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[liberationtech] Solutions to surveillance, beyond tech & legal

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Wed Dec 18 08:44:35 PST 2013

Shouldn't there be a pillar of *political engagement* where people get off
the couch and out of their ergonomic chairs as a product of
normative/cognitive et al effects -- that is somewhat to the side of what
we generally think of as "legal/legislative" or "normative" effects but
belongs in its own category as social movement smudging into civil unrest
or asymmetrical actions?

In the age of the "empowered individual" where the NSA is going to the
expense of tens of billions in US dollars to track the actions of
individuals engaged -- in theory -- in this kind of activity, it seems a
mistake to disregard this kind of activity.

We have also the NSA cursing that "Tor Stinks," the FBI tracking pacifist
groups by mistakenly smacking their sites as terrorist cells, the five eyes
hunting journalism couriers -- isn't this the very beating *heart* of
liberation technology?

The chilling effects against organizing nonviolently that are being woven
into the very fabric of our culture and society are tactile.  But certainly
they shouldn't be overlooked here.

We can not rely on elites to fight out these issues in the capitals, in the
courts or in the rarified airs of the net or ivory towers.  Eventually this
has to be brought to the people of our modern democracies -- I believe that
is what the Chinese water torture of these leaks is about, vs the tarball
of Collateral Murder which made little impact on the collective popular
conscience, or six years of Binney and company's pleading for attention
hoping for attention from elites to elites while preserving the dignity of
the corps.

Further, I'd postulate that this is not fully about internet or other
privacy -- even I can't say that.  Privacy is collateral damage.

This is about tens of billions of US dollars in black line budgets gone to
cyberwarfare in the military industrial complex that is plainly under
minimal oversight -- up to six hours a week of congressional committee time
when Congress is in session, under the chair of a rubberstamp at least in
the Senate, for seventeen agencies doing surveillance work -- a mechanism
designed for oversight when surveillance work was intimate, and top secret
clearances didn't involve .5% of the US population and the NSA alone wasn't
the largest employer in the state of Maryland.

As is true in most major political trainwrecks in DC, this is about power,
money and influence on a grand scale.

During the Bush administration, W's director of national security was Mike
McConnell.  W's dad was longtime hardcore head of the CIA before he had
been president, so intel was a family business.  Mike convinced W that
cyberwarfare was the direction for the beltway,  and W approved it.  Mike
went on to create a major initiative to help businesses on the beltway
transition away from aerospace and so on to cyberwarfare, pushed bills in
Congress, and then took the revolving door to become a major executive at
Booz Allen Hamilton -- making him Snowden's boss a couple times removed.

This entire affair is President/General Eisenhower's warning regarding the
political potential of the military industrial complex come to roost.

I'd invite you to consider that people do not spy without incentive, they
do not grab power without incentive.  Follow the money.  Track power.
 Consider motivation.  Don't villify people in cardboard ways.

This is a game of thrones -- history doesn't end in history books.  People
are still motivated by power, money and influence.  They are not "bad"
people usually -- truly psychotic people are rarely stable enough to hold
positions of leadership.  But they are venal, greedy, power hungry, and
highly directed in their goals.

Psychologists tell us that 4% of the population are sociopaths, and 20-25%
of CEOs are sociopaths -- by their definitions, a sociopath is someone who
feels no inherent remorse or inhibition in breaking social norms to achieve
a goal.

Recently I've been discussing this with my own therapist.  I suspect that
psychology is missing something, being a person with a cogsci background.
 The hypothalamus inhibits social behavior by giving us signals of shame
and submission when we break social norms as social mammals -- I suspect it
has a lot to do with sociopathy.  But I also suspect it has a lot to do
with social reformers, who break social norms for altruistic ends, or law
enforcement or military people who break social norms to protect and serve.

A sociopath-for-good is a post-conventional thinker working for social
change -- this would be a great many readers of this list.

Foxes, hounds, sheepdogs -- we are those who work at a metalevel above the

But there is a herd.  It's neurochemical and taboo to talk about it.  Most
people don't want to be seen as sticking their heads up.  They don't want
to take risks. They don't want to be part of a movement.  They just want
comfort and to be part of a well-kept social system.  Their hypothalamus is
well ordered as social mammals.

Increasingly neuromarketing -- which is not only used by marketers but also
by political campaigns and entertainment groups -- is working to integrate
knowledge of brain science into their various campaigns.  Since around the
Clinton administration (and I used to be State Democratic Committeewoman
for Oregon, worked on the Dean Campaign, been a lobbyist in DC, done oppo
research for others, and ran a mayoral campaign for Portland OR, so I've
had some privileged conversations here and there...) more and more
campaigns have been run on marketing models more or less rather than issues
-- issues provide plausible deniability.  Transmedia would be a better
model these days -- and more bluntly, one might call it a convergence of
reality engineering among marketing, entertainment, and politics in terms
of technology.

What we are looking at, increasingly, is infowar, as a transition from cold
war, on our own people, on everyone.  Morlocks and ooloi.

I position myself as an anti-obscurantist in this war, although I wonder if
that's a welcome position to anyone involved.

"We don't have to be sheep!" is rarely a welcome message.


On Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 10:40 AM, Nick <liberationtech at> wrote:

> Quoth Joseph Lorenzo Hall:
> > Are there other kinds of normative/cultural/meme-worthy things we can
> > collectively try to instill in folks?
> I do think "safety" is a word we should use more often.
> I really like how Schneier in the last few years has been talking
> more about how people under surveillance tend to act more
> normatively, which is crap at a societal level, but I'm not sure
> whether that could be turned into one memorable sentence. It sucks
> that we have to try and 'win' with slogans, but that's how people
> are used to political 'debate' these days. Grumble grumble...
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Shava Nerad
shava23 at
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