FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Friends?

The U.S. government’s persecution of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (who came out publicly as a transgender woman after sentencing) is the latest example of a general rule: In the transitional struggle between networks and hierarchies, sometimes networks’ most powerful weapons are the hierarchies themselves. You spend a few thousand bucks to yank a network’s chain just right, and it’ll respond by doing something stupid that costs itself millions.

The bad networks do this, obviously. Al Qaeda has followed a consistent business model of goading Uncle Sam into doing utterly stupid things — a business model that never fails. AQ spent a relatively minor amount preparing and carrying out the 9/11 hijackings. In response, the United States became bogged down in two regional wars in South Asia and the Middle East that alienated public sentiment in the Islamic world, and embarked on a general policy of permanent war, torture and police statism that did irreparable damage to its reputation around the world. Entirely through its own responses to 9/11, the U.S. government has run up $1.5 trillion dollars in war debt and turned its civil aviation system into a comically totalitarian nightmare straight out of the movie “Brazil.”

Since then, Al Qaeda’s rope-a-dope policy has repeatedly paid off. Every time an AQ agent attempts another airline attack, the TSA implements a cumbersome, inconvenient and incredibly stupid policy to prevent that same tactic from ever being used again. Hijacking with box cutters? Make everybody empty their pockets of potentially lethal weapons like nail clippers. Shoe bomber? Make everybody take off their shoes. Underwear bomber? Invasive and demeaning pat-downs and body scans.

Al Qaeda has explicitly declared its strategy is no longer to maximize casualties, but to maximize Return on Investment by provoking the U.S. to impose the maximum possible cost on itself through its own stupidity. An “unsuccessful” attack is plenty successful, just so long as Uncle Stupid comes through as expected. It’s only a matter of time till some smart AQ operative figures out he can shut down the U.S. aviation system with body cavity searches by smuggling explosives in his rectum.

Although the current system of corporate-state hierarchies is ultimately doomed, if it were smart it could prolong its existence by coopting the network opposition as long as possible, minimizing conflict and instability, and extracting diminishing rents for another generation or two.

Instead, it’s responded to network attacks in a manner guaranteed to bring things to a head even faster and hasten its own death. The people running the corporate state couldn’t be doing a better job of bringing about their doom if we were writing the script for them ourselves.

Look how they respond to network attacks by the good guys. The U.S. government pursued its vindictive course against Manning to send a message to other potential whistleblowers. The problem is, those whistleblowers — among them Snowden — got the message loud and clear. What Snowden learned is, you don’t work within the system through normal channels, and you don’t play the “civil disobedience” game and take your punishment, unless you want to spend years naked in solitary awaiting trial and then be sentenced to most of your life in prison. You get the information distributed in secure places, get yourself safely out of the country, and then make your move.

The next whistleblower will do it even bigger and better, and learn from Snowden’s example. See, networks learn from their experiences. Hierarchies kill the messenger.

On top of that, the U.S. government’s draconian prosecutions of Manning and Aaron Schwartz have turned them into martyrs and created sympathy among millions of people around the world.

In its obsessive pursuit of Snowden, the U.S. alienated public opinion and national governments in most of Latin America by forcing down the Bolviian president’s plane. All of America’s attempts to conceal its real place in the world system through the illusion of “soft power,” hiding behind the UN Security Council and “international community,” were blown away by the naked exercise of the same kind of extraterritoriality the Europeans used in China a century ago.

Foreign resentment over the NSA surveillance revealed by Snowden has endangered U.S. trade deals with Europe and Latin America.

Everything the United States does, in its attempts to suppress the networked successor society, further undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the world public or its own domestic population, spur the formation of counter-coalitions of other countries sick of the U.S. running the world, and drive mainstream public adoption of encryption to evade surveillance. In every single response to attack, the old hierarchical society further intensifies the contradictions that will destroy it.

In short, the forces of the old hierarchical order — the weary giants of flesh and steel, as John Perry Barlow described them — are hanging themselves with their own rope.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

More articles by:

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail