Anarchists in the 19th and early 20th centuries plotted violence against governments around the globe. Their anti-organization philosophy was attractive to a strange fringe of social misfits. Some recognized the reality of might versus right. Some advocated illegal acts to satisfy personal desires, instead of ideology. Others advocated a vague belief in free love and multiple sexual partners. Their anti-establishment beliefs seemed to parallel the objectives of socialists and communists. Anarchists joined the Russian revolutionaries to fight the Czar.
By definition, anarchists are unorganized. But loosely linked groups of anarchists helped the communist revolution. Less than five years after the Bolsheviks seized power, anarchists were destroyed by the communist dictator’s intelligence service. Arrested, convicted, exiled to the gulag, or executed, the anarchists felt the sting of the dictator’s lash as did the capitalists they despised.
Fast forward to the 1990s, anarchists were like a global mobile party. Dressed in black, faces fashionably cloaked in Palestinian head scarves, they partied at global economic meetings around the globe. Trashing McDonalds was the anarchist statement of 2000.
Then the internet changed everything. Suddenly thin techno-geeks who couldn’t get dates were empowered. They could express their individuality by hacking. They hacked into government systems, commercial systems, stole credit card numbers, and generally wreaked havoc.
Cloaking their hacking antics in some sort of ideology must have seemed like a good idea. Some of them cloak themselves in anti-establishment anarchist robes. Much like the anarchists of a hundred years ago, these cyberpunks seem to be mostly unable to fit in to society.
Ironically, the tools the anti-establishment, anarchist hackers use–the internet, personal computers, wireless communications, and other technology–are the peak achievements of capitalism’s technological and industrial efforts. Without the combination of advanced social and government organizations providing the framework for capitalist endeavor, none of the technology so ably used by the anarchist hackers would even exist.
From the point of view of government and industry security specialists, the Julian Assange Wikileaks story is a nightmare. One of the first rules for any security is control. You need control of the input into the system. You need control of the network itself, the physical wiring or wireless connections. And you need to control access to your system. But the internet has thrived on anarchic freedom.
This relative freedom has worked pretty well up to now. Some countries block the free flow of information. Chinese government wraps any opinions it doesn’t like in a security blanket, behind the Chinese internet firewall. Other authoritarian governments control the flow of electrons through their networks, and control the bits delivered to consumers under their control.
Now, the anarchist Assange has revealed the ultimate vulnerability of the “Cloud.” The current Cloud dreams will dissolve with the inevitable response to the anarchist exposure of massive amounts of classified information.
During the dot.com frenzy of the late 1990’s I was the premier computational linguist recruiter. No one had the knowledge of the specialty, combined with a network of professionals that I did. My business was pure knowledge and relationships. Communicating only on the internet and telephone, I established relationships with businesses that needed computational linguists. They paid me to find professionals who were ready, willing and able to work for them.
Without the internet, I could never have created the business, nor been successful. But at the same time, I had to protect my business from the internet. I kept notes on each candidate and client, candid assessments of their personalities, and personal and professional needs and requirements. If those private business files were exposed on the internet, the result would have been disastrous, to my business, to my clients, and to the candidates.
An early Cloud company offered to put all my recruiting records and communication on their servers, removing the need for me to maintain my own databases in house. It didn’t make sense to me–give up control of the keys to my business, in return for what? I didn’t play, and still don’t. Losing control of the keys to the business, putting confidential details in the Cloud seemed insane.
In the same way, governments and companies’ internal communications and deliberations must be kept secret. These communications are the internal thought processes of organizations. These are confidential for good reason. Public exposure would destroy their ability to operate. Protection of this information is a fundamental right. The U.S. Constitution protects us in the Bill of Rights–the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Assange and his anarchist buddies illegally obtain personal and confidential information from free governments, like the U.S., and from businesses. Like the Russian anarchists after 1917, they may very well soon find the truth in the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because you may get it.”
Although the anti-American forces now sing his praises, it’s unlikely Assange would prosper in a totalitarian society. Imagine how he or his fellow anarchists would fare in a Chinese, Iranian, North Korean, or Burmese prison cell. Assange may soon be begging to spend time in an American prison.