It’s November 1st. The 2016 U.S. election is now just a week away and yet with all the talk of Russia it feels more like the Cold War. The way you can tell it’s 2016 is that this is the year Wikileaks ripped the curtain back and showed us the toxic beast behind the curtain is not in fact a Wizard but a bunch of elitist political hacks running the Democratic party who out of a twisted allegiance to the Clinton Family, not only walked away from a sure thing with Bernie Sanders but actively colluded to ensure he would fail to get the nomination.
The political and media view of Wikileaks is a far cry from 2008. Back then it was championed for exposing secrets of the war in Afghanistan. Now that its sights on American politics in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, the same people who viewed the organization as a free speech champion now see it as a toxic pariah meddling in the election. Wikileaks’ function and purpose haven’t changed, only the subject matter. If anything Wikileaks is apolitical in that regard.
But if social media and online living has taught us anything it’s that anyone can become a target. This is true for Hulk Hogan as it is for Hillary Clinton and all who emailed John Podesta. Which brings me to Google’s Eric Schmidt. He once famously said “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” In the remaining week before the US election with so many more Podesta emails to be released, it will be interesting to see if that quote doesn’t come back to haunt him.
[Editor Charlie sez: This MusicTechPolicy.com post from April 28, 2013 may be worth reviewing given the news that Lessig is about to take over the Icelandic government through his Pirate Party vehicle. The latest Wikileaks release shows the contempt in which Lessig is held by leading progressives and the Clinton Campaign (not to mention Lessig pal Zephyr Teachout) and how quickly they are scampering to publicly embrace him, which of course feeds his ego beyond category. You can read Lessig’s defense of Wikileaks from 2010 in this podcast transcript from the Berkman Center.]
“Pirate utopias” have been a twenty year fascination with the anti-copyright crowd, spillover from the “information wants to be free” cult. The anarchist Peter Lamborn Wilson writing under the handle “Hakim Bey” wrote what is probably the best known book on the “pirate utopia” under the title “The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism” (1991) or, as it is known perhaps affectionately in hacker circles, simply “TAZ.” (I for one am not quite sure what makes “poetic terrorism” different from unpoetic terrorism, utopian terrorism, anarchic terrorism, or just plain old terrorism, but I’m sure someone at Harvard knows all about it, thank goodness.)
If you were paying attention to Julian Assange over the last few years, you would have heard echoes of the TAZ in his speech at the 26th Chaos Communication Congress in 2009, the hacker convention in Germany (named after the Chaos Computer Club as documented in the cyber espionage non-fiction book, “The Cukoo’s Egg“). The TAZ influence is especially prevalent in the Wikileaks “Here Be Dragons: Going from Defense to Attack” project to create an “offshore publication center” to provide a specialized set of laws that would allow Wikileaks to do what it does–a permanent TAZ that Assange identifies as Iceland in this case. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the current leader of the Iceland Pirate Party, has skipped around a bit politically, but was (and is) a leading defender of Wikileaks. She also was one of the founders of “The Movement” that morphed into the “Dawn” party. She also sponsored the “Icelandic Modern Media Initiative” that essentially codifies Assange’s goals. Inexplicably, Iceland is a member of NATO but has a zero defense budget (meaning that taxpayers of NATO member countries subsidize Iceland’s military defense.)
So the concept has been around for a while–putting servers for various illegal items on Sealand is another example. There is no question that the concept has a serious fascination at the highest levels of Google–see the transcript of Eric Schmidt’s recent meeting with Assange, for example, in which Assange asked for leaks from Google. (“Transcript of Secret Meeting Between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt [and Schmidt golden boy Jared Cohen“] http://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt#700)
Leaks of what information, exactly? Not clear what Google the government contractor might be thinking of leaking–Schmidt tells Assange “we are obviously sympathetic” to Assange’s views. But it’s not much of a leap to see that Google thinks of itself as a kind of pirate utopia given Schmidt’s abiding and public disregard for the laws of nation states. (Or as Susan Crawford once famously said, they want to “geek around the nation state.”)
So it should not be surprising to see that the Pirate Bay has found a home in Iceland from which it can continue its efforts to rob artists blind, which crass commercialism will no doubt continue to be wrapped in some civil liberties agenda. And curiously enough, harboring these criminals comes just as the Pirate Party–no connection, remember–gets 3 seats in the Iceland parliament.
When you realize that Assange has been working at this for nearly a decade, it should come as no surprise that Iceland is the home of state sponsored theft. Just wait for the no prescription pharmacies.