What hacker-activists have in common with secret services

“WikiLeaks raises the question as to what hackers have in common with secret services, since an elective affinity between the two is unmistakable. The love-hate relationship goes back to the very beginning of computing. One does not have to be a fan of German media theorist Friedrich Kittler or, for that matter, conspiracy theories, to acknowledge that the computer was born out of the military-industrial complex. From Alan Turing’s deciphering of the Nazi Enigma code up to the role played by the first computers in the invention of the atomic bomb, from the cybernetics movement up to the Pentagon’s involvement in the creation of the Internet – the articulation between computational information and the military-industrial complex is well established. Computer scientists and programmers have shaped the information revolution and the culture of openness; but at the same time they have also developed encryption (“crypto”), closing access to data for the non-initiated. What some see as “citizen journalism” others call “info war”.

WikiLeaks is also an organization deeply shaped by 1980s hacker culture, combined with the political values of techno-libertarianism that emerged in the 1990s. The fact that WikiLeaks was founded – and to a large extent is still run – by hard-core geeks is essential to understanding its values and moves. Unfortunately, this comes together with a good dose of the less savoury aspects of hacker culture. Not that idealism, the desire to contribute to making the world a better place, could be denied to WikiLeaks: on the contrary. But this brand of idealism (or, if you prefer, anarchism) is paired with a preference for conspiracies, an elitist attitude and a cult of secrecy (never mind condescension). This is not conducive to collaboration with like-minded people and groups, who are relegated to being the simple consumers of WikiLeaks output. The missionary zeal to enlighten the idiotic masses and “expose” the lies of government, the military and corporations is reminiscent of the well-known (or infamous) media-culture paradigm from the 1950s.”
MORE: http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-12-07-lovinkriemens-en.html

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