Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Information Wars


Late last year, I called the first shots in Cyber World War One. I got the timing completely wrong. In fact, I was off by about 27 years.

The real first shot in that war — heard ’round the world and widely lauded, but its implications not really understood — was fired in 1984 by Stewart Brand: “Information wants to be free.”

Developments since then bring to mind the words of another great orator, words which I shall now hijack and mangle for my own purposes: Information cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. It will become all one thing or all the other.

The war for humanity’s future is primarily a war for control of the use and exchange of information.

Its three major fronts, in no particular order: The status of “intellectual property,” freedom to communicate, and transparency, or lack thereof, of institutions of governance.

Its combatants: On one side the state and its hangers-on. On the other side, the rest of us.

This war has actually raged for centuries, sometimes “hot” and sometimes “cold.”

Its “hottest” manifestations have been the totalitarian states characterized by opacity of governance, ruthless suppression of unauthorized communication, and tight control of literature, entertainment and technology. The Soviet Union, Baathist Iraq and the Kim dynasty’s North Korea are prime examples.

On the “cold” side we find the non-totalitarian, but increasingly authoritarian, Westphalian nation-states in which governance has crept rather than sprinted toward opacity, in which communications were left relatively free so long as they represented no substantial threat to the state’s monopoly on force, and in which control of literature, entertainment and technology were a matter of slow jockeying for position by corporate behemoths with the capital to engage in expensive production.

So why has the war recently gone “hot” in the “free world?” One word: Technology.

The personal computer drastically decreased the costs associated with producing and manipulating information.

The Internet drastically decreased the costs of communicating and disseminating that information.

The combination of those two things is even now bringing forth a renaissance in manufacturing machinery and method which promises to drastically reduce the costs of producing and distributing physical goods.

Our side — humanity’s side — went from throwing rocks to developing not just the longbow, but the machine gun and the suitcase nuke in a mere 30 years or so.

The other side has noticed, and they’re putting everything into an all-out offensive to crush freedom with finality while they still believe they can.

The “intellectual property” industries are working overtime to quarantine as much information as possible behind monopoly patent and copyright paywalls, while chivvying their toadies in the halls of state to reinforce those walls, string barbed wire atop them, and put machine gun towers on the corners.

Even absent the whisperings of the RIAA, MPAA and other “intellectual property” lobbies, politicians fully realize the mortal danger the Internet represents to their continued rule, and are moving with what passes for alacrity in a dinosaur-type institution to counter it.

Absent a super-weapon like Joe Lieberman’s proposed “kill switch,” they’ve so far contented themselves with seizing domain names on “intellectual property” grounds, arresting hackers who expose government’s inner workings, and attempting to co-opt cyberspace into their “national security” theatrics. But doubt this not: We’ll be seeing the equivalent of Hitler’s V2 rocket or Oppenheimer’s “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” just as soon as they can be developed and deployed.

Yes, it really is a war. If you don’t believe me, ask the US Department of Defense about its “comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.” Or Julian Assange, still under house arrest after months of fighting trumped-up charges filed specifically to keep Wikileaks from continuing to expose things your governments don’t want you to know. Or the alleged members of Anonymous abducted around the world for landing blows on the anti-humanity establishment.

Why do we fight? Because war for control of information is war for control of your mind — war to fully and finally enslave, or free, the human race. It’s the state or us, people. The stakes are too high NOT to fight. And it’s time to decide which side you’re on.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians