WikiLeaks is the perfect storm for all past issues on the net, but I'm afraid it also will draw us into a future that I've believed was coming and didn't want to talk about. We don't like to think about how much our civilization depends on the proper running of computer networks, and how vulnerable they are. Whoever it is that attacking Mastercard and Paypal are anonymous. They could be teenagers (that's what we hope) but they could also be professionals working for foreign governments, or even the US government.
I watch my friends root for the attackers and think this is the way wars always begin. The "fighting the good fight" spirit. Let's go over there and show them who we are. Let's make a symbolic statement. By the time the war is underway, we won't remember any of that. We will wonder how we could have been so naive to think that war was something wonderful or glorious. People don't necessarily think of wars being fought on the net and over the net, but new technology comes to war all the time, and one side often doesn't understand.
However, there is another side to it. The United States has been tempting someone to do this to us. The Internet and thumb drives posing as Lady Gaga music made it possible to move around massive amounts of sensitive information. Anyone who is skilled at using the net has been burned the way our government is now getting burned. And we've been pushing around governments and their people, and it's no surprise they resent it. We're afraid to see what our government has been doing in our name. That's why we should see it, and why WikiLeaks must be allowed to proceed, without impediment.
On Saturday, the Personal Democracy Forum is hosting (what I call) a flash conference to discuss the issues swirling around WikiLeaks. It's all moving so fast that it's hard to know exactly what we'll discuss there.
When we meet on Saturday I'm going to say the Internet no longer has to fight for a right to exist. The people want it. But what kind of Internet we get, and what kind of government we get, those two things are now very deeply intertwined, and absolutely not decided. And how our financial system functions, that's going to be what the war is fought over, if we can't avoid having a war -- which we should, if we can.
In the meantime, highly recommend listening to Glenn Greenwald on today's Brian Lehrer show on WNYC. As with most of the mainstream press people, Lehrer can't wrap his mind around the idea that what WikiLeaks is doing and what the NYT and Guardian are doing, are exactly the same. Whatever punishment or banishment you advocate for WikiLeaks, you must also want for the professional news orgs. Greenwald, always tenacious and brilliant, holds the line, with tenacity and brilliance.