Until three weeks ago, Aaron Bady was a blogger with limited reach. His post Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” written from his Mac laptop in Berkeley (Bady’s a final year PhD student in African Literature) sent his stats skyward and altered the way journalists were thinking about Wikileaks … even if they still shied away from the type of analysis Bady eschewed.
Alex Madrigal (another remarkable writer of insight and entertainment) explains in The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage, The Atlantic, how Bady’s work was spread, read, answered and commended by bloggers and mainstream journalists alike.
Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” is as simple as it is opinion-shaping. In the spirit of Wikileaks, Bady relies on two primary sources by the same author and of the same year – Assange’s State and Terrorist Conspiracies (2006) and Conspiracy as Governance (2006) (both available in this single PDF).
Bady breaks Assange’s writing – which should feasibly be interpreted as an underpinning to Wikileaks’ philosophy – into pieces, making it digestible; making it illuminating:
[Assange] decides that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in [Assange’s] words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire:
The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.
The leak, in other words, is only the catalyst for the desired counter-overreaction; Wikileaks wants to provoke the conspiracy into turning off its own brain in response to the threat. As it tries to plug its own holes and find the leakers, [Assange] reasons, its component elements will de-synchronize from and turn against each other, de-link from the central processing network, and come undone. Even if all the elements of the conspiracy still exist, in this sense, depriving themselves of a vigorous flow of information to connect them all together as a conspiracy prevents them from acting as a conspiracy.
Theorised and defined as conspiracy, Wikileaks’ challenge to – and Bady’s distillation of – the structure of secret diplomatic communications compliments David Campbell’s analysis of a networked world. It also precedes my comment to Campbell; that the praxis of government, corporate and public relations will change drastically in the wake of Cablegate and Wikileaks. In response, Campbell agrees that this maybe inevitable.
Hopefully the implications of Wikileaks will be a transparent future for the betterment of all; the dismemberment of closed and closeted power that operates unchallenged for decades as American diplomacy has.
On a personal level, Bady’s quality of writing is invigorating, and in the larger context it shows how far thoughtful (blog) writing can reach. I need to be careful here as Bady has strong criticisms of ego, journalism and the limitations of thoughtful writers to apply themselves solely to material – as does Assange – but I just want to say that Bady’s piece is not a flash in the pan.
Bady’s writing is of the highest order. I’ve heard many criticisms about Facebook, and many of them very good, but no position has maginified the acute problem of Zuckerberg’s philosophy as Bady’s The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg: What DuBois can tell us about Facebook.
Since the publication of his breakthrough piece, Bady has followed up with tenacious balance and muck-raking in equal measure. As an example, did you know US companies in Afghanistan are pimps for paedophiles? Bady:
As Boing Boing boils it down, we now know that Dyncorp, “a company, headquartered in DC with Texas offices, helped pimp out little boys as sex slaves to stoned cops in Afghanistan.” Not actualy that surprising. What we didn‘t know, though, was that Afghanistan’s Minister of Interior was told to hush things up by President Karzai and that he then requested the American assistant ambassador put pressure on journalists to keep quiet about it, because it could “endanger lives.”