FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Tipping Point

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that when a garment gets so old, attempting to patch it with new cloth will just tear it up worse. The authoritarian state seems to be reaching that point, beyond which any attempt to patch it up or prolong its life just inflict new damage and hasten its demise.

The interesting thing about the federal prosecutions of Aaron Swartz and Chelsea Manning is that the vindictive approach to piling up charges and seeking maximum sentences were calculated attempts to send a message to anyone else contemplating sabotage against the information control regime. But those attempts have done more to inspire sympathy among the uncommitted and galvanize the information freedom movement than to terrify would-be leakers. The only effect the state’s terror tactics against Swartz and Manning had on Edward Snowden was to spur him to get out of the U.S. government’s reach and seek overseas protection, and to make sure his data was dispersed to multiple secure locations, before showing his hand.

Among the general public, the prominence of the NSA and Snowden in the media has sparked increased interest in encryption. Leak websites are putting increased effort into adopting more distributed p2p architectures and better anonymization, making leaking anonymously from within the system increasingly safe. And we’re probably seeing the beginning of a mass wave of cloud-related businesses migrating to servers outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

Thanks to an endless series of leaks about the U.S. spying on its supposedly allied countries and international agencies like the IAEA and UN Secretary General’s office, the affection of erstwhile allies is cooling considerably toward the U.S. and some regional trade deals are in jeopardy. The U.S. expended enormous political capital to have Evo Morales’s plane forced down in Europe — all for nothing — and in the process lost whatever South American public affection not already permanently alienated by Yanqui arrogance.

Most recently, public outrage in the UK over harassment of Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, and the destruction of the Guardian‘s hard drives, in the ongoing NSA saga, probably had a lot to do with Parliament’s unprecedented decision not to carry water for an American attack on Syria. And security analyst Bruce Schneier believes (“Detaining David Miranda,” Schneier on Security, August 27) the public backlash in Britain over Miranda’s detention will make that government a lot more hesitant to do Washington’s bidding in the future.

In the meantime,the U.S. intelligence community’s morale is devastated. NSA campus recruiters have already been blindsided by hostile student questioning that fell short only of driving the recruiters away with actual pitchforks and torches. And now, with the continuing negative exposure in the press, NSA employees around the water cooler reportedly (“If NSA Workers Feel Unloved, Why Don’t They Quit?” Reason, August 26) sound like a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and the Maytag Repairman.

This public cynicism and internal demoralization are further heightened by the death of a thousand cuts Glenn Greenwald and Snowden have inflicted on the NSA and Obama administration. Greenwald’s strategy seems to be to wait until Obama or Alexander make another claim in defense of the NSA, then release another damning document proving it to be a lie.

This, boys and girls, is what we call a tipping point: Everything the state does to suppress leakers and whistleblowers further undermines its moral authority with the public and its own internal morale, leads to disaffection and defection by allies and inspires leaking and whistleblowing on an even bigger scale.

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. 

December 19, 2018
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail