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Surveillance by agencies such as the NSA and FBI has serious consequences at a very deep level for democracy. Neil M. Richards (Washington University Law) exchanges views with Danielle Keats Citron (U. Maryland Law) and David Gray.

The link was suggested by a commenter on the Guardian boards, Sybil Sanderson, in comments to an interesting article stating that the NSA has confessed to searching out to three degrees of separation.  

Why is surveillance bad? The instinct is to imagine that it instantly results in "an Orwellian dystopia." But there's a self-correcting feature to it: at some point, such societies collapse, bereft of the creativity and dynamism that open societies enjoy. For many decades, for example, the United States enjoyed the talents of scientists fleeing from authoritarian and totalitarian societies. Those societies were accordingly diminished.

Now Neil M. Richards (Washington University Law) has written "The Dangers of Surveillance," and this was responded to by Danielle Keats Citron and David Gray of the University of Maryland law school. The following represents my synopsis, including some editorializing for the purpose of clarification. I've also eliminated references to footnotes.  

Richards defines two dangers:

1. Surveillance changes the ways that people study, interact, and even think. Debate needs to be open enough to surface ideas that are wrong or even dangerous, so that what is beneficial can be exposed. Therefore, the creativity necessary for a technologically progressive is stifled, and social stability is threatened as social problems may fester. Indeed, there may even be a threat to intellectual property rights, since surveillance is conducted by private actors with financial motives.
2. A government by blackmail is likely to emerge. In what I otherwise regarded as an undistinguished diary, Kossack Hamden Rice nevertheless presented a good description of how information was used to manipulate and control even the governing class. But even if abuse of surveillance is not carried to that extreme, the potential exists for "discrimination, coercion, and threat of selective prosecution."  

Richards then proposes four principles to guide regulation of surveillance:

1. Public and private surveillance should be considered as halves of the same problem. This is especially germane since governmental surveillance is often done by private contractors.
2. Programs of secret surveillance should always be illegal.  
3. Total surveillance (by which he presumably means surveillance lacking a specific warrant) should always be illegal.
4. Finally, surveillance is inherently harmful. Therefore, it can only be conducted to the extent that the harms are balanced by concrete benefits.

Richards defines surveillance as the systematic, routine, and purposeful attempt to learn information about individuals. The purpose is often to control the individual. Surveillance is comprehensive, conducted by both private companies and by the government. It invades telephone conversations, any Internet activity, social networking, and reading of electronic books. Our faces are tracked with visual recognition software. We are tracked by our GPS devices. The government gives away our information to private companies, such as when it gave license plate scans to insurance companies. We even consent to some forms of surveillance, in what Richards calls "liquid surveillance."

Our legal protections are few:

"American law governing surveillance is piecemeal, spanning constitutional protections such as the Fourth Amendment, statutes like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), and private law rules such as the intrusion-into-seclusion tort. But the general principle under which American law operates is that surveillance is legal unless forbidden." (emphasis added)
Indeed, even if there is an attempt to keep the results of surveillance secret, information leaks out. In former communist states, people are still being blackmailed or harmed by information from the files kept by the secret police. As reported in an interview of James Corbett on PressTV, it has even been alleged by NSA whistleblower Russell Tice that David Petraeus was driven from his job by information obtained from NSA intercepts. He also claims that the Supreme Court, the Congress, and even Barack Obama have been blackmailed by the NSA.

Courts have claimed that they have no power to protect us. Indeed, some figures, like Judge Posner think that surveillance is a good thing, since sifting by machine minimizes human involvement, thereby minimizing the risk of blackmail.

Richards writes:

Democratic societies should prohibit the creation of any domestic surveillance programs whose existence is secret. In a democratic society, the people, and not the state apparatus, are sovereign. In American law, this tradition goes back to James Madison, and it lies at the very heart of both First Amendment theory and American constitutionalism itself.
...
The illegitimacy of secret surveillance also lies at the heart of information-privacy law, which remains guided by the “Fair Information Practices” drafted by the U.S. Depa
rtment of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1973. The Code of Fair Information Practices recommended by the Department has continued to influence information-privacy law throughout the world...
...
How can plaintiffs prove injury if the government is not required to admit whether surveillance exists in the first place?
...
Democratic societies should also reject the idea that it is reasonable for the government to record all Internet and telephone activity with or without authorization....Like its precursor, telephone wiretapping, Internet surveillance must be subjected to meaningful judicial process before it is authorized. And such authorization must allow only discrete and limited forms of surveillance. Otherwise, there would be no constraint on the government’s ability to record and archive all electronic communications and read them at its leisure [and thereby retroactively criminalize an individual for dissenting].
...
In practice, this means that surveillance by government that seeks access to intellectual records should be subjected to a high threshold before a warrant can issue. A good model for this rule is Title I of the ECPA,which provides for a more stringent procedure under federal wiretapping law before a warrant may issue to intercept the contents of a telephone or electronic communication. The ECPA requires more than just the standard probable cause requirement that is the constitutional floor under Fourth Amendment law. In addition to probable cause, government agents seeking to tap a phone or electronic communication must also show three other elements:
(1) that the warrant is sought for a limited time [unlimited renewals should not be allowed],
(2) that the interception of the communication is necessary to obtain the information sought, and
(3) that the wiretapping will be conducted in such a way as to minimize the interception of information not relevant to the warrant.
...
For private-sector surveillance, additional statutory procedures are necessary to ensure that intellectual records are handled with greater care by the entities that hold them.
Citron and Gray add material about what happens when the lines between state and federal government dissolve, creating fusion centers and even worse monstrosities:
Consider Virtual Alabama. Google has built a customized database for Alabama's Department of Homeland Security that combines three-dimensional satellite/aerial imagery of the state with geospatial analytics that reveal relationships, trends, and patterns in incoming data. Virtual Alabama can "track moving objects, monitor sensors, and overlay near-real time data sets." Alabama will continue to add inputs,12 but the system already aggregates data from traffic cameras, real-time private and public video streams, GPS location data for police cruisers, building schematics, sex offenders' addresses, and land-ownership records.  The state's 1500 public schools plan to link their video cameras into the system, providing live streaming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Virtual Alabama is also encouraging contributions from government agencies in exchange for access to the system.15 The stated goal of the program is to map all available data in the state.

Virtual Alabama is part of a broader surveillance system sponsored by federal, state, and local governments and their private partners.
...
More unsettling still is the potential combination of surveillance technologies with neuroanalytics to reveal, predict, and manipulate instinctual behavioral patterns of which we are not even aware.  

Citron and Gray point out that there's no clear line on what constitutes intellectual privacy. Is the fact that you call a telephone number repeatedly and no one picks up something that should be public information? If you post to video game boards, is that fair game for law enforcement? So they believe that the focus of legal protections should be on the extent of surveillance. In Virtual Alabama and fusion centers,
What is troubling about these technologies is not what information they gather, but rather the broad, indiscriminate, and continuous nature of the surveillance they facilitate.... Fusion centers rely upon data-broker dossiers....
They cite  Samuel Warren's and Louis Brandeis' article, "The Right to Privacy," which says that any device that records activity inhibits human development.

There's more, but I am out of time.

A key point that I would add is that what has changed in the last decade is the ability of the government to sift and store much, much larger amounts of data than they used to be able to do. This is creating dangers, such as retroactive criminalization of a person, that did not exist previously.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Your key point is scale, speed and intensity. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII, Dumbo, PeterHug, CroneWit

    And comparing it to anything in the past is like comparing a super-computer to an abacus.

    I don't think there is recovery once it's fully in place given the disparity of power between those running the big computers and having the big guns and those who do not hold such power.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 10:36:53 PM PDT

    •  It's never unrecoverable (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, k9disc, CroneWit, Phoenix Woman

      East Germany was under absolute control, and it is now part of a democratic nation. Why? Because East Germany, like the rest of the Soviet bloc, collapsed.

      Why did it collapse? Because surveillance is incompatible with a productive, harmonious society.

      But I certainly hope that the US does not have to pay the price that East German did to regain its freedoms. That price was very, very, very high.

      •  West Germany also paid (0+ / 0-)

        Absorbing East Germany almost overwhelmed a thriving economy as I recall. South Korea took note as it has been written . South Korea sees unification as  noble goal, they just can't seem to figure out how to get there without enormous violence and millions of economically ravaged people having to come into S Korean's economy without collapsing it.

        Could the USA split in two over something like this? It seems radical but then again, we haven't begun to see what "this baby can really do" once the Utah Facility has opened and the power of the computers evolve.

        Note: People have mistakenly written  that the Utah facility, opening in two months, is a huge storage station . What has been glossed over is the size computers they are using to take encrypted messages and break them by brute force. Seems impossible now they could do it with millions a day, but lets look at it again in five years.

        “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

        by Dburn on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 11:56:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Adding... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      k9disc, CroneWit

      Yes, scale, speed, intensity are the key points. Citron and Gray point out that if people think there's only a small chance that their actions will be recorded, they will act normally. But once they believe that it's likely they will be recorded, they change their behavior.

      One can add that if they think they can escape surveillance by doing what they want to do somewhere else, they will do so. Soviet citizens used to go to parks and other public places to escape the concentrated surveillance their homes and offices received.

      So scale (the total geographic and temporal extent of surveillance), speed (the rapidity with which records can be searched), and intensity (the range of activities which are regarded as suspect) definitely amplify the damage surveillance inflicts on an open society.

      •  This is different. Our entire society is becoming (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        serendipityisabitch

        a surveillance society, never mind the NSA. The internet itself has destroyed privacy. NSA is merely taking advantage of circumstances. In fact, the internet is so efficient at gathering "private" information, the NSA is almost superfluous.

        •  Very expensive to be sure, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch

          but superfluous just the same.

        •  Hasn't the internet been designed to make it so? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, CroneWit

          There are ways to anonymize communications.

          Why aren't they built into the Internet?  

          My answer is that it's convenient and profitable to allow companies to track you and learn your preferences. Just by-the-by, it makes it easy for the NSA.

          The Internet is broken by design, though not necessarily conscious design.  

        •  Do you know the story about how (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CharlesII, CroneWit

          the department of justice harrassed and pursued the author of the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption program?  They didn't want him to distribute it because they thought bad guys (people like you and me) might be able to communicate things secretly that way.  Made his life hell.

          Given that, it's hard to say that that's just the way the Internet is.  When the Internet started, people compared it to "The Wild Wild West" (that was the phrase that was often used) because people could get away with just about anything.  It's not surprising that they scrambled so hard and fast to catch up with the technology and what it allows.  Now they've surpassed us, the people who pay their bills.  

          I don't accept it.  You say what the NSA does is superfluous?  Fine.  Let's shave it down to just the essential nub then, if that's true.  No more of these fucking huge gigantic database centers that they're building, no more splitters at all the main backbone portals, no more FISA court, and no more secrecy.  Do it all out in the open.  

          •  The private data collection, too, Dumbo (0+ / 0-)

            A lot of why the Internet is broken is to accommodate private interests.

            Buy a wrench and the next thing you know you're served with ads on tools. Ads for tools show up in your mailbox. Restoring privacy would be awfully easy. Browsers could have ad preferences by keyword. Then no identifiers are required.

            All that spam? That's by design. The people who do that usually have to forge IPs and otherwise commit fraud. But there's no money to prosecute them. Interestingly, Big Pharma uses spam to push consumption of their products.

            Viruses. Is there any reason at this point that there are so many zero day exploits? You'd think that software could be tested before release... and maybe re-written to be simpler and more secure. But that would cost money. And, by the by, really secure software would make it harder for law enforcement to use Trojans, for adware and spyware to be served, and so on.

            Are cookies really necessary? Fifteen years ago, we didn't think so. They were regarded as a form of illegal spying. It's possible to customize the look and feel of a website using cookies that customers consciously put on their computer.

            Encryption should be standard, especially for wireless networks. But, gee, then law enforcement might have to focus on a limited number of suspects to decrypt. Can't have that.

            There are a lot of reasons that the Internet is broken. I don't know that it's part of some conscious plan. But certain players benefit from a broken Internet. And so we never fix it.

            •  I'm not nearly as surprised by the (0+ / 0-)

              corporate internet tracking, businesses like adserver.  Why?  Because they are out in the open.  If they are doing shit that's not out in the open, THAT should be illegal, and the government, too, should have a vital interest in preventing that because it compromises the government as well.  

              But let me make a comparison for a moment.  In London, they have a new thing where they have put spy cameras all around the city focused on the street traffic.  It's monitored day and night.  If somebody mugs you, they have it on tape and often they can catch it in real time and send out a cop.

              That's very, very intrusive.  But it's still not really like domestic spying because EVERYBODY KNOWS.  They can see the fucking cameras.  I would oppose what they do fiercely, but there's a huge qualitative difference between that (and, by analogy, adserve) and what our own government is doing, collaborating with big vendors like Microsoft to put actual secret backdoors into our computers to spy on us.  And you know that if we find out about it and if we start looking for a way to remove those backdoors, they'll first deny doing it, and then they'll change the next backdoor so it's more insidious, less detectable, less removable.  

              There's a difference between that and what they do in London.  It's broken trust with the public that pays their bills.  And it's paranoia inducing, although paranoia might not be the right word because it suggests that there's something factually incorrect about the suspicions that they give birth to.  If the government can spy on all your activity through a computer backdoor, is there ANYTHING that you can feel secure about in your personal life that they can't intrude upon?  Because you honestly don't know.  You can be sure, if there's some way to effect such an incursion into that last bastion of privacy, they have brilliant guys thinking about how to do it.

              •  I think Richards laid out the issue pretty well (0+ / 0-)

                First, do people know where and when they are being surveilled? If they do, then they can plan to do stuff they prefer not being in the public domain somewhere/somewhen else?

                Second, even if they do know when/where surveillance is done, is it so pervasive that there's no real escape?  If so, then knowing is not enough.

                Third, even if they know when/where surveillance is done and even if it's not pervasive, is the benefit from surveillance sufficient to outweigh the well-known costs? Namely the mere existence of any surveillance inhibits spontaneity. This was Brandeis' point: that even photographing your kids playing makes them self-conscious about how they look.

                The London cameras thing is actually a pretty good test case. A privacy group has argued that all the cameras simply do not reduce crime. The Met admits that it takes 1000 cameras to solve one crime. They're effective in monitoring parking lots, but otherwise, not so much.

                I would say that the NSA is the same thing. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on intercepts and they stopped at most a few dozen terror plots (most of which were not likely to succeed anyway). That would pay for a lot of on-the-ground agents.  

          •  The diarist you are responding to (0+ / 0-)

            has a diary up now in which he (imo) counsels complete passivity in regard to NSA's Full specturm Dominance surveillance, going so far as to posit that this surveillance is a part of the natural order of reality.  He is just trying to peddle that position in this diary.

      •  Going places wouldn't work out to well (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CharlesII
        Soviet citizens used to go to parks and other public places to escape the concentrated surveillance their homes and offices received.
        They didn't have small drones yet which will soon be microdrones. They didn't have powerful tiny cameras and microphones along with huge distance mics, with facial ID software that could be static or movable with the use of drones.

        We still haven't got to the point where people are squealing on their neighbors but give it it time. It's not like the Govt hasn't called for it.  There is no difference between this society and others that have suffered through this. Just go back to the McCarthy era here.

        “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

        by Dburn on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 12:00:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Computing power tends to disperse, (0+ / 0-)

      at ever-increasing speed. There is a natural progression toward democratization of it. Like a volatile gas, there is strong pressure outward.

      •  That's similar to Assange's theory (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, CroneWit

        Assange apparently believes that information equals power, and that dispersing information necessarily disperses power. In effect, if everyone knows what's going on, then they will behave appropriately to solve problems. If they do not have the basic data to understand problems and possible solutions, they will behave inappropriately.  

        I think that's simplistic, but it does provide important insight into what he's doing. And there's no question that information is an important kind of power.

        I don't see how raw dispersal of computing power will really democratize. For example, it has been hypothesized that the NSA has compromised the encryption keys in Windows systems. If so, it won't help to have longer/better keys if the NSA already holds them.

        •  Link missing from above (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CroneWit

          "it has been hypothesized" should link here. it has been hypothesized

        •  You can always make bigger keys. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PeterHug, CroneWit

          As key size increases, the amount of work it takes to break the encryption increases exponentially.

          However, there are laws (and we can be sure the NSA had a hand in designing them) that restrict the size of the key that encryption algorithms available to the public can use.

        •  Information gathering is predicated on the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CroneWit

          assumption that humans are creatures of habit. Some are and some aren't. In any event, one-off events can't be stopped.
          I don't think information is power. The sequestration of information is a power play, a kind of deprivation that's designed to inflict damage. Doing it in a virtual environment makes no difference because the effect always registers in the perpetrator's gut. The deprivator feels empowered by depriving someone else of something he doesn't even want for himself. Deprivation satisfies, much as does the lie. Whether or not the deception is believed doesn't much matter.
          In a sense, deprivation/deception are lesser evils. Destruction would be worse. But, destruction, being more obvious, is more likely to be intercepted and stopped. So, deprivation/deception (the destruction of the truth) are lesser endeavors, less risky and more likely to succeed. Oh, and they take less effort. Deprivators are lazy.

          We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

          by hannah on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:40:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  'Similar to Assange's theory' (1+ / 2-)
          Recommended by:
          GoGoGoEverton
          Hidden by:
          CroneWit, 84thProblem

          We'll call it the "Rape-Fugitive Hypothesis".

          •  C'mon, Rei, go for another Godwin (0+ / 0-)

            Assange is a psychotic mass murderer!

            He has started a World War!

            He rapes children!

            These are things you have tried to claimabout Assange by comparing him to figures like Charles Manson, Roman Polanski, and Benito Mussolini.  

            If you could find any single on-topic, constructive thing to say about surveillance, this would be forgivable. It is indisputably a lame attempt at thread hijacking. But it is starting to look like thread stalking.

            If you try it in any future diaries on surveillance, I will post a note in the diary asking commenters that any personal attacks on Assange be Hide Rated.

            You don't want that. I don't want that. So say something useful about surveillance. You can throw in your ad hominem about Assange inter alia and I won't care, but I resent people who do not care about the topic of the thread and are just here to start a flame war.

            •  Your straw man could use a little more straw. (0+ / 0-)

              I'm sorry, but my browser doesn't understand your link.  I presume you were trying to link to a post where I rebutted precisely what you're repeating here?  

              You were saying that we should overlook the fact that Assange is running from a serious crime and just pay attention to what he is talking about, treating him as the spokesman of a movement as you're doing.  I ask if you do that with anyone else, or just people you like, and brought up three examples (none of which were Hitler) of people who committed crimes but also had other achievements and asked whether you would apply the same standard with them concerning their other achievements.  You start screaming Godwin and refusing to address it further.

              It's a serious issue.  Your treatment of Assange is like inviting Hans Reiser to speak about filesystems while he was on trial and saying, "Meh, whether he murdered his wife is off topic, the guy's a filesystem expert!"  It is wrong to turn a blind eye to a person's crimes and keep treating them as the spokesman of a movement.  And Assange is a rape fugitive running from what multiple courts have found is probable cause that he raped a girl and, towards another, unlawful sexual coersion and two counts of molestation.  But you're more than willing to just overlook that because you like the guy.

              I'm not.

              If you could find any single on-topic, constructive thing to say about surveillance, this would be forgivable.
              "You keep coming here and protesting that I'm acting like nothing ever happened with Reiser.  If you could find a single on-topic thing to say about filesystems, this would be foregiveable."
              If you try it in any future diaries on surveillance, I will post a note in the diary asking commenters that any personal attacks on Assange be Hide Rated.
              Oh, great.  Now anyone who's upset by the wilful ignoring of rape is to be hide rated!

              I'll repeat: if Assange was a football star and someone came here talking about how good of a player they are, someone on DK complained that they were ignoring the rape, and the fan responded like you do (including, I should add, your previous record of trying to make out the rape charges to be some laughable offense), you'd be run out of the site on a rail.  But because he's Julian Assange, we're supposed to shut up about that whole pesky rape-thing and hang on every word he says.

              Sorry, but that's not going to fly by me.  

          •  Bullshit HR's for mere disapproval. (0+ / 0-)

            It's a bit over the top IMO but I'm pretty sure that's not the litmus test.

            I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life. - Aldous Snow

            by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:14:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Trolling, Mr. Everton. (0+ / 0-)

              Threadstalking and thread hijacking are trolling.

              I honestly don't care what people think. I know and get along with people whose opinions appall me. But I expect substantive contributions in exchange for substantive posts.

              Trolls want none of it. For their own reasons, often purely malicious, they want to stop conversation.

              Hide recommendations are not the end of the world. They are a community's way of saying, "enough. You are not adding to the community. You are subtracting from the community, sowing ill-will."  

              Trolls then either start making substantive contributions or they end up getting voted off the island. It really should never get to that point, but some people feel compelled to behave like asses.

              •  The last two times.... (0+ / 0-)

                I've made long, detailed posts critical of your treatment of Assange as a spokeman, to which you've not responded.  So it's awfully rich of you to come here and then, when I don't write something long, say that that's worthy of a hide rate.

  •  Surveillance is a kind of conspicuous consumption. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ozymandius, CroneWit, spacejam

    Conspicuous consumption is to consume by looking. The problem with conspicuous consumption is that while it leaves the object of optical attention untouched, it is a grand waste of time and, because "appearances are deceiving" likely to produce wrong information.
    Surveillance and torture share a similar problem in that the effects on the perpetrators are negative and the results from the victims aren't positive either.

    There is a practical reason why the Constitution assumes that individual behavior is good, until it is proven to be bad, and insists on the proper sequence of action followed by investigation and then response. Preemptive action is just a waste of energy and time--as the invasion of Iraq should have taught us once and for all. Instead, what we have is Alexander doubling down and arguing that collecting everything would insure a better outcome. Alexander and his cohorts are still in denial that Iraq was a failure from the get go.

    Perhaps collecting easily turns into an obsession whenever the collectors lack processing skills. Collection is driven by quantities accumulated (piled higher) instead of objects to be transformed. Perhaps its a matter of collectors lacking a creative gene. Perhaps the collection of matter, which takes up space, is self-limiting. If so, then electronic data, taking up almost no space, evades that limit. So, the collectors of electronic data can go hog wild.
    Anyway, all obsessions require an intervention to be stopped.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:25:32 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful contribution, CharlesII (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII

    But a bit of editing needed?  Is a word missing here --

    Therefore, the creativity necessary for a technologically progressive is stifled,
    So sorry to nitpick, but it speaks to the sense of the piece.
  •  Spys spy and they are spying now and moving (0+ / 0-)

    to define boundaries in some areas of life.

  •  I found a quote that described in detail, how this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII

    type of surveillance works, and how it facilitates the chilling effect on communication and creativity.

    I think it fits nicely into the diarists discussion in a similar vein.

    The goal of gathering all this metadata, Chris speculates, "is to be able to identify where the ‘hubs’ are, who the people are who sit at key points in networks, helping pass news and messages along, but especially, who the people are who spread ideas and information from one network of people to the next, who help connect small networks into larger ones, and thus facilitate the unpredictable and rapid spread of dissent when it appears.”
    Huffpo--Rebecca Solnit, Prometheus Among Cannibals, A Letter to Edward Snowden

    A lot of this letter was quite flowery, but this quote I felt is a stand-alone statement.

    •  Yes, likely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother

      The use of associative trees is commonly used to imagine that we know what people think, and who we are.

      See David Horowitz, Discover the Network, for the bizarre consequences when done by ideologues.

      •  Thank you for that link. I will. (0+ / 0-)
        •  The link is malformed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GreenMother

          Sorry, the link is malformed. The correct link is

          http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/

          I have to say, it's much more professionally done than the earlier versions. But here are some examples of how whacky it gets:

          Theleft

          [is]calling for a revolution that not only will topple the existing capitalist order and punish its corrupt leaders, but that also will replace that order with a socialist regime where the utopian ideals of perfect justice and equality will reign.
          ...
          seeks to invert the power hierarchy, so that the groups now said to be oppressed become the privileged races and classes (and gender) of the new social order.
          ...
          must cite, as its animating purpose, the promotion of such lofty ideals as “human rights,” “civil rights,” “civil liberties,” and above all, “social justice,” or the “correction” of the free market’s inherent inequalities through political interventions of a Marxist nature.
          ...
          co-opted, in the years following the Vietnam War, the name of “liberalism,”[and more in this vein]
          To the end of protecting America from these Marxist-leftists, Horowitz

          Continues to repeat long-debunked claims about "Climategate"

          Attacks cartoonist Ted Rall for saying that Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis, exacerbated homelessness, caused the deficit to increase, etc.  

          Calls Michael Moore's call for “Slackers of the world, unite!” "an echo of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels"

          Juan Williams is a leftist member of the network. Who knew?

          It includes, on the same list of the dangerous individualswho comprise the "networks" of Marxist-Leninist-antiSemitic-climate scientists figures from Mao Zedong to Kos.

          Kos, Horowitz alleges, has "fuel[ed] questions about whether his endorsement is for sale. .. [and] that the Daily Kos provided favorable coverage to political candidates with whom he and [Jerome] Armstrong had financial relationships....Zuniga wields considerable influence within the Democratic Party."

          In short, anyone who annoys David Horowitz becomes identical to Stalin and Mao. The list of 1,361 names in David Horowitz' briefcase is a very, very strange collage.

          •  Well the good news is this. (0+ / 0-)

            I perk up and pay extra attention when I see stuff like this:

            ...anyone who annoys David Horowitz becomes identical to Stalin and Mao.
            I respect writers more if they just come out and own their emotions about these topics, especially if they also own they lack the evidence to prove it. At least there is some integrity there.

            Otherwise, it's just more violations of Wilson's law.

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