Sunday, March 06, 2011

Interesting Piece on Assange

A long article on Assange which links him to the Cypherpunks, an email group which it accurately describes me as having been a fellow traveler of. For the influence of the Cypherpunks, and in particular Tim May, on my views see this piece.

The most interesting part is the description of the tactical theory behind Wikileaks:
The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in the leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive 'secrecy tax') and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaptation.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

(From a 2006 blog post by Assange)
I don't know if it will work, but it is an ingenious idea for creating an institution designed to gradually improve the world.


Skip said...

We have fairly strong evidence that, in fact, it won't work this way. Why? Because if you look at the things Wikileaks has targeted, the vast majority of them are not targeted at 'secretive or unjust systems', but instead at free countries in the West. Where are the wikileaks from China? From Russia?

They basically don't exist which tells me that either they're being censored, or (much more likely to me) they're not being provided at all because the folks who could provide the leaks fear for their lives, and the leaks would do nothing because the population already knows the kind of people in charge.

If Assange and his ilk regularly targeted the 'unjust' like he claims to do then they would be dead. Plain and simple.

Marcel said...

I grew up in a communist country. From my experience, nobody around me ever believed in the state propaganda - nobody said anything about it in public, but we all made fun of it in private. At the time, we were also envious of the free countries like America.

It took me a while to find out that in America, people do believe the state propaganda. It was quite a shock.

Glen Whitman said...

Skip, I think you're just mistaken on the facts. Look up Wikileaks on Wikipedia, and you'll find it was founded by (among others) Chinese dissidents. If you Google "Wikileaks on China," you'll find numerous articles about Wikileaks running afoul of the Chinese government. And here's an article with a list of Wikileaks revelations in 2010; you'll notice that large chunks relate to oppressive non-Western regimes.

Joe M said...

Search for "Tim May" and "" to see what sort of a person he's become.

Anonymous said...

Marcell, Your comment brought tears to my eyes.

TheVidra said...

Marcel, I had your same exact reaction after understanding American society better, but I could not put it into words as well as you did.

Even now, in my country of birth (formerly a communist country looking up to America as the pole of freedom), people question state propaganda and the intentions of public servants on every issue (sometimes they grossly exaggerate with their cynicism, and many times I have to admit it is counterproductive). Yet I still think it's healthier than the opposite extreme, common in places where the fight for freedom is a distant memory only found in textbooks.

Slowly, however, that mistrust of authority is fading, especially in the younger generations - mainly as a result of the EU-imposed dismantling of a good education system. I am not sure if it's a conspiracy, or they just wanted to dumb down the population to sell more beads and shiny objects to a vast new market. I fear that within 2-3 generations our population will become as complacent regarding abusive authority as those in the West.

Joseph said...

Did the CRU data release produce a culture of secrecy that resulted in the notorious "exploding kids video"?

Anonymous said...

Look up Wikileaks on Wikipedia, and you'll find it was founded by (among others) Chinese dissidents.

Actually, you'll find that Wikileaks claims to have been found by a group of people, including Chinese dissidents. However, there is no evidence that any of the supposed founders except for Julian Assange actually exist. See, for example, page 22 of Domscheit-Berg's book "Inside Wikileaks" (where he explicitly questions the existence of the Chinese dissidents, and says he knew Assange to invent fictional colleagues).

Of course there's no proof, but given that nobody except Assange has ever had any evidence of their existence, the most likely possibility is that he was simply lying, in an attempt to attract attention by telling a good story.

Anonymous said...

And here's an article with a list of Wikileaks revelations in 2010; you'll notice that large chunks relate to oppressive non-Western regimes.

Yes, but (after skimming briefly through the list) it looks like they were virtually all based on leaked US cables or military reports. There's no doubt that Wikileaks has told us interesting things about China and Russia, but generally not by revealing classified Chinese and Russian documents.

On the other hand, it's not clear that this is a meaningful comparison. Manning is probably not the only Wikileaks source with access to classified US documents, but he may well be one of only two or three, and almost all of their best leaks allegedly came from him. I doubt Wikileaks will ever find anyone to replace him.