Three thoughts on WikiLeaks

A few recent discussions on WikiLeaks has made me collect my thoughts on the website. Since I’ve changed my mind in the past, I’ve found it interesting to jot down my thoughts in a searchable, archived manner, so I can look back and see when I changed my mind. Which I’ll do now. So here are my three things about WikiLeaks:

I abhor anyone who tries to close WikiLeaks through force, political pressure, threats or circumvention of the law. If anyone is to blame for a leak that shouldn’t have gotten out, it’s the source of the leak, i.e. the person who uploaded files to the WikiLeaks website.

I’m not a particular fan of WikiLeaks, or Julian Assange. Neither of those things matter, because no matter how much Assange wants it to be about him, it’s really not.

Because the thing about WikiLeaks is that — like Pandoras Box — once opened, you cannot close it again. You can’t bring back a file an embassy once it’s been mirrored. You can’t unsee a cable once read. You can’t unleak a leak; once the snow is yellow, it’s yellow until we don’t care about it anymore and it melts on its own. It’s so easy to build a WikiLeaks-like website — it’s so easy to make leaking 100% anonymous. Even if Joe Lieberman and team PayPal somehow managed to close down WikiLeaks and all its mirrors and delete all leaked cables and documents, a new leak site would spring up like a mushroom. Whether you, I, or the government like this or not, this is now the world we live in. There’s no going back. The only way to move forward is for governments to conduct business in a way that survives transparency.

Irish Atheists Publish 25 Well-Known Blasphemous Quotes To Test Ridiculous New Blasphemy Law

January 1st, a brand new blasphemy law takes into effect in Ireland, in which it’s now criminal with fines up to 25.000 euros for:

publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted

In response to this Orwellian feat, a group of Irish atheists have gathered 25 blasphemous quotes to challenge the law, including:

Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.

— Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979.

Copenhagen: Police State (Meidell Vs. Doctorow)

This morning saw a rather interesting discussion between my friend and colleague Brian Meidell and esteemed Boing Boing co-editor, Cory Doctorow. The debate is whether Denmark has turned in to a police state, spurned by the world-wide reports of police violence and human rights violations. With permission from Brian, here’s a transcript:

brianmeidell: @doctorow (Re: http://bit.ly/87GckE) I’m disappointed – I thought you were smarter than buying into such a ridiculous load of crap.

doctorow: @brianmeidell If by “ridiculous load of crap” you mean “being offended by gross human right abuses” prepare to be disappointed further

doctorow: @brianmeidell And if you mean the indisputable fact of anthropogenic climate change, be prepared to be grossly disappointed

brianmeidell: @doctorow I mean the wildly overblown “brutal new Copenhagen police-state” demagoguery

brianmeidell: @doctorow On the climate change, I am with you 🙂

doctorow: @brianmeidell Kettling thousands of demonstrators in <0 weather for hours without charge until they pissed themselves isn’t police state?

brianmeidell: @doctorow No, it’s the police doing the best they can on a scale they’ve never dealt with before, trying to avoid a repeat of “Ungdomshuset”

doctorow: @brianmeidell Cop15 was announced yrs ago. If the best cops can come up with is “freeze motionless and risk hypothermia” they’re not trying

brianmeidell: @doctorow I didn’t say they weren’t incompetent, but there’s a far cry from that to a brutal malignant police state.

doctorow: @brianmeidell Gross negligence is no excuse for gross, mass-scale human rights abuses.

doctorow: @brianmeidell The Iranian cops could say the same thing: “we beat up everyone because we lack the resources to figure out who to beat up”

brianmeidell: @doctorow Yeah, Denmark is right up there with Iran. I’ll let it rest, but I thought you were capable of more nuance than that.

doctorow: @brianmeidell I’m sure nuance was a great comfort to peaceful protestors who were abused by the thousand. No toilets, but lots of nuance.

doctorow: @brianmeidell What’s a matter, kid, are you freezing because the policeman won’t let you move? Here, have some nuance. It’ll keep you warm.

doctorow: @brianmeidell Don’t worry, it’s not abusive and totalitarian when *we* do it. We’re nice, civilized northern Europeans.

doctorow: @brianmeidell That scalp wound will heal quickly, because we only use nuanced batons to beat protestors in Denmark.

brianmeidell: @doctorow So if pissed pants make all of Denmark evil and totalitarian, what does burning cars and vandalism make the protest movement?

doctorow: @brianmeidell Broken arms, broken bodies, human rights abuses of the innocent majority are not justified by vandalism of the few

doctorow: @brianmeidell It is the mark of a totalitarian state to punish the innocent to get at the guilty

doctorow: @brianmeidell The Geneva Conventions ban collective punishment as an inexcusable and great evil

doctorow: @brianmeidell Forcing people to soil themselves as a form of punishment is also prohibited by conventions banning torture.

brianmeidell: @doctorow So you are incapable of allowing for mistakes being made? People pissing themselves _must_ be intentional and malicious?

doctorow: @brianmeidell Extrajudicial physical punishment by the police for crimes against property is not the hallmark of a free and just society

brianmeidell: @doctorow Protesters burning shit is “of the few”, but a single hair bent on a single protester automatically makes a brutal police state.

brianmeidell: @doctorow You seem to think that the police are perfect and robotic, rather than people capable of fucking up as well as anyone.

brianmeidell: @doctorow People freezing and pissing themselves is most likely a product of poor administration and logistics problems, rather than malice.

brianmeidell: @doctorow If someone did something inordinately stupid, malignant or incompetent, they will probably be punished for it.

doctorow: @brianmeidell You seem to believe that the responsibilities of the state are the same as the responsibilities of the citizenry. They aren’t.

doctorow: @brianmeidell This was the largest climate demonstration in the history of the world. There were small, isolated incidents of vandalism.

doctorow: @brianmeidell Danish police responded by punishing all. Failure in exercise of the state’s monopoly on coercive violence is brutality.

doctorow: @brianmeidell Negligence or abuse in the use of force by law enforcement officers is inexcusable.

brianmeidell: @doctorow Yeah, unlike the previous demonstrations were the police weren’t prepared, and half the city was torched and smashed.

doctorow: @brianmeidell So clearly they learned nothing, as they went into this demonstration unprepared. Gross negligence is malice.

doctorow: @brianmeidell “Some other people, years ago, committed a crime, so we will beat the shit out of you.” That’s fair all right.

brianmeidell: @doctorow Because police violence was just so widespread and rampant. I had to paddle through the rivers of blood to get to work.

brianmeidell: @doctorow And please take that statement and bend it to “so SOME police violent is ok”, like a good demagogue.

doctorow: @brianmeidell “Demagogue,” huh? I thought you were capable of more nuance than that.

doctorow: @brianmeidell I’m not the one apologizing for gross human rights abuses on the grounds that it could be worse.

brianmeidell: @doctorow I’m not apologizing for anything – that would require I even accepted your premise of gross human rights abuses.

Point of note: Brian lives in Denmark and works in Copenhagen and I partook in the up-to-100.000-strong peaceful demonstration Doctorow apparently never heard of (pics here). Pity that a few members of Never Trust A Cop can steal all the limelight.

The Incredible Story Of Kopimi, Pirate Bays And The Service That Wasn't There Yet

Kopimi

Have you’ve heard about The Pirate Bay? It’s a little Swedish project to bring bittorrent files to the people. They were sued for it, and unless their appeals work, they lost. Also, by proxy, freeways lost.

It wasn’t a very pretty trial and in western terms, not a very fair one either. Despite the fact that I’m getting older every day now, the “guilty” verdict made me feel young and full of spite again. After all, how could anyone win a trial against a freeway on the grounds that cars could go illegally fast on it? Well look out freeways, you’re next!

On part of the prosecution and jury, there must have been a profound lack of understanding as to how the Internet works. The whole spectacle felt like a trial between the future and ten years ago (and ten years ago won). Politics were involved, I’m sure. So I made a political poster, grossly inspired by Shepard Faireys gorgeous Obama poster, depicting the now former spokesperson of The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde.

I took inspiration from Fairey, not only because his poster is really really incredible but also to add a subtle point to the copyright discussion. Legally, my version of the poster constitutes a knock-off, which shouldn’t get me sued. Yet, it’s clearly inspired by Fairey. Which I deem to be ethically okay, since I’m not passing the style off as my own or being secretive about it. Somewhere along the line, copyright was probably infringed upon. Is it okay for me to do this and if so, when does it stop being okay? Sharing files is not inherently evil. Enter Kopimi, (gibberish for “copy me”), which is a license you put on stuff you want people to copy. Notice how there is one on the poster above: copy it, print it, use it, tweak it, redistribute it. Kopimi is an initiative spearheaded by the Pirate Bay folks, I’ll bet, to provoke discussion on the obsolete aspects of copyright in a digital world. I’ll get behind that. Discussion is good. Hence this poster.

Sharing Transformers 2 on The Pirate Bay is both illegal and wrong (on so many levels), there’s really very little discussion about that. What makes this debate interesting, however, is what The Pirate Bay has come to represent aside from piracy. It’s started an entire movement in Sweden where a related “Pirate Party” has been voted into the EU parliament. The Pirate Bay has come to represent a modern day youth rebellion against legal dinosaurs who believe that censoring the Internet is a long-term feasible strategy that’s not bound to fail as soon as anonymization technology becomes commonplace. Which it will. Eventually. As such, The Pirate Bay has become symbolic of at least two things:

  1. The schism between how we used to do things, and how we’re going to do things in the future. It’s a fight between those who think what The Pirate Bay does — share links pointing to illegal content — shouldn’t be legal, and those who think it should be. It’s modern day hippies vs. a modern day Richard Nixon. But this time, Nixon is winning.
  2. The not-yet-existing legal web service that offers the same streamlined distribution channels, but with paid-for content.

There’s a giant octopus in the corner. He tells me that in the future, we won’t buy DVDs or physical media. We’ll want things to be digital so that when Universal Soldier 3 premieres on video, we can buy it online and watch it the very same evening instead of order it from Amazon.com and bite our nails for weeks hoping the disc won’t get lost in the mail. The octopus tells me the producers of Universal Soldier 3 will actually earn a larger piece of the pie through digital distribution since they needn’t worry about producing a box chock-full of anti-piracy leaflets and anti-piracy pre-movie trailers. The octopus goes on to tell me everything is going digital these days anyway; photos, documents and files, so why shouldn’t music, TV shows and movies do the same? That octopus has been sitting in the corner for a few  years now, waiting for someone to listen to him.

Steve Jobs has sensed the presence of this octopus. This moved him to bring music to us digitally. Now there’s Deezer and soon Spotify. Very nice, thanks Steve. Similarly, using Steam engines and octopus-inspiration, Valve has brought us computer game downloads in the same fashion. Only, once you’ve purchased a game, your Steam account owns that game forever, just like you would had you bought a boxed copy. Using bittorrent like file delivery systems, you can always re-download your purchased Steam game, should you somehow lose the file.

The prescient octopus told me neither of these has it right yet. He tells me there’s a yet-to-be-created mythical service which allows the whole world to buy music, TV shows and movies, and once purchased, they’re the property of your account forever. He also told me the creator of this service will rake in the cash from the very same audience that currently get their episodes of “Chuck” from The Pirate Bay. By the way, the octopus’ name is “Adapt” and his motto is: “build it, and they will come”.

Nova Documentary On Intelligent Design

It’s no well-kept secret that I’m not fan of the pseudo-science known by some as “intelligent design”, yet it is a guilty pleasure following the ideological tennis match that’s been playing out in American schools this last decade. And so, I loved this — now somewhat old — documentary on the Dover trial on intelligent design. Watch it on your second monitor, and don’t be afraid, it’s got a happy ending.