Wednesday, 12 June 2013

NSA PRISM and the attempts to justify it.

Recently I've been watching this unravelling NSA debacle with muted interest, I can't say that anything exposed thus far is entirely surprising, but suspicion and knowledge are two different things, so it's been interesting to watch it move from one category to the other. Personally I'm going to be divesting myself of most cloud data as much as possible as a result of these revelations, but that's another story. What's been most interesting to me is the propensity for people to actually attempt to defend this activity.

There are three posters on hacker news which spring to my mind first and foremost as the most strident defenders of the state whenever some random event arises which displays the government in full hideous glory and reminds people of what they otherwise mostly choose to blithely ignore.These posters are tptacek, rayiner, and mpyne.

Whenever the US government goes into meltdown mode, often instead of just reading all the stories on HN and getting the uninteresting echo chamber of shock and outrage, I will skip straight to just reading the comments of these posters. I do this because although we are diametrically opposed in terms of viewpoint, I do believe them all to be intelligent people and watching how people like this rationalise this kind of behaviour is a very enlightening thing.

The rationalisations almost always come in this flavour; rayiner will state it doesn't matter because it's legal, tptacek will state it doesn't matter because it's of the practical implications of the alternatives, and mpyne will state it doesn't matter because at least things are getting better, or the alternative would certainly be much worse.

In this instance, mpyne has the most interesting response I chanced upon from a day ago where he breaks into listing the spectacular failures and malevolent actions of the US government throughout history, finishing with the classic "At least we're not that bad anymore" finisher.

This is beautiful because it displays just how aware he is of the laundry list of malevolent activity the state has partaken in throughout history, but right at the end when I thought he might recognise this is actually a continuous and repeating pattern he jumps to the conclusion that at least things have gotten better.

I didn't want to reply directly to the comment, as it's now almost two days old and he probably doesn't go fishing through his old comments to respond to them, but just out of curiosity I thought I'd run an experiment on a few entries in that catalog of malice.

Just to take the first three fairly recent examples;

> My Lai

Occurrence; March 16, 1967.
Public knowledge; November 12, 1969.
Government sweeps it under the carpet; December 17, 1971.
Point at which widely accepted as "objectively evil"; 1977 (based on the fact that even the president was pardoning those dastardly draft dodgers at this stage)
Time shift; 10 years.
Continuance; Drone strikes, Targeted killings.


Occurrence; 1956
Public knowledge; 1971
"objectively evil"; 1976 (select committee report castigating the program)
Time shift; 14 years.
Continuance; Aaron Swartz, Weev, Recent IRS Scandal, Wikileaks, Snowden, Manning, the associated avalanche of persecuted whistleblowers.

> Syphilis testing on unsuspecting blacks

Occurrence; 1932
Exposure; 1972
Objectively evil; Immediately
Time shift; 40 years.
Continuance; Overseas clinical trials of experimental pharmaceuticals, Dan Markingson, Raytheon testing torture weapons on prisoners in Castaic, California.

Average time shift; 21.3 years between occurrence and widespread public outrage.

Let's see how history looks back in 22 years or so and sees the events of today as more or less objectively evil than our immediate forebears, these things have a habit of working themselves out slowly in time. The pieces of this particular puzzle are just starting to drop into place, it will take time until all the dirty laundry is aired.

Of course, the one thing I'll bet a large sum of money on is that in 22 years time, if there is still violent, parasitic and coercive government around, it will still be following this time honored pattern of behaviour and people will still be claiming they've evolved from their previous uncivilised state n years ago which they now have abundant historical evidence for.

You think back then they weren't looking back 20-30 years and patting themselves on the back for their improvements? And so on, and so forth, right back until the first warlord congratulated himself on cleaning up the local bandit problem before setting up a protection racket, imagining himself to be an enormous improvement upon the parasite class before him?

It is the nature of the beast, it doesn't get better, it just gets a new suit, a haircut and feeds you a new pack of lies.


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