Hey Mr. President, Do IT For The Lulz!

Saturday 11 February 2012

During my days at U.C. Berkeley, in the early nineties, stories about how only the top anthropology and biology students were being wined and dined by CIA and FBI to study cultural propensities in the face of government hegemonic initiatives were bragged around campus like that was the entire point of the discipline. Anyone who has studied anthropology learned early on how Ruth Benedict was courted by the United States Office of War Information (OWI), the predecessor to the CIA, to, ostensibly, determine how the Japanese would respond to the U.S. occupation, there were 500,00 U.S. troops there at the time, and, in a more cryptic sense, how they would respond to our dropping of the atom bomb. Bendedict’s classic entitled, “The Chrysanthemum and The Sword,” documents how her work determined that the people would rather die than surrender.

While Benedict never visited Japan, the war prevented it, she inferred her ethnographic reasoning from tedious interviews with immigrants who expressed dread of her exhausting, repetitive, intrusions into their most personal feelings. The last sixty years have seen this work used from every conceivable point-of-view from the TV show Madmen, to Physicist Takada Jun’s latest work, “The Nuclear and the Sword.” My purpose here is not to debate cultural relativism or the ethics of Benedict’s work but to raise a question about why our government didn’t study other possibilities through the lens of ethnography and scientific journey.

I have little doubt the Federal cops are still plucking the best and the brightest from all our universities but I am still baffled as to why they continue to miss the most important goals we ought to consider for our world today – security in the face of the digital frontier so that a peacetime economy might be established. Is our only motive to control other cultures and take their resources for our own use, which is what I was told we fought the Cold War for – to prevent Russia from doing that to us?

Numbers from 2005 claim we are faced with occupying over 150 nations, with 737 military bases and 2.5 million people. Our overseas bases, according to the Pentagon, contained 32,327 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and 16,527 more that it leased. The size of these holdings was recorded in the inventory as covering 687,347 acres overseas and 29,819,492 acres worldwide, making the Pentagon easily one of the world’s largest landlords.

Yet yesterday, the CIA web site was brought down by young hackers affiliated with Anonymous who explained the reasons of the attack: “We do it for the lulz,” referring to the popular online abbreviation “for laughs.” This was not the first time Anonymous brought down cia.gov. In June, as part of a 51-day-long hacking spree, the Anonymous affiliated group LulzSec took down the CIA’s site for a few hours. The reason was the same, “For the lulz.”

Over at CNET, they reported that they, “pilfered from police and government servers in Alabama, operatives for the group had managed to lift information on 46,000 Alabama residents, including their names, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, criminal records, and license plate numbers, just for being ‘lazy,’ and in protest of Alabama’s House Bill 56, controversial immigration legislation that became law in the state last year, they took down the Mexican Senate and Interior Ministry Web sites, for alleged exploitative labor conditions and business practices at Camimex. It also said it had exposed e-mail addresses from the Mexican Mining Chamber and he group makes a habit of targeting law enforcement and related agencies on Fridays. The same day as the FBI post, Anonymous claimed to have hacked into police sites in Texas, Boston, and Salt Lake City, as well as the site of defense lawyers for a U.S. Marine accused of leading a civilian massacre in Iraq.”

Now no one is saying that all hacks are righteous and in the interest of justice or sobriety even. Yet many of the targeted hacks are, at least in the mind of the hackers, done to show up the authorities who don’t seem capable of handling them. Hackers, like most of us on the Internet, are used to beta test crappy software and used to try to break things so they work better. Hell, there wouldn’t be a Microsoft if it weren’t for that concept.

But instead of poking into the private lives of folks like Steve Jobs, John Lennon and no doubt us, wouldn’t it be smarter for all the government police to start protecting our nation from the real enemies and start showing the world the biggest, richest and smartest people really do want peace and we are prepared to start now? Has anyone in government even offered a rationale for what a peace time economy might look like or how it might work? Maybe if Jobs had lived long he would have grown tired of gadgetry and taken on that project. No doubt he’d have done better than the all police government of paranoia we have now.

My point is this, if you can’t handle the hack, hire the hackers. Instead of chipping away at social scientists to take over the world, hire the young folks who can’t find jobs and are bored with the usual fare allowed them. Make it possible for our young folks to do their magic for good instead of evil. I doubt it, but maybe those bigwigs in Washington can learn something.


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