Sunday, April 28, 2019


Quotable: Astro Noise

[Setting: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson discuss information in the Edward Snowden "revelations" from "The adventure of the extraordinary rendition" by Cory Doctorow]

Holmes to Watson: "Naturally, as those agencies have commanded more ministerial attention, more freedom of action, and more strings-free allocations with which to practice their dark arts, Mycroft's star has only risen. As keen a reasoner as my brother is, he is not impervious to certain common human failings, such as the fallacy that if one does good, then whatever one does in the service of that good cannot be bad."


Watson to Holmes: "I know that malware is the latest in a series of names for computer viruses, and I suppose that 'malware implantation' is the practice of infecting your adversaries with malicious computer code."

H to W: "Quite so. You may have heard, furthermore, of Edgehill, the top secret Strap 1 program whose existence was revealed in one of the Snowden documents?"

W to H: "It rings a bell, but to be honest, I got a sort of fatigue from the Snowden news—it was all so technical, and so dismal."

H to W: "Tedium and dismalness are powerful weapons—far more powerful than secrecy in many cases. Any bit of business that can be made sufficiently tedious and overcomplexified naturally repels public attention and all but the most diligent of investigators. Think of the allegedly public hearings that demand their attendees sit through seven or eight hours of monotonic formalities before the main business is tabled—or of the lengthy, tedious documents our friends in Brussels and Westminster are so fond of. If you want to do something genuinely evil, it is best for you that it also be fantastically dull."


[An excerpt from Jacob Appelbaum's "Letter to a young selector".]

In war, surveillance is obvious. Watching an enemy seems as natural as the coming of winter. But even in "peacetime," surveillance is never a matter of peace. Proponents of surveillance often paint a picture of terrorism versus surveillance, when in reality surveillance is used in service of nonconsensual control of all kinds, including extreme acts of terror. It is used to more effectively extract economic value, to squelch dissent, to undermine, and to harm with the information gathered. Those who wield power over surveillance systems will use them to more effectively target, censor, murder, and wage war. Surveillance is violence and it makes other kinds of violence more likely.


Source: Laura Poitras, ed., Astro Noise: A Survival Guide for Living under Total Surveillance (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2016) pp. 42, 44, 156.

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