WikiLeaks Watch 5-12-2011

Unfortunately, due to work requirements, postings on this blog have decreased by a factor of five, from one per weekday, to about one per week. The “WikiLeaks Watch” postings are something that I haven’t had the time to maintain. However, when a bunch of interesting stuff emerges, I will try to take time out to compose a post. Such is the case now.

Assange calls Facebook the most appalling spying machine ever invented

Assange is more or less correct, here. In an earlier post that discussed the subversive political potential of SNP, I noted that SNP was a resilient platform against hard censorship but could be effectively neutered by a maize of soft censorship. If this “soft censorship maize,” and here I referring to (corporate) Political Economy, interfaces their systems and data with (State) Intelligence data mining, then, yes, SNP becomes a dystopian tool. Orwell’s “screens” are simply replaced by the smartphone.

As it stands now, people who their provide their real profile data for a SNP database and who link themselves to other “real profiles” make themselves vulnerable to proto police state tactics. However, given that the US intelligence organs now essentially dwarf anything hitherto in human history, an intelligence symbiosis with the “soft censorship maize” seems inevitable. The only thing that can prevent it is political economic hacking–that is, an offsetting political economy of “leaks.” So, the only thing heartening about this expanding totalitarianism and it’s insider/outsider political economy is that it is also spawning counter institutions, trading in “leaks,” as an offset. One of the sub-themes of this blog is whether to treat technology as utopian or dystopian. The correct answer is that it can be either, meaning, of course, that there is no correct answer.

Julian Assange’s Dialectics

This Assange interview provides perhaps the most extensive exposition of his political views. This interview is much more abstract and “cyberpunkish” than the Forbes one. A concise synopsis would be a “political dialectic” grounded in Neils Bohr rather than Hegel…the abstraction of the “quantum jump” applied to a “change in state”(reform) of political institutions. Censorship represents an “opportunity,” or an economic signal, that signifies that the institution is sufficiently unstable to be susceptible to a “quantum jump.” To paraphrase an earlier post of mine, the entrepreneur as “valence electron.”

Assange indicates that he is influenced by a libertarian temperament but not the libertarian political tradition directly. By this, he more or less means that he is more influenced by the libertarian attitude regarding the relationship between the individual and the state rather than, say, Proudhon’s or Kropotkin’s view of property, or libertarianism’s vast literature on institutional alternatives.

Assange views a regime that does not practice “hard censorship” to be immune from the “quantum jump,” or reform. He seems to equate this with a condition of total soft censorship. In the “Bohr Dialectic,” this would be an example of an “inert gas.” Here, however, I think libertarians would object with equating “de-politicization” with a Political Economy of total soft censorship. It could be conceptually argued and empirically demonstrated that a Political Economy of total soft censorship would not be a condition of “free speech.” Easily and trivially provable if we consider “commercial speech” to be speech, which is necessary if you concede the existence of the market.
Then the “Black Market” is easy refutation. With “soft censorship,” you can “debate” legalization of drugs without being arrested; but if you try to sell them on a street corner, you will be arrested. This is censorship. This creates an “opportunity,” an “economic signal,” that leads to a black market. There’s actually a faction within libertarianism, called “agorism”(which I do not subscribe to, btw), that relies on this type of censorship signalling to institutionally supplant the State.

In an actual de-politicized institutional setting, you would not have a black market, or at least not much of one. And, having studied physics in college, I would say that something like the Double-Slit experiment with light perhaps has philosophical value in knocking down something like Randian objectivism, but I wouldn’t rely on Quantum Mechanics for my political dialectics.

The Revolution will have a Confidentiality Agreement

The corporate/mainstream will delight in this supposed hypocrisy of the WikiLeak’s confidentiality Agreement. Of course, it could only be tangentially construed as hypocrisy if Assange were claiming to be the thing he is typically portrayed as: some transparency activist. He is not. He is an entrepreneur, a thing I’ve been harping on on this blog for some time. By entrepreneur, I don’t mean the Washington post definition, I mean the actual historical definition: an agent who identifies an opportunity and takes full responsibility for the outcome. In this case, we are talking about an agent who strives for a particular objective by acting as an intermediary between “leaker” and “publisher.”

It should be noted that WikiLeaks initially attempted to rely on SNP for editorial context and distribution. It didn’t work. At that point, the “activist” must become the entrepreneur. If you observe the “snakes” in corporate media, you would understand why a confidentiality agreement would be a requirement. More from WikiLeaks Central.

The Spy who Re-Elected Me

Assange’s accusations that the US Government was planning a grand jury indictment for Espionageturned out to be true. Here we have a “soft censorship” power overtly pursuing the path of hard, hard censorship. There is no doubt that this creates great new opportunity in the political economy of leaks. But does it mark a “reform opportunity for the United States”? I would say it marks an opportunity to break US oligarchy worldwide, but I’m not so sanguine about it being a signal for internal reform. This would end badly for us…

6 thoughts on “WikiLeaks Watch 5-12-2011

  1. “I would say that something like the Double-Slit experiment with light perhaps has philosophical value in knocking down something like Randian objectivism”

    For anyone who thinks the two-slit experiment creates a problem for objectivism (not necessarily Randian Objectivism, just garden-variety objectivism), I recommend the piece “Quantum Reality” in Richard Miller’s book _Fact and Method: Explanation, Confirmation, and Reality in the Natural and Social Sciences_.

    1. I’m referring to “Randian Objectivism.”

      I haven’t read the book cited above, but I will note that a “Copenhagan” interpretation of Quantum Mechanics does allow one to dispense with the pillars of classical logic: law of identity, law of excluded middle and law of non-contradiction.

      Of course, the “Copenhagan” interpretation is not the only interpretation of QM. In Copenhage/Bohrs,” the wave function is teated as a probability function. But there are other interpretations that treat the wave function as a real field. Most notably, “Many Worlds” and Bohm’s “hidden variables theory.” The Many Worlds interpretation is the one where classical logic is retained.

      1. I don’t think there’s anything in quantum mechanics per se that should make Randian Objectivists unhappy. In any case, Miller’s article makes what I think is a strong case for an interpretation of quantum mechanics that rejects the Copenhagen, Bohm, and many-worlds interpretations and retains both objectivity and classical logic.

  2. In principle, the different interpretations are subject to experimental/empirical verification.

    It should also be noted that, in practice, the specific scientific field has much to do with what “interpretation” is adopted. For example, in general, MWI is a minority position. But in the esoteric fields of string theory, quantum cosmology, quantum computing, it is a majority view.

    I’m not familiar with Miller, but I did try to “look him up.” He’s a social/political scientist at Cornell. He has an impressive array of published social/political science works, but I imagine his critique of “positivism” in the natural sciences might only be convincing to his colleagues in the social, political or philosophical fields.

    But, in general, you are correct in pointing out that my little jab at Rand vis a via QM was unwarranted. That’s because you are not compelled to accept the interpretation of it that does doom it.

    Lastly, I generally don’t mix natural science with political science. If I did, based on the weak anthropic principle, the lack of “ET Signalling,” and the apparent suitability of other planets to spawn carbon based life, i could only conclude near-term human extinction. Thusly, musings on political science and libertarianism would be a rather moot point.

    1. “He’s a social/political scientist at Cornell.”

      No, he’s a philosopher.

      “I imagine his critique of ‘positivism’ in the natural sciences might only be convincing to his colleagues in the social, political or philosophical fields.”

      You’re offering this dismissive, patronising judgment of a book you haven’t read? Seriously?

      In any case, he’s not criticising positivism in natural science, he’s criticising positivism in philosophy of science.

      1. Dr. Long:

        I don’t think I was being patronizing; but in any event, it is probably wise to refrain from offering up any opinion–actually, an opinion of what the opinion of others might be–on a book that I have not read by an author I am unfamiliar with.

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