1993-03-01 - Re: Anonymity in the real world

Header Data

From: gnu (John Gilmore)
To: ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu
Message Hash: 683bbf88d5f97d2bfd614796a22cf7ba87e412943c7e7940e3f566076e4c4e70
Message ID: <9303010731.AA18617@toad.com>
Reply To: <9302280259.AA20523@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 07:31:30 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 23:31:30 PST

Raw message

From: gnu (John Gilmore)
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 23:31:30 PST
To: ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu
Subject: Re: Anonymity in the real world
In-Reply-To: <9302280259.AA20523@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
Message-ID: <9303010731.AA18617@toad.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> I want to see illegal, sinister, and evil groups like the Mafia to
> flourish, using new technology like networks to perpetrate their
> patriotic services...

> Although I haven't personally yet had the great joy of this, I can't
> wait to receive an anonymous death threat or ransom notice via email,

> Imagine the splendor of delivering an anonymous note to the mayor of
> New York and the world that in 15 minutes a large chunk under a large
> building, a symbol of international unity, will be conveniently
> rearranged, at only minor risk to nearby inhabitants!  Wow, this could

The person who wrote this stuff hasn't thought it through.  Any of these
things can and do happen right now over the telephone (anonymously)
and through postal mail (anonymously).  Somehow, society has not fallen
into anarchy because anyone can drop a letter in a mailbox.  Why not?

(pause here and actually think about it...)

> Wow, think of what we could achieve and accomplish if we
> completely dismantled the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and my local pig
> trough!

Now you are closer to reality.  It appears that at least the DEA is
getting *severe* funding cuts under President Inhalation.  It's about time
someone fired those thugs.

> 		  For example, I like individual terrorists just as
> much as the organized collections.  They sound like they could be
> really completely uninhibited in their creative grasps of our true
> freedoms, and more numerous with their stellar utilizations.  

There are two problems with terrorism.  The first is that it is regularly
practiced by governments -- against their own populations as well as
against non-citizens -- so governments can't truly be too opposed to it.
I'll give you the definition of terrorism from the CIA in 1980
(as reported by Admiral Stansfield Turner):

	Terrorism:  The threat or use of violence for political
	purposes by individuals or groups ... when such actions
	are intended to shock, stun, or intimidate a target group
	wider than the immediate victims.

("Terrorism and Democracy", ISBN 0-395-43086-0, p. 181).

If forcibly arresting someone and putting them in jail for selling
drugs to a willing buyer doesn't fall squarely into this definition, I
don't know what does.  Every law that Congress passes "to send a message"
falls into this definition -- it's to intimidate a group wider than
the group who will be arrested and tried.

The second problem is *not* that it's too hard to tap the phones of
identified terrorists -- it's that you can't pick out the terrorists
from the billions of other humans.  Even police states have trouble
with this, but they tend to provoke more people to become terrorists.
Anonymity makes it possible (as in alt.whistleblowers) for people who
know terrorists to safely expose them.  Have you noticed that the way
the Feds have attacked the Mob has been by convincing insiders to
testify and giving them untraceable new identities (the "Witness
Protection Program")?

The beauty and the strength of an open society is that it brings all
kinds of problems and conflicts out where everyone can see them and
they can potentially be worked out -- BEFORE anyone sees a need to
escalate to mass violence.  In a rigidly structured society, by the
time the government knows it needs to change, it has already been deposed.

> In fact,
> the potential for individual, unassociated citizens to thwart the
> abuses, and profoundly destabilize the foundations of frigid, faceless
> bureacracies like big telephone companies, and even the government, I
> find spine-tinglingly majestic---it even looks like this could soon
> happen.

It has already happened.  A small number of individuals have done this
-- Freud, Marx, Moses, Jefferson, for example.  Most profoundly
destabilizing ideas are derived from the work of a single mind
(nanotechnology for example).  But most destabilization of
bureacracies comes from ordinary change, not profound change, and
the improved communication tools we're building will *help*
individuals and bureacracies to deal with change.

	John Gilmore