Sunday, November 22, 2015

In the Land of the Four Eyed Kings

Since Eddie Snowden went and told everyone that the NSA was actually doing it’s job, encryption has been a big deal among people in the know. That is to say, it has been made a big deal by people who like to think they’re in the know. Chief among these is the DOD-funded Tor Project and its many Twitter evangelists who embarrass themselves in 140 characters or less.

But one niggling little fact never seems to pop up in all the cypherpunk nattering on social media. One of those inconvenient and very uncomfortable facts, namely that no one in the current privacy movement is threatening to those in power.

Really. Take a look at the who’s who in crypto or whatever the people trading kiddie porn through Tor call themselves. Filter out all the natsec contractors and you’re left with maybe a few randos who escaped from Reddit. A government with a billion dollar military isn’t scared of such a crowd. Even a government without an air force wouldn’t be scared of such a crowd.

Still, you’ve got encryption and privacy getting headlines because unobserved porn browsing is very important to people with money. And not just money, but a stake in the game we call capitalist society. Cypherpunks, for all their posturing, are as wedded to this nation and its bloated security services as any oil exec or arms contractor. Possibly moreso since the absolutist freedom they espouse is only possible when other pressing needs - like food and shelter - are so ubiquitous as to be wholly taken for granted. The closest to homeless anyone in this movement has ever gotten is Julian Assange’s coach surfing in Europe, which is a hardship shared by every half-bright grad student on the East Coast.

And while I’ve said it before, it bears repeating that hiding your “revolutionary” rhetoric in the latest crypto-tool is worse than useless. Real opposition to tyranny has been and always will be a very direct and confrontational act. And that means blood. Your blood, my blood, the police state’s blood - all of it getting spilled out there in the streets. Like in Ferguson. And Baltimore. And every other effective mass movement of the past century.

The crypto kiddies won’t ever do that. Their metric for success begins and ends with no bleary-eyed government functionary seeing what they’re grabbing with bittorrent. The ruling class just doesn’t care about that, despite the scare stories surrounding the RIAA. And since the encryption movement will never violently oppose said ruling class, they are simply of no concern.

They want to be a concern. That’s clear from all the tough talk twerps direct at Yasha Levine, who escaped real pogroms and oppression in Soviet Russia. American culture long ago decided suffering - that is the appearance of suffering - is a desirable thing. It makes you look cool and edgy to the other twenty-somethings living in basements. And there ain’t no suffering more sexy than being one of the Elect battling some dystopian superstate through computer wizardry. The tech culture brainwave that leads to a dozen versions of Python that still don’t work is also why these upper middle class milquetoasts are so insistent that they are fighting the good fight: "I just want to be special :("

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