Tech Overload

Mr. Assange’s Digital McCarthyism

January 24, 2011

Multiple Pages
Mr. Assange’s Digital McCarthyism

Upon superficial inspection, still-living superstar hacker Julian Assange and long-dead commie-stalker Joseph McCarthy seem like natural-born enemies and political polar opposites. Technically, the Arctic and Antarctica are polar opposites, too, but are they really that different?

Comparing anyone to infamous anti-communist zealot Joseph McCarthy, as he is popularly understood in pop culture, is to accuse them of being a torch-carrying megalomaniac with a sociopathic disregard for the damage wrought by their ruthless, Spanish Inquisition-style paranoid purges, persecutions, pogroms, and perennial pickin’ on people. “McCarthyism” is considered a smear because we all must admit it was a shameful moment in American history when some upstart cheesehead Senator dared to suggest the American government was being infiltrated with communist sympathizers. Blot from your minds forever the fact that certain Soviet “cables” decrypted after McCarthy’s death seem to have at least partially vindicated him, and let us never teach in our public schools that communist governments murdered at least a hundred million human beings.

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has made it clear he in no way identifies with the alcoholic, hound-jowled, Red-hunting Wisconsin Senator from the 1950s. Last December after Bank of America, MasterCard, and Visa ceased all transactions with WikiLeaks, Assange denounced it as “business McCarthyism.”

Last week, possibly as partial payback, the silver-haired, ferret-faced Assange held a press conference with Swiss ex-banker Rudolf Elmer wherein Elmer publicly handed Assange two CDs allegedly containing confidential banking information on over two thousand super-wealthy international tax cheats. After data-bombing the US military-industrial complex last year, Assange has vowed that he’s now aiming for America’s corporate culture and banking system.

Although WikiLeaks gained most of its notoriety by releasing confidential US government documents, this isn’t the first time Assange has targeted private individuals.  Whereas McCarthy’s enemy remained constant, Assange has pursued an array of targets. His specific crusade may change with the seasons, but the crusading doesn’t. Last year he pissed a steamy yellow data stream in the face of “the government.” This year he’s sharpening his lance, mounting his snowy-white horse, and galloping into battle against “the rich.”

And a few years ago, he employed distinctly McCarthyite tactics against “the racists.”

“In the eternal clash between the right to information and the right to privacy, privacy is doomed.”

The story never got much play in America because it didn’t involve Americans, but in 2008 Assange authorized the release of a private document purportedly containing the names, home addresses, and in many cases the telephone numbers and email addresses of over 10,000 members of the nativist, anti-immigration British National Party. WikiLeaks released the information in violation of a court injunction. Ironically, as Assange remains in England under house arrest for cellophane-flimsy Swedish sex-crime charges, the British may have a more solid criminal case against him for violating that injunction than the Swedes do for when he fucked those two different chicks and then both girls found out about it.

Even though we’re subliminally and overtly trained to deny it, my twisted pink speckled Irish guts tell me that today’s “racists” play almost the identical social role of a scapegoated, stigmatized, ostracized, universally maligned, and dehumanized ideological outgroup that people accused of being “communists” played in the 1950s.

Assange’s stepfather is quoted on Wikipedia as saying, “He always stood up for the underdog…he was always very angry about people ganging up on other people.” But I can’t picture Assange getting very peeved at what seems like all of England ganging up on BNP leader Nick Griffin on national TV. I can’t picture his nostrils fuming at the sight of his fellow info-pirates gloating about how the leaked membership list will allow people to hunt down these bloody bigots and smash their windows. I don’t envision him getting apopleptic over the fact that several Brits claim to have lost their jobs after the list was published. Their tales of woe left Assange so unmoved that about a year later, he released an enhanced version of the list said to contain over 16,000 names and addresses. Late in 2009, WikiLeaks was threatening to release hacked private messages from 11 different white-nationalist groups such as Aryan Nations and Volksfront.

In terms of power, influence, and ability to harm others, it’s a safe bet that Volksfront rates somewhere beneath, oh, the US government. To pretend that Aryan Nations has any sway over international, national, or even rural Idaho government is to…pretend. To think that publishing the home address of some potbellied blue-collar BNP yobbo from Manchester is somehow sticking it to “the man” is to reveal your own head’s stuck so far up your own ass, you can’t see the forest for the plebes. And when careers are being terminated and threats are being made, it’s hard to argue that you aren’t ideologically blacklisting people and encouraging their social persecution. Hence, McCarthyism.

I’ve yet to see WikiLeaks publishing the home addresses of anyone belonging to black-power, gay-rights, radical-anarchist, or pro-jihadist groups. I can’t recall seeing a single self-proclaimed communist’s home phone number being listed on WikiLeaks. Maybe it’s only McCarthyism when you’re hunting for Marxists.

If they’d leaked everyone on Earth’s phone numbers, at least it wouldn’t have been hypocritical. If they’d kept everyone’s digits private, there would have been some journalistic consistency. But when Assange’s expressionless crash-test dummy face delivers homilies about how truth wants to be free, his definition of “truth” appears to be confined to “any data that will make progressivism’s enemies look bad.” It’s a highly selective version of truth rather than the whole big unmanageable shebang.

And make no mistake—the whole big shebang is unmanageable. Many of these vaporous constructs known as “freedoms” and “rights” are irreconcilable. Assange may feel he has the freedom and right to publish details from international high rollers’ bank accounts, but doesn’t that bump heads with their privacy and property rights? Why is the anarchist Assange suddenly concerned with forcing people to pay taxes to corrupt, warmongering statist entities, anyway? What about the ideological rights of some British factory worker concerned about his livelihood? Shouldn’t he have the freedom and right to associate, or not associate, with whomever he wants? Shouldn’t he have the right to live free from worrying that some skinny radical jackass with a black bandana covering his face is going to throw a petrol bomb through his window?

By publishing private membership lists, isn’t Assange imposing his own control-freak version of oppressive “surveillance culture” on those whom he finds politically distasteful? Is it really that far removed from the Watergate burglary or China’s recent attempt to hack Google’s databases for lists of anti-Chinese activists?

In the end it’s meaningless to draw distinctions between whistleblowers and tattletales, truth-tellers and snitches, earnest investigators and sadistic voyeurs, reporters and stalkers. No matter what the leaker’s motivations, the day is nigh when everyone will know everything about everyone else and we’ll need to stay awake watching the watchers who watch those who are watching over us.

In the eternal clash between the right to information and the right to privacy, privacy is doomed. At Assange’s recent bail hearing, he requested that the address where he’d be staying under house arrest be kept private. His request was denied.

Governmental transparency will come marching hand-in-hand with private transparency. Assange seems to believe that technology will ultimately free us. I tend to side with Ted Kaczynski’s dystopian prognosis—technology will leave us with nowhere to hide. Assange likely views himself as a freedom fighter, but he may be an unwitting facilitator of our inevitable technological enslavement. I fear we’re all being systematically fed into the “cloud” as if it were a giant holographic wood chipper, and there’s no turning back. In a hundred years, what we commonly think of as “the self” may no longer exist. Biometric technology may have advanced to the point where our DNA sequences and even our thoughts are all an indelible matter of public record. We may reach a point where everything in existence has already been leaked and will always remain leaked.

It sounds like a bad science-fiction novel. So did this back in 1975.

 

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