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December 8th, 2010


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09:01 am - Wikileaks
The world is unfolding in the most astonishing way at present. Why has Assange turned himself in to the British police? I think he is martyring himself, and I don't mean that sarcastically. I have always suspected his character is unusual - I don't mean ill or bad, but a little unusual. I guess he will be killed at some point, and I think he must think so too.

I think he put himself up as the face of Wikileaks a couple years ago for strategic purposes (and vanity), and now he is trading in that notoriety for strategic purposes (and to be fair, vanity). Almost as a decoy. Really he is personally unimportant to the process which is underway, which is probably out of any single person's control. It cannot be decapitated using the methods being employed by the authorities. But the authorities do not understand distributed power systems, because they by definition operate under a completely different model. It reminds me of the way that people used to want to identify the women who 'run' feminism - it doesn't work like that.

What this does bring home to me is the strategic opportunity afforded by a feature of the world which generally frustrates me - that official hierarchies are dominated by dumb venal people using their power to impose poor conceptual models. This makes them vulnerable.

I think it's worth revisiting the Adam Roberts novel New Model Army. I think that novel is spectacularly wrong about many aspects of distributed movements, but it also makes you think about the greater intelligence and effectiveness of a non-hierarchical system. Where I think he was way wrong was to make the network a hostile parasite on the general population. Instead networks like Wikileaks are only effective if they are embedded in a sympathetic population (like the French Resistance, the Viet Cong etc). Then you can't contain, because any individual can move in and out of the movement, which is a shape like a wave, rather than a collection of elements which can be neutralised.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:archbishopm
Date:December 8th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
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King and god and sacrifice.
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From:communicator
Date:December 8th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC)
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You mean that's how he sees it? A masochistic apotheosis. I think so.
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From:matildabj
Date:December 8th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes, I love the Messianic take on it. Nicely done.
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From:tehomet
Date:December 8th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
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I think he turned himself in while in England as his options here, legally speaking, are more congenial than they would be if he were to leave the country. I could be wrong. I don't know what to make of the obviously very serious allegations against him. He's innocent until proven guilty, of course, but the timing of the allegations is suspect IMHO.

I disagree with the IRA (I'm a pacifist as well as a nationalist) but having seen them operate, I do agree with your point about the particular efficiencies of distributed movements, of whatever stripe. I also agree with 'that official hierarchies are dominated by dumb venal people using their power to impose poor conceptual models.' and that 'This makes them vulnerable.' (Ironically I'm listening to Sky News as I type, which is reporting on 4chan responding to PayPal's disavowal of Wikileaks by carrying out a DDOS attack on various credit card websites. It's the activism of the future, perhaps.)
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From:communicator
Date:December 8th, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
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Yes, and 4chan perhaps are a bit more like the mad uncontrolled army that Adam Roberts described: basically they don't give a damn about civilians as far as I can tell, and I'd prefer to keep well clear of them. But effective.
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From:redstarrobot
Date:December 8th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
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Agreed, I think he's turned himself in because he doesn't think of himself as a criminal, but as someone for whom the legal system, while annoying and possibly being misused, will work. Turning himself in here isn't the self-sacrificing option; becoming a fugitive from a net he certainly can't escape is. Turning himself in means he's treated as cooperating, has access to a lawyer of his choice in a country whose legal system he understands, and where he has some legal standing as a Commonwealth citizen. Not to mention that running would be confirmation in the court of public opinion that he's guilty, and/or feels himself to be above the law, which is PR he (and Wikileaks) can't afford.

Agreed on not knowing what to make of the allegations and the timing, particularly given the way they were dropped and then reinstated. Something seems a little unusual.
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From:communicator
Date:December 8th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
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I personally think the British State is one of the most likely in the world to Guantanomo him.
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From:redstarrobot
Date:December 9th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
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(I hasten to add that, in my last paragraph, I was not referring to any behavior of the victim's, but to Sweden's waffling on whether or not they actually had allegations to pursue.)
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From:kalypso_v
Date:December 8th, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Because he doesn't want to be Roman Polanski?
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From:communicator
Date:December 8th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
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I don't think he expects to live that long. I may be way wrong here, but that's my guess.
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From:redstarrobot
Date:December 9th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure I know where that perception comes from. He seems like a very ordinary hacker to me, like dozens I've known, who've maybe read a little too much Cryptonomicon and join and/or run some digital rights group. A bit more well-spoken than many, but otherwise kind of a dime a dozen, in the world of serious computer geeks. (The stories about his childhood, not so much, and that may feed into his lifestyle these days, but I don't get any sense of a big martyr complex. Heck, I've lived with guys like him, and life's mostly a strategy game to them.)
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From:communicator
Date:December 8th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Yes I think the focus on Assange is a red-herring. What happens to him is irrelevant. Also whether he has committed a crime or not is irrelevant to the larger question of wikileaks. I think the main charge is continuing to have sex with someone after a condom broke. I don't know if he did that. If he did it was wrong, depending on how it happened. I am not sure how it would play out legally in different countries.

Edited at 2010-12-08 02:54 pm (UTC)
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From:altariel
Date:December 9th, 2010 09:28 am (UTC)
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Destroying Blake wouldn't destroy the Freedom Party.

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