.

The DDOS attacks on Visa, Mastercard, et al perfectly demonstrate the concept of the anti-corporate tripwire that exists in the minds of so many of Assange's supporters. These folks are just waiting for an excuse to launch against one of the evil corporate masters who control the world today. 

Their mission is a political mission, one that should be viewed as an outlier position within the political spectrum.

To my mind, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Accepted political debate in the US these days, for example, maddeningly runs the gamut from slightly center-left to slightly center-right.

But the idea that a "war" has been declared is the sort of dangerous talk that gets people killed. The famous Churchillian dictum that "jaw jaw" is preferable to "war war" is an evergreen.

One of Mr. Assange's stated goals is to end the war in Afghanistan. Well, who's against that except for all of the powebrokers in Afghanistan who benefit from the continued largesse of the US and its increasingly slim roster of allies?

Setting aside for a moment whether he's chosen a wise way to pursue his goal, one has to ask how declarations of a new war from some of his backers will end the old one.

War talk is cheap to create, but becomes dreadfully expensive when taken seriously. And you can believe with all of your heart and soul that the US government is taking it seriously, and actively (joined by the tacit approval of the usual suspects who enjoy letting the US be the bad guy in geopolitical affairs).

It's time for the geeks to tone down the rhetoric a bit, to stop promulgating the "fact" that Mr. Assange is some sort of political prisoner, and to stop using WikiLeaks activity as a pretext to act on pre-conceived conspiracy theories about American arrogance and corporate malfeasance. 

Keep it technical, laddies.

Go ahead and mirror WikiLeaks utnil you've run out of IP addresses; but keep the war talk and actual cyberattacks to a minimum, please. It's not helpful, and is likely to provoke the opposite reaction from what you intend. Read this scolding from Reporters Without Borders to get the big picture: http://bit.ly/9lgLGE

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.