Posted by Brad @ 3:36 pm on August 10th 2012

WikiLeaks, Anonymous, TrapWire, “AntiLeaks”, and the Fundmantal Battle for Privacy and Transparancy Not Being Fought by Any of Us

There is so much going on in this incredible story that I scarcely know where to begin.

But I think what most strikes me is twofold.

The first is simply that we, the United States of America – and I’m speaking specifically of the civic-engaged, conscientious voting public on either side of the question, nevermind America at large – are no longer active participants in the transformation of our country. The debate over the fundamental character of our nation-stage rages on, but the quarters where that debate actually meaningfully occurs (in actions as much as words) are now so small and so far buried as to be virtually invisible. More than that, we no longer are even privy to the TERMS of the debate, nevermind getting to weigh in on the outcome. The battle does rage – and for that I suppose we should all be thankful – but it is literally occurring, for the most part, between anonymous Mountain Dew hactivists and faceless contractors and invisible technocrats – and probably none of them have the full scope of it either. Our National Security superstructure is functionally autonomous, fundamentally unaccountable even to itself, and pretty much self-sustaining even if we ever mustered up the will to try to do something about it, which we clearly won’t or can’t. The debate over what kind of America we live in has gone so far off the grid that it is no longer a debate at all, and I do not believe that we have any recourse to that reality.

The second is something Glenn Greenwald has gotten at repeatedly, that being that the kinds of things that have become instantiated, normalized, institutionalized, and now rote are things that, even ten years ago – a blink of an eye – would have seemed unfathomable. It’s sort of like a foul odor being released in a room with people milling about in it – ten minutes later, they can’t even differentiate the smell anymore, whereas if somebody were to just walk in from the outside it would clean knock them out. We have gone from such basic questions as “does our government have the right to kill anybody it wants to for whatever reason it chooses to, without being subject to debate, review, or appeal” have gone from totally infathomable in one direction – I can literally not imagine that being a serious discussion even earlier in my lifetime – to a banal “political” debate and partisan issue – to now being infathomable in the other direction, where I can also literally not imagine that being a serious and actionable discussion NOW. We have reached a point where the disintegration of freedom, in the sense that the American experiment was founded on, is happening exponentially, approaching singularity.

And the nutty thing is, I’m sure me saying that leads to either eye-rolling or me sounding like a paranoid kook.

As a communicator, I characteristically shy away from hyperbole. During the period from 2001 to 2004 or so, I joined many in decrying the anti-war crowds, the civil libertarians, the dissenters, for marginalizing themselves by drifting into hyperbole, and instead felt the need to couch any of my critiques in the “well, one could argue…” hedging that has become the norm in all media – the recoiling from any potential slip or concrete statement that may lead to charges of having an opinion and thus not being trustworthy or not having the capacity for objectivity. There was plenty of mainstream debate in that period, over the direction of our country, but it happened on a sanctioned sort of field of play, and the 10% of us (if that) who came in with plain predictions or values where shunned and shunted off. I was embarrassed to share the stage with people who used words like “police state” (or “clash of civilizations” on the other side) and the like, just as I’ve been embarrassed, in the Obama years, for sharing the stage with people who ended sentences with “take our country back”, whether they were wearing tri-corner hats or holding town hall meetings one the pavement by City Hall. All that hyperbole seemed uncivilized.

But the more I look around, the more I think the hyperbolists were right, and were, if anything, not hyperbolic enough. And it was we idiots who ironed things into partisan debates or who bent over backwards to appear reasonable by the standards of mainstream debate who wrote ourselves out of the real conversation, the one with functional outcomes, entirely.

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