A kraken, enraged

Paul Raven @ 17-02-2011

This Ars Technica rundown of the whole HBGary Federal vs. Anonymous/Wikileaks thing is really quite astonishing for a whole number of reasons, not least the staggering hubris and chutzpah of Aaron Barr, but there’s also the comparative ease with which Anonymous nailed Barr to his own mizzen. Maybe it’s just me, but the subtext I get from the whole business is that Barr’s desire to “take down” Anonymous stems from a sort of envy and admiration of them; funnier still are the communications between Barr and his pet programmer, who makes no bones about telling Barr he’s walking out onto very thin ice indeed.

Most astonishing of all (though hardly news in this day and age) is the staggering amount of money that shadowy and largely unaccountable outfits like can charge government agencies for work that neither party fully understands or – more importantly – wants the general public to know about. And as Chairman Bruce points out, there’s probably a whole lot more operations just like it that we never get to hear about:

The question now is, do people stumble over the truth here and just sort of dust themselves off and traipse away sideways — or are there more shoes to drop? The furious and deeply humiliated lawyers at HBGary ought to have enough federal clout to pursue their Anonymous harassers and nail them to the barn like corn-eating crows — after all, they claimed they know who they are, and that’s why they got savagely hacked in the first place.

However — are HBGary gonna be able to carry out that revenge attack with their usual discretion — the shadowy obscurity with which they help deny climate change and break labor unions for the Chamber of Commerce? It’s like watching a shark fight a school of ink-squirting squids.

Normally, one never sees a submarine struggle like this. If it does happen to surface, it gets cordially ignored, or ritually dismissed as a sea-monster story. But boy, this one sure is leaky.

Things are getting very permeable of late, aren’t they?


The last pre-Xmas Wikileaks post…

Paul Raven @ 23-12-2010

… well, the last one from me, anyway. As already praised (and disparaged) in the comments to yesterday’s post, Bruce Sterling’s essay on Assange, Wikileaks and all that is well worth a read. Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear I’m somewhat in awe of it (fanboy is as fanboy does), but as always, go read and make up your own mind. What marks it out as unique, I think, is the fact that it’s devoid of both righteous oppositional ire and revolutionary supportive fervour; instead, it’s full of foreboding, a “we could’ve seen it coming, but we still couldn’t have seen what lies beyond” type of thing. All bets are off, unless you’re betting on the very much odds-on prospect of things getting weirder and nastier and faster.

And a related piece for contrast: here’s Thomas P M Barnett – staunch advocate of globalisation and of the US as “sysadmin to the world” – making some points about US diplomacy and transparency that throws Wikileaks-related handwringing from the government into an interesting if unflattering light:

It’s interesting for our president to meet China’s and sign a joint declaration where both sides say they don’t consider the other to be an enemy and then to have a Pentagon-favorite military think tank publish maps of strike sites all over China that we’d want to hit in the opening days of our war with the Mainland over Taiwan.

When you’re that open with your plans, it’s hard to describe anything the Chinese do in return as particularly “provocative.” And yet, we do offer Beijing the benefit of our transparency on the subject.

Me?  If somebody publishes maps of the U.S. delineating all the places they’d want to bomb on the first day of the war . . . I’d take that kinda personally.  No, I’m not naive enough to believe the Chinese don’t have theirs. But it takes a certain chutzpah to publish yours so openly while decrying Chinese “provocations” and “throwing their weight around.”  China hasn’t waged war in a very long time.  The U.S. does so regularly.  Whose maps should we take more seriously?

I know, I know. We must think these bad thoughts in order to prevent their occurrence. I’m sure we have similar maps for every country in the world yes?  Just to be certain?

I’m sure that there’s Cablegate material that makes the US government look like a stroppy manipulative teenager trying to throw its weight around the playground of global realpolitik, but revelations like the above make you wonder whether that image bothers them as much as they claim. *shrug*


Jaron Lanier on Wikileaks

Paul Raven @ 22-12-2010

The Wikileaks story just keeps on rolling, but in defiance of the cliché it’s picking up a fair bit of moss as it goes. At the risk of repeating arguments made, well, pretty much everywhere (and to reiterate a point I made before), it’s quite possible to be supportive or generally approving of Wikileaks as a principle and as an organisation at the same time as thinking Julian Assange to be a serious douchebag who’s responding to the limelight like weeds to the springtime sun… though the caveat there is that most of what we’re hearing of Assange’s public statements is being filtered through other news organisations whose fondness for Wikileaks is less than complete. The truth remains obscure, in other words.

That said, it’s been interesting – and heartening – to watch the results of genuine grassroots action as regards the #MooreAndMe rape apologism campaigns; it’s a horrible way for it to have happened (and a horrible that it should even be necessary), but I can’t help but feel that there’s a good side to the way that discussion and criticism of mainstream cultural attitudes to rape have been brought out from the marginalised sidelines of feminism into highly visible layers of public discourse. Granted, it’s been rather like overturning a rotten log in a gloomy forest, but that’s the price of progress, I suppose; a societal problem can’t be fixed until society becomes conscious of it. Sunlight, disinfectant, you know the drill.

So to the tireless folk behind the #MooreAndMe hashtag, my utmost respect. As hard as it might be to believe for a regular reader of this site, there are times when I realise that the most helpful thing I can do is shut up and let people who really know what they’re talking about do their thing. Perhaps stepping back from the fight isn’t as useful as pitching in, but personal experience dictates that the greatest of harm can result from the best of intentions, and that one learns much more from listening than flapping one’s own uninformed lips.

But there’s one commentary link-out that needs to be made, and it’s to Jaron Lanier’s Wikileaks piece at The Atlantic. I’m by no means in complete agreement with it on a number of points, and there’s a slightly patronising “yeah, I was once naive enough to believe all that stuff, too, but I done growed up” undertone to it that grates somewhat… but of all the negative responses to Wikileaks I’ve read so far, it’s by far the most cognisant of the playing field it discusses, and the first that has really made me think hard about my own stance on the matter. It’s a long one, and not easy to yank quotes from while maintaining context, so just go read the whole thing… whether you’re for or against.


The Net interprets censorship as damage…

Paul Raven @ 10-12-2010

… and routes around it. So runs Gilmore’s old theory, anyhow, and it looks like we get to witness a full testing of it as the Wikiwars roll on. Too much happening for me to be able to do any sort of coherent commentary on it, really; I suspect we’ll still be picking apart the fag-end of 2010 a decade from now. So instead, a bunch of links:

Interesting times ahead…

chaotic system hazard sign


Distractions and derailments

Paul Raven @ 08-12-2010

There are so many damned layers to the Wikileaks story that it’s getting hard to keep track of them all. Assange’s arrest yesterday here in the UK has – quite naturally – refocussed attention on the figurehead rather than the phenomenon, and my inner conspiracy theorist – along with that of about half the internet, so far as I can tell – can’t help but think “well, that’s convenient”.

Complications arise from the nature of the accusations levelled at Assange, however; rape is a contentious issue at the best of times, and when combined with a highly polarising political story like Wikileaks… well, let’s just say there’s a whole lot of FAIL going on, mostly involving pro-Assange folk leaping to the assumption that the charges are trumped up, and a subsection of those folk springboarding from there into the realms of casual and institutionalised misogyny – you know, “liberal laws mean women can call rape whenever they’ve decided they didn’t like the guy after all”, that sort of thing. Assange becomes the victim of the narrative, while his accuser becomes a lying manipulative cock-tease… which is pretty much the standard narrative surrounding rape cases of much smaller profile than this one, sadly. So here’s some much needed sanity from Kate Harding at Salon:

Look, for all I know, Assange’s primary accuser does have CIA ties. Perhaps it was all a setup from the beginning. Perhaps she is lying through her teeth about the rape. Anything is possible. But in the absence of any real evidence one way or another, we’re choosing to believe these guys? Or at least this guy at Firedoglake, who says he’s “spent much of [his] professional life as a psychiatrist helping women (and men) who are survivors of sexual violence” — giving his post a shiny veneer of credibility, even though it’s a pure regurgitation of Shamir and Bennett’s — but segues from there into an indictment of the accuser’s post-rape behavior. She socialized with her attacker again! An expert like him can tell you that real victims never do that.

The fact is, we just don’t know anything right now. Assange may be a rapist, or he may not. His accuser may be a spy or a liar or the heir to Valerie Solanas, or she might be a sexual assault victim who now also gets to enjoy having her name dragged through the mud, or all of the above. The charges against Assange may be retaliation for Cablegate or (cough) they may not.

Public evidence, as the Times noted, is scarce. So, it’s heartening to see that in the absence of same, my fellow liberal bloggers are so eager to abandon any pretense of healthy skepticism and rush to discredit an alleged rape victim based on some tabloid articles and a feverish post by someone who is perhaps not the most trustworthy source. Well done, friends! What a fantastic show of research, critical thinking and, as always, respect for women.

As hinted at above, I’m very much of the instinctive opinion that the charges against Assange are dubious, if not completely fabricated; it really is astonishingly convenient for a lot of people who’d like him out of the way, and the inherent controversy of the crime he is accused of makes it even more so – just look at how the “did he/didn’t he?” aspect of the story is taking the foreground, not to mention providing great ammunition for Assange’s enemies.

But as Harding points out, we don’t actually know… and as such we should STFU and let the law run its course, while keeping a keen eye out for dodginess. My message to pro-Wikileaks people would be this: talk about the leaks, talk about the legality of the leaks, talk about the wrongdoings they expose, but shut up about Assange’s charges. Although the relationship is complicated, Wikileaks != Julian Assange – what the organisation does and what its figurehead does are not necessarily connected. And if you really believe the guy is being framed, then surely you’re playing into the hands of his framers by letting them steer the dialogue and turn it into a very public pillory?

For the sake of clarity: heroism isn’t a get-out-of-jail card. If Assange did what he’s accused of, then he should pay the price for it in the same way anyone else should. Just because he’s doing things you think are important to the world doesn’t make him any less flawed or human than the rest of us. So stop assuming his innocence – if you think about it, to do so is completely contrary to the philosophy of Wikileaks itself.


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