'One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star'- Nietzsche
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Wikileaks

Book Review: In Defense of Julian Assange eds. Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler

By John Kendall Hawkins

 

Crikey, he gives them the shits.

Hillary once said — even before the 2016 election — “Can’t we just drone him?” 

Maybe you’re thinking she was just joking, like Obama that time at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2010, when he cracked that he’d take out the Jonas Brothers with a Predator drone strike, if they got grabby with his daughters.  Laughter all around. Of course, the joke was on them, because there was no drone warfare program at the time, WINK. Obama wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of such drone usage until he zapped out Anwar al-Awlaki a year later, and his 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman, shortly thereafter, both Americans. 

The MSM darn near bust a gut.  (The joke’s been told over and over since. Punch line here.)

Julian Assange had warmed the Press up nearly a month earlier when he released the top secret “Collateral Murder” video into the wilds of the public imagination.  You could hear all kinds of laughter from the gunship soldiers machine-gunning away at civilians, like Chuck Connors, Russian mole, in the film Embassy.  Rat-a-tat-tat! Who knew the War on Terror could be so funny? You don’t even want to call The Hague and file a report, you’re laughing so hard.

And Assange followed up that gag with a bing-bang-boom fusillade:  the Afghan War Logs (all those unreported haw-haw casualties);  the Iraq War Logs had Abu rolling over in his graib, with laughter; Cablegate released all that global goss and started the Arab Spring (Tunisia 2011); the Guantánamo Files — so many Code Reds the bulls went insane; the Spy Files demonstrated “the industrialization of global mass surveillance” — what an effing hoot; the Syria Files made Assad shoot off laughing gas at the rebels; elites fell over themselves, like drunken clowns, when Assange published “the secret draft of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP)”;  the Saudi Cables brought on the Curly Shuffle in Riyadh.  

You almost couldn’t believe that a guy who one wag described as having had a “wild…Tom Sawyer-like” childhood could cause so much angst. Why, he even spent his early years in an honest-to-goodness Jumping Frog of Calaveras County atmosphere on a small island, called Magnetic.  How could he be found so unattractive by so many? When he moved to mainland Oz for his teen years he became John Connor, where he had his whole future in the rearview mirror, and spent his time in MILNET “hacking Pentagon generals’ emails,” he tells Ai WeiWei in the new collection of testimonials and supportive documents that make up In Defense of Julian Assange edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler. 

Assange was determined to rip off the veil of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) from an early age.  And it’s another peculiarity that he, along with fellow Aussie John Pilger, have been so successful in penetrating to the core of the fascist heart that drives American foreign policy.  Peculiar, because Australia, unlike America, has no Bill of Rights, so no fire in the belly for constitutional protections, and the press here is weak and getting weaker — thanks to the recent passage of “retention” laws that seem very much like the US Espionage Act that Assange will face in America.  Yet, Pilger, in an interview with ex-CIA operative, Duane Clarridge, has totally exposed the ugly, roaring heart of Empire. Assange has laid out its blueprints.

So much has been written, movies have been made, you could make the case that Assange’s life is over-exposed, and that, ironically, this champion of personal privacy and governmental transparency, hasn’t had any real alone-time for quite awhile and has been swarmed with layers of surveillance designed to break his spirit.  Outside the Ecuadorian embassy police spent years poised to pounce. Inside, there were microphones and cameras everywhere. “It was the Truman Show,” Assange is quoted in the book.

In the introduction to In Defense, Nils Melzer, a special UN rapporteur on torture, declared after visiting Assange in May at Belmarsh that:

In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.

Clearly, the State intends on having the last laugh. Sadists like their punch lines.

The great virtue of In Defense is that it collects all the controversial bits and pieces of Assange’s situation into one volume and mounts a fierce support for his personal and professional crises.  A cogent introduction summarizes key segments of his current entrapment in a web of intrigue. There’s an impressive chronology of Wikileaks’ publications, from “Collateral Murder” to the Vault 7 CIA hacking tools. You wonder aloud if he’s more courageous than nuts, given the likely repercussions.  The book is broken up into four parts: Expulsion; Confinement; the Internet, Censorship, and Scientific Journalism; and the Legacy of Wikileaks and Assange. A helpful point-by-point defense to Assange’s critics by Caitlin Johnstone lends focus. An appendix contains the superseding indictment for which he faces extradition to America.

Out of all that, In Defense attempts to answer three main questions: One, is Assange a terrorist or a journalist? Two, Is he a rapist?  Three, What happens next? In Defense is unusual in that it transparently addresses all the questions Assange is likely to face in a courtroom, and summons forth the kinds of witnesses and evidence that will manifest in the proceedings.  We hear from lawyers, technologists, whistleblowers, ex-spooks, radical feminists, government officials, and Assange himself — in a kind Open Source trialing of ‘discovery’ materials. The gambit in play appears to be that Assange is hoping to win people over to create a swelling base of support/protest once the secretive political trial begins. 

Is Assange a terrorist or a journalist?  As Tariq Ali notes in the introduction, “Assange and his colleagues made no secret of the fact that their principal subject of publication was the American Empire and its global operations.”  Through his Wikileaks publishings, Assange has demonstrably established his intention to ‘document’ the dark agenda of Empire — and to oppose it.  In this sense, he is an activist publisher, no different than, say, Ramparts, Counterpunch or Harper’s.  But the material to support his opposition is primary documentation, procured through hacks and leaks. Like Socrates the “gadfly,” he wants people to make up their own minds.  He sees himself as an Ethical Hacker, and an ethical leaker. 

While he may not be able to use it as a defense tactic, WikiLeaks reminds me of the “necessity defense” that Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter successfully argued in 1987 at their trial for criminal trespassing that followed their disruption of CIA recruiting efforts on the campus of the UMass-Amherst.  They were able to convince the court that their ostensibly ‘illegal’ actions were to stop bigger crimes from happening on foreign soil, in the name of Americans, who were never consulted. Thus, when a Kissinger can advise a Nixon that he doesn’t see why America should sit by while a Chile elects an Allende, when there’s a Duane Clarridge ready to fix the problem, people needn’t accept it as the American Way. Wikileaks is necessary.

Because they control the narrative arc of “The Global War on Terror,” the US government can characterize its antagonists any way it pleases.  The Americans, deeply learning from the tactics of the Viet Cong who gave them the shits in ‘Nam, labelled al Qaeda (who they’d helped set up to give the Russians a taste of their own ‘Nam quagmire in Afghanistan), after 9/11, “unlawful non-state enemy combatants.”  They didn’t wear pajamas, had no central command, and, thank Christ, were a wonderful reason to slap boots down in multiple countries in search of naked sleeper cells who might wake from their dogmatic slumbers and hate on America for her Human Freedom Project™.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Julian Assange and Wikileaks, as “a hostile non-state intelligence service.” This clown’s description of Wikileaks could include almost any left wing publication.  Curiously, even the New York Times, a publication that has in the past spinached up its circulation by featuring stories based on Wikileaks documents, has turned on him. In April, the editorial board called him “a “foreign agent seeking to undermine the security of the United States through theft.” Pompeo would like to see Assange as akin to al Qaeda, then maybe honeypot him to some remote location, and, as Bobby Dylan would say, he could be caught without a ticket to the dance “and be discovered beneath a truck.”  What, you think Empire is joking?

In a column for the volume,  “The Naivete of Julian Assange,” Margaret Kimberly, a senior writer for Black Agenda Report, chides Assange for his ignorance of American domestic issues.  Australia, while still dealing with aboriginal issues, has no legacy of slavery, and no Bill of Rights, and these deficits mean Assange lacks depth when it comes to American domestic political passions.  She takes issue with a Tweet exchange he had during which “he questioned the need to fight the American Civil War” and seemed “unaware that the Confederacy started the war and steadfastly refused to end slavery.” 

Nevertheless, she conceded, “His willingness to show us what war looks like or how trade agreements deprive millions of people of their rights make him an ally not just as a person but an ally of the principles Americans claim to care about.”

Her observations are a reminder that a lot of what’s going on is a bunch of white people fighting over power, with no sign that minorities are included in the conversation or will benefit from the process. 

Is Assange a rapist?  In Defense recounts the investigatory details that keep Assange tied to the Swedish justice system.  The even reference a helpful YouTube animation that brings a viewer through the specious semi-allegations.  The fact is that Assange would not be regarded as a potential rapist for ‘what happened’ in any other part of the world but Sweden, as the sex was consensual. He was investigated because a woman he slept with feared an alleged faulty condom might have allowed the transmission of an STD. As Caitlin Johstone  writes in one of her mythbuster segments, “[One of the woman] admitted she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’” to pursue Assange. She reminds: He hasn’t actually been charged with anything in Sweden.

The US government doesn’t mind if Sweden takes its sweet ass time with its version of due process — the longer the better; they may even be behind the delays.  Assange’s instincts were right about seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to the US; the chances are they were right for the same reason had he returned to Sweden.  Meantime, as long as the ‘investigation’ goes incomplete, he gets to be painted by the MSM as a sexually aggressive hornball who intentionally ‘leaks’ without regard for his partner. As he’s been accused of by the CIA with his Wikileaks. This helps sell him as a predator. We got drones for that.

The breach of the servers at the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign changed everything about how Assange has been perceived in the US. 

The Obama intelligence community successfully sold Americans — through a compliant MSM — on the still unsubstantiated claim that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election, foisting Trump on us, effectively paying us back, clown for clown, for giving them Yeltsin in 1991. Obama then wanted to connect Assange to the Russian mischief by claiming he either worked directly with them to hack the DNC, or else worked indirectly by posting to Wikileaks emails received from Russians.

But understated is how irate Obama was in 2013 when Assange sent an emissary to Hong Kong to help Edward Snowden avoid being taken by the CIA, after he was outed by the mainstream media as the greatest top secrets leaker of all time. Recall that Obama’s unprecedented forcing of the plane of a head of state to land in Austria when he thought Snowden was aboard. Virtually an act of war, and something that should have been condemned by the paper tiger United Nations, who exist to keep nation-states from crossing the line with each other.. 

As Kevin Gosztola points out in the book, “[T]he Obama administration realized in 2013 that it … could not prosecute Assange without exposing journalists at the Times or Washington Post to potential prosecutions for publishing classified information.” But all of that changes if Assange can be re-classified as an agent of foreign powers, a kind of enemy combatant, rather than a journalist.  Thus, as Gosztola suggests, Democratic leaders started referring to him as an enemy. Joe Biden called him a “high-tech terrorist” and Diane Feinstein referred to him as “an agitator intent on damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt.” Oh, those condomnations.

The Russian-DNC-Guccifer thing has all the hallmarks of a set-up.  Tariq Ali points out in the intro, “The finding that the DNC documents were hacked from seven separate accounts by agents of the Russian state rests on the assertions of private cybersecurity companies, CrowdStrike, Fidelis, and Mandiant, rather than of the FBI, which was denied access to the DNC server.” And as Craig Murray adds, “[The Mueller Report’s] identification of ‘DC Leaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0’ as

Russian security services is something Mueller attempts to carry off by simple assertion.” You gudda pwobwem wid dat?

It is still an open question whether emails taken from the DNC servers were the result of a hack or an insider thumb drive.  Former NSA techie and whistleblower William Binney says it was a thumb.  Craig Murray reminds the reader of In Defense that he personally met the thumb.  Assange has named DNC insiders as sources for his cache.  None of them were sought out by Mueller.

The IC says the Russkies did it and that the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress site from which Assange got some emails was a Russian site.  But an email address can be acquired in seconds, a wordpress site set up in minutes, and the site populated with all kinds of blog posts — like the one that tells about how to spoof a foreign power during a hack. Even “Guccifer” has the smell of the kind of spook nomenclature that Edward Snowden describes in detail in his memoir Permanent Record — Gucci Lucifer = Guccifer.  Get it?

Who knows what kind of an environment Assange will be immersed in when he comes in chains to the Land of the Free.  The current business with Trump could make a conspiracy-fearist out of anyone. Yeltsin may not even be president by the time Assange is tried — what with whistleblowers climbing over each like a Ukrainian sitcom to put an end to corruption as we know it. You can almost see CIA analysts lounging in the coffee room, mooning over the days of yore, and wondering aloud,  “I don’t see why we have to sit around and watch this country go banana republic due to the irresponsibility of its people. Who wants to whistle dixie next?”

In a world that doesn’t seem capable of giving a shit any more (see climate change), we have been blessed with some people willing to do the dirty work of keeping the plumbing of the people running.  Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange, along with the many whistleblowers, VIPS, and voices of outrage and clarity that make up this volume, could be seen as a kind of superhero group in a future comedic movie: The Empire Turns Its Back.   Assange as a Tom Sawyer figure  — radicalized — the movie poster boasting: He didn’t just want a piece of the Empire, he wanted the whole Inshaallahllah.  

 Coming soon to a ‘reality-based’ cinema near you.

 

 

 

“But all the same,” insisted the Savage, “it is natural to believe in God when you’re alone—quite alone, in the night, thinking about death…”

“But people never are alone now,” said Mustapha Mond. “We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it’s almost impossible for them ever to have it.”  Brave New World (17.31-3)

There’ll come a time when you’ve gone too far with your thinking.  You’ve crossed the Imaginot line. Which is to say, à la Descartes, that you’ve gone too far with your being.  Cogito ergo sum.  A knock comes on your door.  You open to find an agent of information (AI) say, “We have so much information on you. Please, follow me.  We need to blow out your candles. Have your cake and eat it too. A long convalescence. Some adjustments and renewal.” They’re not asking and God help anyone who tries to stop them.

Amazon, Google, Facebook.  Recorded Future, predictions of what you’ll do. MyActvity, the copious details of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and implicitly what you’ve thought.. Algorithms up the yinyang. Fused databases, a life’s postings of “thoughts”.  Cogitos you cannot defend. Offenses “Made” on the run, arbitrary, charges bespoken, tailored to your presumed needs. You’ve always been a criminal — like, say, Trevor Noah — but never knew until the fascists came to collect you. To blow your mind to kingdom come. And reset to factory default.

As in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, it’ll be the Savages who want to be left alone, off the grid, who appreciate the value of privacy, who will be targeted, breaking as they do from the conditioning required by late metastatic Techno-Capitalism breaking real bad.  In an information age your cogito is the final frontier for economic growth, your thoughts mere commodities. Settled into Soma, you’ll soon be swimming with the endolphins and feeling new porpoise, but the reality is that the sharks are swimming all around you in algorithmic circles.  Only a savage would want to be free.

In a 1958 interview with Mike Wallace, Huxley discusses his new book Enemies of Freedom and the myriad ways growing technology can be used to influence mass thinking, and suggests ways that a candidate could be pushed by subliminal forces to elect a person that reasoned consideration would otherwise have rejected.  One thinks of Trump, the pushing of emotional buttons, the swarming action, the slogans, rallies, and Triumph of the Buffoon’s Will. 

One also thinks of the frenzied Joseph Kony campaign, the sudden swarming by millions of largely white, clueless suburban teenagers invited to join an intervention to capture an evil, but obscure African warlord in a staggering display of militarized political correctness. Lots of money raised. Congress, which can do nothing about gun control, immediately mobilized to pass a bill to allow American soldiers to foot-down in Uganda, where oil, by coincidence, is in great supply. Nobody’s looking for Kony today; nobody any longer cares. Kony is said to be alive and still kickin’ in Central Congo.

The Trump and Kony campaigns highlight how the Internet can be used and abused by nefarious forces to create flash floods of chaos online and in the ‘hood.  It’s exactly the kind of desecration and trashing that has put the father of the Web, Tim Berners Lee, into teary despair. It’ll get worse: we know now the US military regards the Internet as a battlefield, needing constant reconnaissance, and a look-out for spies.  We’ve come to see that ordinary citizens can be mobilized in an instant by government agents, some of whom may not have democracy’s best interest in mind.

We’ve gone way beyond just needing to Keep the Bastards Honest.  As we’ve been reminded often enough, ex-general Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his final presidential address, warned explicitly about the threat to democracy by the secretive powers and influences of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Only a well-informed democratic populace is capable of keeping the bastards honest. That’s the job of the Fourth Estate. Today, through mergers and shutdowns, there are fewer and fewer newspapers, and only three global mainstream newspapers of record:  The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian. But they aren’t trustworthy.  

The NYT once quashed a crucial story by its prize-winning staff journalist James Risen about the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying on American citizens — a story that might have derailed Bush’s re-election a couple of weeks later. The NYT claimed that they didn’t want to influence the election; but not running the story did just that.  The Washington Post has, primarily through owner Jeff Bezo’s work with the CIA, been undermined; and they have worked to defame legitimate alternative news sources, such as Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report. The Guardian, while famous for helping to report on Edward Snowden’s leaks and a one-time partner with Julian Assange, has curiously withdrawn a vigor of reportage on national security issues and seemingly gone to war with Assange.

It seems like Julian Assange has been at war with the MIC forever.  At least, that’s how he’s been depicted. He’s always known the Bastards couldn’t be kept honest by simple, ordinary mainstream means — not when they’ve turned into paper tigers and no longer practice adversarial journalism (their approach to Trump being the exception — and instructive).  He also seems to appreciate the Abbie Hoffman yippie credo: Revolution — for the Hell of It. And he understands that the Cogito is facing extinction, threatened like never before by the forces of conditioning that will only deepen as we approach the Singularity. He’s even written an extremely thoughtful book about cryptography, how it will be required to protect privacy in the future.

In his 2012 Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, which he calls a “warning” rather than a “manifesto, Assange writes, “The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen…within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.” Hacker, certified, ethical or otherwise, Assange has demonstrated he is a kind of hero for the new dark digital age.  And he’s provided tools to fight back to a new generation of ethicists.

Rewatching “Collateral Damage,” the  Wikileaks video from 2010 that shows an American Apache gunship firing on unsuspecting Iraqi civilians, one is awed not only by the brazen cold-blooded murder depicted but also what the incident encapsulated:  The war on journalism; the disgusting impunity the War on Terror has engendered; the secrecy and lack of accountabilty; and the sheer pleasure in the double-tap murder exhibited that goes against all the boastful bullshit of democratic America’s exceptionalist imperialism. 

Well, Assange may end up a martyr for the freedom we all threw away, cogs instead of cogitos, locked away in America after an Espionage Act conviction in a max security prison, in the hole, his privacy ‘privileges’ taken away, hosed down constantly by the surveillance camera hanging from the ceiling.  It’ll be interesting to see if the MSM comes to his emotional rescue when he goes on trial, criminally charged with the adversarial journalism they’ve so often neglected in the name of protecting what used to be called the bourgeoisie.

For now, they treat him like he’s all wrapped up like a douche in the night, comparing the wicked leaks of his condom one night to his wikileaks, the idea being in each case that he’s careless with the information he disseminates, and leaves behind questions as to whether his hacking was ethical or not.   While the ‘vast conspiracy’ of right wing sexual hypocrites continue to press for his annihilation, Assanges and his work endures.  Keeping these secrets, our thoughts — this is the last frontier.  “If we do not [redefine force relations], the universality of the internet will merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.” 

When Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen got together with Julian Assange on June 23, 2011, Assange was staying with a WikiLeaks sponsor in rural England and had just completed his sixth month under house arrest as he fought extradition to Sweden for questioning regarding sexual assault charges. He was also dealing with the aftermath of the funding freeze on WikiLeaks, arranged by the US State Department, in retaliation for his publication of embassy cables and war-related secrets leaked to him by Chelsea Manning, including the now-infamous Collateral Murder video. Though he was the recent recipient of prestigious journalism awards, including the Martha Gellhorn prize and Australia’s premiere journalism award, the Walkley Award, the re-established sexual assault charges (Swedish authorities had dropped them and allowed him to leave the country) cut deeply into his popular appeal and began the intense counter-assault on WikiLeaks and on Assange’s character that continues to this day.

Nevertheless, the meeting was ostensibly a dialogical summit of switched-on minds that would unravel many of the complexities of the new, rapidly unfolding digital age, discussing the impact of this new paradigm on the core values of democracy in a ‘globalized’ world. Assange was led to believe that Schmidt was especially keen to pick the famous hacktivist’s brain on the role of dissidents and the communication tools they would employ to expose acts of governmental tyranny and corruption in this new era. He was led to believe that the un-molested conversational highlights of this meeting would find their way into the book Schmidt and Jared Cohen were working on –The New Digital Age – which they expected to publish about a year later. Just to be sure, Assange posted to the WikiLeaks site the transcript of this secret meeting, and made the audio available as well, so that his words and integrity could not later be twisted a game of They Said / He Said. Joining Schmidt and Jared Cohen at the meeting were Lisa Shields and Scott Malcomson, who Assange later discovered were not merely Schmidt’s buddies but members of the Council on Foreign Relations, with ties to the very State Department that had him under siege.

It turns out, the “productively paranoid” Assange (to cite Joseph Flatley’s wonderful categorization in his review of Schmidt and Cohen’s book) was smart to publish the transcript, because his fears were well-founded – the meeting was, for all intents and purposes, scripted theatre (call it Google Play), and could have been the work of Harold Pinter, for all its subtle signs and hidden agendas. As Assange remarks in the introduction to his new book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, “the delegation was one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser.” In all likelihood, Schmidt and Cohen already knew what they were going to write about Assange before they met. But the book is not only the transcript of their encounter, it also includes the aforementioned introduction, which acts as an primer on the Schmidt-Cohen political agenda, as well as a reprint of Assange’s New York Times book review of the The New Digital Age, when it finally appeared in early 2013, and, finally, a postscript that details how Assange’s views at the meeting were distorted in the Schmidt-Cohen manifesto and his character further abused. Assange had a right to be livid and he manages to push back with his book.

The New Digital Age

Perhaps as an indication of his bruised ego, Assange opens his exposition by employing language that is seemingly intended to inflate his value, repeatedly referring to the meeting’s secrecy, as if the meeting were a negotiation between equals; and by nose-tweaking word choices that suggest a Ninja-like revolutionary at war with dark, machine-like authorities. This creates some readerly hurdles and unnecessary obfuscations. “I was intrigued that the mountain would come to Mohammed,” begins Assange, likening the meeting to a profound experience of enlightenment, which it was not. But what does that expression even mean? The best my DuckDuckGo results could do was to inform me that it isn’t derived from the Koran and is not an Islamic saying, and, indeed, that it almost certainly is derived from a distortion of a very similar reference in Francis Bacon’s way-back-in-the-day essay “Of Boldness,” wherein the user of that expression is lampooned as a charlatan. One could certainly see how Bacon could be making fun of the kind of boldness expressed in The New Digital Age, but it isn’t an intuitive connection.

Similarly, Assange writes about evading censorship by “moving across borders like ghosts,” and then employs a series of martial terms: “at Ellingham I became an immovable asset under siege. We could no longer choose our battles. Fronts opened up on all sides. I had to learn to think like a general. We were at war.” While this is somewhat amusing, one wonders what benefits accrue for Assange, and other activists he symbolically represents, by playing into (and consequently affirming) the ‘Internet is a battlefield’ meme, which tends to act as a convenient justification for government crackdowns. Here, even to this sympathetic reader, Assange seems to be hurt and lashing out, and comes across like John Connor, the boy-hero from Terminator, who represents the future of humanity and must stay alive at any cost. Again, while Assange’s position has enormous personal resonance for me, its tetchiness risks giving the bastards what they want. Even the gentle, congenial Yogi Bear, if ‘taken’ and tethered to a chain at a picnic site in Jellystone Park, where adults abuse and threaten him and children are encouraged to pretend to be afraid to provide a pretext for further abuse, even Yogi Bear would eventually turn grizzly, at which time his persecutors would sneer, “See, told you he had poor character.” But Assange must eschew the justifiable impulse to draw blood if he wants to keep tuned-in listeners on message. If you’re going to preach real freedom, expect to be really, really crucified.

Having said that though, one has a sense of proxy rage when, after hearing Jared Cohen stoke Assange’s vanity at the meeting by playing up, despite Assange’s protestations, the role WikiLeaks played in the Tunisian revolution and in the larger Arab Spring (Cohen all but throwing up a high-five), The New Digital Age gives no mention to Assange’s role as the provider of key information that may have tipped the balance. And then early in TNDA, in their chapter on The Future of Identity, Citizenship and Reporting, after many pages devoted to how destructive to reputations online published material can be—to the point that it lead to “virtual honor killing” and can result in a targeted person’s actual murder—they segue to a section on what they refer to as Assange’s “free data movement”, where they wantonly (and arrogantly, given that the meeting was recorded) mischaracterize his position on leaking, on what gets leaked and why, almost likening WikiLeaks to revenge porn videos.

Despite some of the known negative consequences of this movement (threats to individual security, ruined reputations and diplomatic chaos), some free-information activists believe the absence of a delete button ultimately strengthens humanity’s progress toward greater equality, productivity and self-determination. We believe, however, that this is a dangerous model, especially given that there is always going to be someone with bad judgement who releases information that will get people killed. [emphasis added]

Later, in their chapter on the Future of Terrorism, they will directly assert that this is what Julian Assange did with his ‘might-as-well-be-terrorism’ leaks. They never challenged Assange this way to his face, and they ignored all evidence contrary to this assertion. But most importantly, they imply that Assange and any other free-information activists are worthy of being droned. In this way, the seemingly endless, sovereignty-scoffing US military forays that result in literally untold war crimes, including torture, murder, and the catastrophic displacement of huge swathes of various populations, become so normalized that the average citizen regards leaks that reveal this behaviour as the real treason.

They wrongly refer to the false assertion that he is wanted by Swedish police for questioning as “his indictment of sexual assault charges,” another agenda item never brought up to his face. Another slur that does little more than libel Assange by calling into question ‘his real motivations’ is the Schmidt-Cohen assertion that found its way in a Foreign Affairs magazine, the State department’s rah-rah forum, exclaiming that what few redactions Assange did make to documents prior to release were motivated by “money” considerations. He said no such thing, as the transcript plainly shows, and in fact he painstakingly explained to them that his action was a ‘harm minimization / impact maximization’ tactic designed to ward off political “opportunists” looking to make the conversation about the treasonous harm of the publishing rather than the treasonous harm of the content’s revelations about administrative criminality. Schmidt-Cohen have no problems with undermining Assange’s reputation, despite saying to his face that they “sympathized” with his views.

John Connor
John Connor

As Assange points out, “it was not until well after Schmidt and his companions had been gone that I came to understand who had really visited me.” He means, of course, that he had essentially received a proxy visit from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This might seem a wild and egotistical claim, until you realize that Schmidt has a close relationship with Obama, having been on a short list of candidates to head the Commerce Department, while Jared Cohen was regarded as a can-do wunderkind by the State Department, first under Condoleeza Rice and then under Hillary Clinton, before going to Google in 2010. As Assange would come to learn from the subsequent publishing of The New Digital Age, a key concern for Schmidt-Cohen was learning how Assange did what he did and how they could harness that know-how to corral younger generation activists into doing their bidding.

Ironically, the aspect of their meeting where they might truly have had meaningful dialectical exchanges during their meeting was around the subject of information systems management. Assange acknowledges their mutual passion for systems architecture and management, and how it relates to their politics, when he writes,

His questions often skipped to the heart of the matter, betraying a powerful nonverbal structural intelligence… This was a person who understood how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people. My world was new to him, but it was also a world of unfolding human processes, scale, and information flows.

The problem, of course, is that their politics have entirely different vectors. While Schmidt is correct to refer to assert that Assange is a kind of ‘free information activist,’ at least when it comes to government transparency and shedding a light on executive office criminality, Assange is also spot-on when he says of Schmidt: “[he] fits exactly where he is: the point where the centrist, liberal, and imperialist tendencies meet in American political life.” Given Google’s long-standing cooperation with the Defense Department (indeed the ex-head of their R&D arm, DARPA, recently jumped to an executive position with Google) and the NSA (Google played a key a role in the NSA’s highly-invasive and illegal PRISM program), one could posit that Schmidt-Cohen represent the vanguard of neoliberal policies, enforced by neoconservative martial might. The very governmental constraints and intrusiveness that they seek to end in the “repressive” regimes they cite is equally if not substantially more true of the US surveillance state.

(It is a largely undiscussed fact that well before 9/11 Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney created and implemented a secret Continuation of Government (COG) plan in the event of catastrophic terrorist attack, spectacular natural disaster, or major popular insurrection for any number of reasons, including major opposition to foreign policy actions (see a summary of some details here). This COG operates as emergency principles and supersedes the usual Constitutional chain of command. This COG emergency protocol went into effect on 9/11. Almost no one in Congress was aware that this shadow government existed, let alone that Cheney had triggered the procedure. Many citizens would be amazed to learn that Obama actually inherited this secretive state of emergency. Indeed, the state of emergency rules are still in place, and, technically, the Executive office claims the power to act as if the US were in a state of martial law. Because, according to these protocols, it is. When you apply this knowledge to American military actions in foreign lands, from Europe and the Middle East to Asia, you’re looking at the empire-building conceits that were gifted to the neoconservatives by way of 9/11.)

But back to systems of information and their utilities. Assange and Schmidt-Cohen share a passion for activating the masses to generate momentum and change the status quo. For Assange, the desire is to create a reliable means to affect changes that result in what he calls “just acts.” Using a Fourth Estate model, Assange locates the “bottleneck” to just and progressive change in how information is distributed and presented to the populace. At the meeting, Assange tells Schmidt and his cohorts:

In a Fourth Estate context, the people who acquire information are sources; the people who work on information and distribute it are journalists and publishers; and the people who may act on it includes everyone. That’s a high-level construct, but it then comes down to how you practically engineer a system that solves that problem, and not just a technical system but a total system. WikiLeaks was, and is, an attempt—although still very young—at a total system.

Another way of regarding it is a state of radical transparency for government, which could lead to strict levels of privacy for citizens and considerably more say in democratic governing processes.

This is in contradistinction to the kind of system that Schmidt-Cohen have in mind. The usual astonishing hypocrisy aside, perhaps the most important accomplishment of When Google Met WikiLeaks is the connection Assange establishes between the Google Politic and the ambitions set loose in The New Digital Age. The Schmidt-Cohen tome was originally titled The Empire of the Mind, which is in much closer alignment to their politics than the wonky-sounding New Digital Age, because at work in their book is an idealized vision of the world after neo-con American Exceptionalism has forcibly broken through every global barrier and established its neo-liberal dominion over all people and resources of the earth, with future presidents being the new emperors at the end of history, as Francis Fukuyama has so stupidly and wrongly ordained.

In his introduction to WGMW, Assange cites a 2010 Foreign Affairs piece that Schmidt-Cohen wrote, “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power,” in which the dynamic duo discuss in detail future “coalitions of the connected” made possible with technologies “overwhelmingly provided by the private sector.” Assange pulls up this telling quote:

Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies…. They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world who are abused by their governments or barred from voicing their opinions. [Assange’s emphasis in italics; mine in bold.]

Like the justification George W. Bush used to ignore sovereignty and make war in countries “too weak or unable to fight terrorism,” the ‘duty to protect’ principle is a militaristic co-optation and corruption of humanitarian intervention theory, as well as the clearest indication yet that the Internet has already become militarized and that we are now in the normalization phase. As a literal battlefield it is to be controlled by the strongest military, making Obama, as Commander-in-Chief the principle ‘decider’ for future Internet policies. Schmidt-Cohen are the Good Cop face to a long-extant US foreign policy succinctly summed up, unapologetically, by Bad Cops like former Latin American CIA chief Duane Clarridge, who helped arrange for the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende (or “What’s-his-name,” as Clarridge refers to him). Says Clarridge, “We’ll intervene whenever we feel it’s in our interest to so, and if you don’t like it, lump it. Get used to it, world. We’re not going to put up with any nonsense.” There is no functional difference between the political principles espoused by Schmidt-Cohen and that of Clarridge. None.

But if you alloy this political mandate with the technological vision that Schmidt-Cohen reveal in The Empire of the Mind, then you have a profoundly disturbing nightmare scenario. As Assange points out, there is in the Schmidt-Cohen manifestoes a banality that seeks to assuage and seduce, like a 1950s TV ad high on Twilight Zone smack. Schmidt-Cohen tell us how our good buddy Amazon can help solve so many problems with its ever-so-clever algorithms, but they don’t tell us how the two buddies collaborate with intelligence agencies. “For example,” they write, “Amazon is able to take its data on merchants and, using algorithms, develop customized bank loans to offer them—in some cases when traditional banks have completely shut their doors.” Oh, so, kinda like that cool subprime loan thing, right? And, getting stranger than strange:

As for life’s small daily tasks, [Amazon’s] information systems will streamline many of them for people living in those countries, such as integrated clothing machines (washing, drying, folding, pressing and sorting) that keep an inventory of clean clothes and algorithmically suggest outfits based on the user’s daily schedule. [emphasis added]

If it stopped there, that would be sufficient to give pause to a sane person. But the two plow on. Matter-of-factly and without any horror at the implications, Schmidt-Cohen describe a future where identity merchants make a handsome profit in the brave new economy. With a straight face, they offer up this scenario:

Virtual kidnappings, on the other hand—stealing the online identities of wealthy people, anything from their bank details to public social-network profiles, and ransoming the information for real money—will be common. Rather than keep and maintain captives in the jungle, guerrillas in the FARC or similar groups will prefer the reduced risk and responsibility of virtual hostages.

But that’s not the proverbial kicker. We mustn’t underestimate the value of future holograph boxes, they tell us, in which you can find entertainment by immersing yourself in various virtual excursions: “Worried your kids are becoming spoiled? Have them spend some time wandering around the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.” Don’t worry about changing it any, right? (Schmidt brought his teen-aged daughter with him when he visited North Korea, so that she could ‘experience’ a totalitarian state first-hand and blog about it.) This is “transformative”? Visionary? Sane?

But back to leaks and who decides how and when they are published, there is another important difference in how the two systems operate. After setting Assange up as a might-as-well-be terrorist, Schmidt-Cohen toss out a disingenuous question:

Why is it Julian Assange, specifically, who gets to decide what information is relevant to the public interest? [And] what happens if the person who makes such decisions is willing to accept indisputable harm to innocents as a consequence of his disclosures?

As Assange points out, this is both a dishonest and rhetorical question, because soon they answer by saying that all leaks should go to “a central body facilitating the release of information” and that whistleblower publishers need “supervision.”

This gets at the heart of the matter: dissidents need to be accounted for, contained as a subset, and controlled. After all, most of them are just kids (more than half the world’s population is under 30, and growing) and Schmidt-Cohen, along with the State Department, are worried sick about what these youngsters might get up to. As Schmidt-Cohen observe, “the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal.” This isn’t the first time they have raised this sentiment. Early on, during the secret meeting with Assange, Scott Malcomson, one of the CFR tools who accompanied Schmidt observed, apropos of Dostoyevsky’s wet snow, “Young people aren’t inherently good. And I say that as a father and with regret.” (Nor are old people and fathers, and I say that in all sincerity.)

The self-described “old people” who met with Assange seem to have had a notion already in motion as to how they would shepherd and influence young people, but they are still looking for shaping mechanisms—triggers they can pull. That was the value of the recent secret Facebook-DoD experiment: to manipulate community emotions toward action, the way it was done in the Joseph Kony saga, where children were rounded up by a Christian evangelical ‘activist’ overnight on Facebook and put to the task of proxy vigiliantism. (Kony is still free today, although the actions of all those manipulated kids did lead to Congress authorizing a military presence in the Central African Republic, where they don’t seem to be looking for Kony much, “but 40 advisers will remain”).

Schmidt-Cohen’s answer, as with leaks, is to shepherd youngsters into central crowdsource pens where they can vent their disaffection and participate in ‘constructive’ dissident campaigns. Their preferred choice, of course, is The Alliance of Youth Movements, or other NGOs (Schmidt loves NGOs the way the Department of Defense loves its sub-contractors) affiliated with the ‘centrist’ doctrines of the day, and their main goal is to knock down “dictators” everywhere, even if freely elected. It’s the American Way. As Hillary Clinton told a gathering of the Alliance by video link not long ago, “You are the vanguard of a rising generation of citizen activists…. And that makes you the kind of leaders we need.” The Alliance and Movements.org are just two more branches of co-optation and control, an exercise in grooming future “responsible” controllers.

Meanwhile, ‘activist’ billionaire philanthropists like Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen and Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar are free to do the adult freedom-fightin’; working with the NSA to drill down to unruly dissidents; creating algorithms that the CIA can use to track anyone; pouring money into coups in places resistant to neo-liberalization; even meeting up with rebels to organize resistance, as Cohen says he’s done with Iranian dissdents. This has not been met with as much approval among the national security types as you might imagine. In a WikiLeaks email leaked from the private security firm Stratfor, the director complained to a colleague:

Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do… [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag.

This is the real face of the “Don’t be evil” meme.

The Illustrated Man
The Illustrated Man

A few weeks ago I re-watched The Illustrated Man, a film based on Ray Bradbury’s short story collection by the same name. Reading The New Digital Age had me seeing those dystopic tattoos again—not on the body of a knowing victim like Steiger, but in the daft Satyricon that is the Schmidt-Cohen premise. In The Illustrated Man, there’s one vignette in which two teens are allowed to play in their favourite holographic room. They conjure up wild lions to play with, and the parents think all is bliss, until bits and pieces of their stuff goes missing, only to be discovered in the holographic room being sniffed over by the lions. Alarmed, the parents call in a shrink, who comes almost immediately, but not before the kids get the lions to maul and eat their parents. In the holography that still lights up my mind, that is how I want to respond to Google’s Dead Souls future – with Schmidt and Cohen (and Bezos and Omidyar and others) taken by the Empire’s lions and devoured by their own megalomaniac fantasies.

Assange: There’s Something About Schmidt (and Google)

Julian Assange’s new book, When Google Met Wikileaks is not really a new book at all; it is a minimally edited transcription of a secret meeting he had with Google’s Erich Schmidt back on June 23, 2011. It took place in rural England, while Assange was under house arrest and dealing with the aftermath of the funding-freeze on Wikileaks, arranged by the US State Department, in retaliation for his publication of war-related secrets leaked to him by Chelsea Manning, including the now-infamous Collateral Murder video. In agreeing to the meeting with Schmidt, Assange had been told that the Google head was writing a book and wanted his input regarding contemporary dissidents and the communication technologies they use. Joining Schmidt were Jared Cohen, Lisa Shields and Scott Malcomson, whom Assange later discovered were not merely Schmidt’s buddies but members of the Council on Foreign Relations, with ties to the State Department.  

In any case, on April 19, 2013 Assange posted to the Wikileaks site the transcript of this secret meeting, and made the audio available as well, so that his words and integrity could not later be twisted in the triangulating tactic of They Said/ He Said, the numbers game that collaborating character assassins like to play.  The book also includes his New York Times review of the subsequent Schmidt-Cohen book, The New Digital Age, which is also readily accessible online. So why buy the book?

There are a few good reasons. First, the book includes excellent links and notes which, in e-book form, can be clicked, instantly bringing the reader a wealth of background and further information that serve to deepen and more fully contextualize the themes of the secret discussion.  Second, the book contains an important introduction (the wryly titled, “Beyond Good and “Don’t Be Evil”), which delves into the Google political philosophy, with disturbing examples of it in action. Third, WGMW is an extension to the scathing review he gave TNDA, which is a critical event worth celebrating in itself, and it more closely unpacks the clearly premeditated trashing of Assange that took place in their book. And lastly, of course, he needs the money.

WGMW is not the relentlessly sobering narrative Assange’s Cypherpunks was, which suggested a future where you’re either a data-encrypting activist, by default, or just another passive-ist consumer being pasture-ized and homogenized.  It has a dialogical energy that lifts it beyond the diatribalism of rogue philosophizing that often sings the hacktivists’ body electric, and, again, the supplementary links make the experience of reading the transcript rather interactive, which seems all too appropriate. But most importantly, the WGMW’s subject matter and the themes that emerge from it, when weighed up against Schmidt-Cohen’s pseudo-Nietzschean TNDA huff-and-puffery, reveal what seem like irreconcilable world views destined for interminable future clashes, two systems of thought seemingly in collision – anarcho-libertarianism vs. totalitarian-utopianism, or, to channel Julia Kristeva, the semiotic vs. the symbolic. 

The most important accomplishment of the book is the connection Assange establishes between the Google Politic and the ambitions set loose in The New Digital Age. The Schmidt-Cohen tome was originally titled The Empire of the Mind, which is in much closer alignment to their politics than the wonky-sounding TNDA, because at work in their book is an idealized vision of the world after neo-con American Exceptionalism has forcibly broken through every global barrier and established its neo-liberal dominion over all people and resources of the earth, with future presidents being the new emperors at the end of history, as Francis Fukuyama hath ordained. 

In his introduction to WGMW, Assange cites a 2010 Foreign Affairs piece Schmidt-Cohen wrote, “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power,” in which the dynamic duo discuss in detail future “coalitions of the connected” made possible with technologies “overwhelmingly provided by the private sector.”  Assange pulls up this telling quote:

Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world [Assange’s emphasis added].

Like the justification George W. Bush used to ignore sovereignty and make war in countries “too weak or unable to fight terrorism,” the ‘duty to protect’ principle, is a militaristic co-optation and corruption of humanitarian intervention theory, as well as the clearest indication yet that the Internet has already been militarized and that we are now in the normalization phase. As a literal battlefield it is to be controlled by the strongest military, making Obama, as Commander-in-Chief the principle ‘decider’ for future Internet policies. Schmidt-Cohen are the Good Cop face to a long-time extant US foreign policy succinctly summed up, absolutely unapologetically, by Bad Cops, like former Latin American CIA chief Duane Clarridge, who helped arrange for the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende. Says Bad Cop Clarridge, “We’ll intervene whenever we feel it’s in our interest to so, and if you don’t like it, lump it. Get used to it world. We’re not going to put up with any nonsense.” There is no functional difference between the political principles espoused by Schmidt-Cohen and that of Clarridge. None. 

But, Assange makes clear, alloy this political mandate with the technological vision Schmidt-Cohen reveal in The Empire of the Mind and you have a profoundly disturbing nightmare scenario that clearly threatens the sanity of our species if not its very existence.  As Assange points out, there is in the Schmidt-Cohen manifestive a banality that seeks to assuage and seduce, like a 1950s TV ad high on Twilight Zone smack, which serves to distract from consequences and implications. So, for instance, Schmidt-Cohen tells us how good buddy Amazon can help solve so many problems with their ever-so-clever algorithms (but doesn’t tell you how the two buddies collaborate with intelligence agencies). “For example,” the two tell us, “Amazon is able to take its data on merchants and, using algorithms, develop customized bank loans to offer them—in some cases when traditional banks have completely shut their doors.” Oh, so, kinda like that cool subprime loan thing-a-ma-jiggy, right? But, getting stranger than strange, 

As for life’s small daily tasks, [Amazon’s] information systems will streamline many of them for people living in those countries, such as integrated clothing machines (washing, drying, folding, pressing and sorting) that keep an inventory of clean clothes and algorithmically suggest outfits based on the user’s daily schedule. [emphasis added]

And, if it stopped there, that would be sufficient to give pause to a sane person.  But the two plough on with what may be the proverbial kicker. We mustn’t underestimate the value of future holograph boxes, they tell us, in which you can find entertainment by immersing yourself in various virtual excursions: “Worried your kids are becoming spoiled? Have them spend some time wandering around the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.”  (What about a lesson in social justice; maybe send the kids to Ferguson with sniper guns? Maybe have the kids holographically visit Yemen to see what a cluster bomb does to an suspecting wedding party?) This is “transformative”? Visionary?

But daft is one thing, libellous and malicious is something else altogether.  And Assange is rightly outraged by the way he is mauled by Schmidt-Cohen in their book. Polite to his face (and even telling him at one point they were “sympathetic” to his cause), it seems they couldn’t get away from him fast enough after the secret meeting, so that they could string together fibs and confabulations that were surely pre-mixed. In a lengthy chapter on the future of terrorism, where Assange, as the world’s leading hacktivist, has a starring role, they falsely claim Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition back to Sweden to face “an indictment for sexual assault;” they repeat the long-dropped lie that his published leaks “put lives at risk”; and though he very carefully explained his document redactions as a necessary “harm minimization / impact maximization” tactic to ward off “opportunists” looking to make the conversation about the treasonous harm of the publishing rather than the treasonous harm of the content, Schmidt-Cohen told Foreign Affairs that Assange’s real motivation was “money”; and these accumulated false concerns led to the question: 

“Why is it Julian Assange, specifically, who gets to decide what information is relevant to the public interest?” [and] “what happens if the person who makes such decisions is willing to accept indisputable harm to innocents as a consequence of his disclosures?

As Assange points out, this is rhetorical, because soon they answer by saying all leaks should go to “a central body facilitating the release of information” and that whistleblower publishers need “supervision.”

And this begins to get at the heart of the matter: dissidents need to be accounted for, contained as a subset, and controlled. After all, most of them are just kids (more than half the world’s population is under 30, and growing) and Schmidt-Cohen, and the State Department, are worried sick about what these youngsters might get up to. As Schmidt-Cohen observe, “the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal.” This isn’t the first time they raised this sentiment either. Early on, during the secret meeting with Assange, Scott Malcomson, one of the CFR tools who accompanied Schmidt observed, “young people aren’t inherently good. And I say that as a father and with regret.” Nor are old people and fathers, and I say that in all sincerity.

And the self-described “old people” who met with Assange seem to have had a notion already in motion as to how they would shepherd and influence young people, but they are still looking for shaping mechanisms, triggers they can apply. That was the value of the recent secret Facebook-DoD experiment: to manipulate community emotions toward action, the way it was done in the Joseph Kony saga, where children were rounded up by a Christian evangelical ‘activist’ overnight on Facebook and put to the task of proxy vigiliantism. (Kony is still free today, although the actions of all those manipulated kids did lead to Congress authorizing a military presence in the Central African Republic, albeit they don’t seem to be looking for Kony much: “but 40 advisers will remain.”).

The answer, as with leaks, is to shepherd youngsters into a central crowdsource pens for them to vent their disaffection and participate in ‘constructive’ dissident campaigns. The preferred choice, of course, is movements.org, affiliated with the ‘centrist’ doctrines of the day, and neo-liberal causes, and their main goal is to knock down “dictators” everywhere, even if freely elected; it’s the American Way. Movements.org is just one more arm of co-optation and control, and an exercise in grooming future “responsible” controllers.  

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen and Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar, and all the other ‘activist’ billionaire philanthropists are free to do the adult freedom-fightin’; working with the NSA to drill down to unruly dissidents; or creating algorithms that the CIA can use to track, well, anybody; or pouring money into coups in places resistant to neo-liberalization,or even meeting up with rebels to organize resistance as Cohen says he’s done.

In WGMW, Assange once again raises constructive ways around the growing totalitarian state, including the use of mobile peer-to-peer communications by cellphone that don’t require going through a telco (properly adjusted, cells phones could communicate with unmediated radio frequencies, says Assange); comprehensive encryption (files and communication); and the use of non-persistent operating systems on a USB stick or DVD, such as TAILs. This is the new face of freedom in the future: Running and hiding and subverting goofy billionaire philanthropists who only want what’s best for you, who only want to help you make the right choices, all watched over, as Adam Curtis would have it, by machines of loving grace. And if you won’t be watched over, you will be targeted, put on the president’s future Tuesday morning hit list. You will never see it coming.

A few weeks ago I re-watched The Illustrated Man, a film based on Ray Bradbury’s short story collection by the same name. Reading The New Digital Age had me seeing those dystopic tattoos again, but not on the body of a knowing victim like Steiger, but in the daft Satyricon that is the Schmidt-Cohen premise. In The Illustrated Man, there’s one vignette in which two teens are allowed to play in their favourite holographic room and conjure up wild lions to play with and the parents think all is bliss until bits and pieces of their stuff goes missing, only to be discovered in the holographic room being sniffed over by the lions. Alarmed, the parents call in a shrink, who comes almost immediately, but not before the kids get the lions to maul and eat their parents. And, in the holography that still lights up my mind that’s how I want to respond to Google’s Dead Soul future — with Schmidt and Cohen (and Bezos and Omidyar, and all the other elites) taken by the Empire’s lions and devoured by their own megalomaniac fantasies.

Julian Assange: down ranking Google’s dead souls future

Julian Assange’s new book, When Google Met Wikileaks is not really a new book at all; it is a minimally edited transcription of a secret meeting he had with Google’s Erich Schmidt and Jared Cohen back on June 23, 2011.

When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange

When Google Met Wikileaks
by Julian Assange
OR Books, 2014
200 pagesBUY NOW

It took place in rural England, while Assange was under house arrest and dealing with the aftermath of the funding-freeze on Wikileaks, arranged by the US State Department, in retaliation for his publication of war-related secrets leaked to him by Chelsea Manning, including the now-infamous Collateral Murder video.

When Google Met Wikileaks includes excellent links and notes which, in e-book form, can be clicked, instantly bringing the reader a wealth of background and further information that serve to deepen and more fully contextualize the themes of the secret discussion.  It contains an important introduction, which delves into the Google political philosophy, with disturbing examples of it in action. WhenGoogle Met Wikileaks is an extension to the scathing New York Times review he gave The New Digital Age, which is a critical event worth celebrating in itself, and it more closely unpacks the clearly premeditated trashing of Assange that took place in their book.

The most important accomplishment of the book may be the connection Assange establishes between the Google Politic and the ambitions set loose in Digital Age. The Schmidt-Cohen tome was originally titled The Empire of the Mind, which is in much closer alignment to their politics than the wonky-sounding Digital Age, because at work in their book is an idealized vision of the world after neo-con American Exceptionalism has forcibly broken through every global barrier and established its neo-liberal dominion over all people and resources of the earth, with future presidents being the new emperors at the end of history, as Francis Fukuyama hath ordained.

In his introduction to When Google, Assange cites a 2010 Foreign Affairs piece Schmidt-Cohen wrote, “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power,” in which the dynamic duo discuss in detail future “coalitions of the connected” made possible with technologies “overwhelmingly provided by the private sector.”  Assange pulls up this telling quote:

“Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world.” (Assange’s emphasis added.)

Like the justification George W. Bush used to ignore sovereignty and make war in countries “too weak or unable to fight terrorism,” the ‘duty to protect’ principle, is a militaristic co-optation and corruption of humanitarian intervention theory, as well as the clearest indication yet that the Internet has already been militarized and that we are now in the normalization phase.

As a literal battlefield it is to be controlled by the strongest military, making Obama, as Commander-in-Chief the principle ‘decider’ for future Internet policies. Schmidt-Cohen are the Good Cop face to a long-time extant US foreign policy succinctly summed up, absolutely unapologetically, by Bad Cops, like former Latin American CIA chief Duane Clarridge, who helped arrange for the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende. Says Bad Cop Clarridge, “We’ll intervene whenever we feel it’s in our interest to so, and if you don’t like it, lump it. Get used to it world. We’re not going to put up with any nonsense.” There is no functional difference between the political principles espoused by Schmidt-Cohen and that of Clarridge. None.

“Why is it Julian Assange, specifically, who gets to decide what information is relevant to the public interest?” Schmidt-Cohen whine in Digital Age, and “what happens if the person who makes such decisions is willing to accept indisputable harm to innocents as a consequence of his disclosures?”

As Assange points out, this is not only a proven falsity, but merely rhetorical, because soon Schmidt-Cohen answer by saying all leaks should go to “a central body facilitating the release of information” and that whistleblower publishers need “supervision.”

And this begins to get at the heart of the matter: dissidents need to be accounted for, contained as a subset, and controlled. After all, most of them are just kids (more than half the world’s population is under 30, and growing) and Schmidt-Cohen, and the State Department, are worried sick about what these youngsters might get up to.

As Schmidt-Cohen observe, “the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal.” This isn’t the first time they raised this sentiment either. During the secret meeting with Assange, Scott Malcomson, an associate who accompanied Schmidt-Cohen observed, “Young people aren’t inherently good. And I say that as a father and with regret.”

Schmidt-Cohen and the self-described “old people” who secretly met with Assange seem to have had a notion already in motion as to how they would shepherd and influence young people, but they are still looking for shaping mechanisms, triggers they can apply. That was the value of the recent secret Facebook-DoD experiment: to manipulate community emotions toward action, the way it was done in the Joseph Kony saga, where children were rounded up by a Christian evangelical ‘activist’ overnight on Facebook and put to the task of proxy vigilantism. (Kony is still free today, and no one seems to be looking too hard for him).

As with leaks, the plan is to shepherd youngsters into central crowdsource pens for them to vent their disaffection and participate in “constructive” dissident campaigns. The preferred choice, of course, is movements.org, affiliated with the “centrist” doctrines of the day, and neo-liberal causes, and their main goal is to knock down “dictators” everywhere, even if freely elected; it’s the American Way. Movements.org is just one more arm of co-optation and control, and Google’s Schmidt chairs its board of directors.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen and Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar, and all the other “activist” billionaire philanthropists are free to do the adult freedom-fightin’; working with the NSA to drill down to unruly dissidents; or creating algorithms that the CIA can use to track, well, anybody; or pouring money into coups in places resistant to neo-liberalization,or even meeting up with rebels to organize resistance as Cohen says he’s done.

When Google Met Wikileaks raises constructive ways around the growing totalitarian state, including the use of mobile peer-to-peer communications that don’t require going through a telco; comprehensive encryption (files and communication); and the use of non-persistent operating systems on a USB stick or DVD, such as TAILs.

This will be the face of freedom in the new digital age: Running and hiding and subverting goofy billionaire philanthropists who only want what’s best for you, who only want to help you make the right choices, all watched over, as Adam Curtis would have it, by machines of loving grace. And if you won’t be watched over, you will be targeted, put on the president’s future Tuesday morning hit list. You will never see it coming.