The problem with cyber-libertarianism

Content warning: This post discusses people who defend rape and child abuse.

I read this post by Nick Nipclose about the support given by various cyber-libertarians and "hacktivists" for the "right" to engage in child pornography. Nick catalogues a whole load of key figures in that scene as examples, most of which come from summer 2012. I don't follow these kind of cyber-libertarian circles too closely, so I'm not familiar with all of the cast members in the post. But I think there are some interesting and important messages for those of interested in the nature of radical politics today.

Nick starts with Richard Falkvinge, who in 2012 called on us to fight for the legalisation of child porn. He goes on to talk about some of the people who have endorsed that call, including open source guru Eric Raymond, who argued that "Child porn must be de-criminalized - otherwise, the censorship that child porn laws legitimize will have worse effects than the porn." This about sums up the whole thing. Think what is involved in making child porn, and then imagine how someone can think that some minor civil liberties infringements are "worse" than that. But this twisted sense of priorities, in which "liberty" is turned into the categorical imperative, regardless of who is harmed, is characteristic of a whole breed of politics that seems to be gaining ground today. 

Nick concludes:
Support for child pornography is a natural result of an ideology that places all state authority in the category of evil; if the state can do no right then laws against child porn have no legitimacy. Cyber-libertarians see authoritarian plots behind any tepid legal action, under that train wreck of thought anti-CP laws can only be a step toward Oceania.
Here are some of Nick's examples:*
[Jacob] Appelbaum [tweeted] "Never censor child porn. It's erasing history."... Gary Lord, a former member of the neo-nazi allied Wikileaks party, tweeted his endorsement for legalization of child pornography... The fringe hate site 'Before it's news' endorsed the article describing Falkvinge as "spot on." A putrid anarchist site called 'Attack the system' lauded the article and had a very chummy exchange with Falkvinge in the comment section.
Who are these people? Falkvinge is the IT entrepreneur who founded the original Swedish Pirate Party. Applebaum is a former IT guy for porn company (Here he is, demonstrating "one of the many Fucking Machines that has in its arsenal of sex equipment."**) More recently,  he is a collaborator of Assange and one of the people behind the Tor anonymity network used in the Snowden NSA leak. Lord, aka Jaraparilla, is an Austrialian hacktivist. To his credit, he left the Wikileaks Party when it started endorsing neo-Nazi electoral candidates over Green ones.

Before It's New is a wacko conspiracy theory website. Attack the System, which calls itself "pan-anarchist" and "pan-secessionist", is better classed alongside the crypto-fascists in the so-called "National Anarchist" or "Autonomous Nationalist" scene. (See SlackBastard on their Australian fellow-thinkers and Spencer Sunshine on Rebranding fascists.)

"Balls of steel"

Defending the "right" to film or photograph child abuse and defending their icon Julian Assange from accounting for his alleged acts of rape seems to me related to a cult of masculinity among the cyber-libertarians. When he published his child porn piece, Falkvinge boasted to Applebaum that he was "getting balls-of-steel awards" for it. Of Assange, Lord says "You do not become the USA's Public Enemy #1 without cojones de hierro." And Wikileaks activist Joran Jermas ("Israel Shamir") raves in the misogynist house journal CounterPunch about protecting Assange "from castrating feminists" and thinks that Sweden is in the grip of "a war against males" in which "it hurts your career if you are discovered to be a heterosexual male."


And why is it that there seems to be a correlation between the cyber-libertarians' indulgence of sexual abuse and dipping into antisemitic and neo-Nazi waters?

Assange himself has employed in the Wikileaks project, and remains politically close to, Swedish antisemite Joran Jermas (aka "Israel Shamir"), a racist and Holocaust denier. (See “Assange’s Extrem­ist Employ­ees: Why is Wik­iLeaks employ­ing a Holo­caust Denier and his dis­graced son?” by Michael C. Moyni­han; "Julian Assange and Europe's Last Dictator" by Kapil Komireddi; “Revealed: Anti­semite was key to Wik­iLeaks Oper­a­tion” by Mar­tin Bright; "WikiFascism Part 2" by Dave Emory.)

Gary Lord, in attacking the Guardian for its turn against Assange, said "So what IS their agenda? I don't think it's as simple as a "Jewish conspiracy" - but it's clearly more than just a personality issue." That is, "Jewish conspiracy" is not, er, racist bullshit; it's "too simple". But then, he doesn't think antisemitism exists. (He says: "According to Godwin's Law, anyone who invokes Hitler automatically renders their argument nonsensical. Let us declare a similar Law for the term "anti-Semite", which is now purposefully wielded to stigmatise people and shut down discussion.") So, not surprisingly, he says "I find no evidence of "anti-Semitism" in [Israel Shamir's] writings."

Meanwhile, Before It's News thinks the Holocaust is a hoax, obsesses about Mossad, regularly publishes antisemites Gilad Atzmon and Joran Jermas, and talks about Illuminati Jews and the Jewish Lobby. Pirate Bay, the precursor of the Pirate Party, was happy to be bankrolled by the fascist businessman Carl Lundström, and had other far right links. And the German franchise of the Pirate Party was, it seems, overrun by former NPD Nazis.

Cyber-libertarianism: no place in our movement

The "Pirate vortex" (the network around these people), as well as the wider Assange personality cult, have a prominent place in anarchist politics today. These people and their supporters have stalls at the Anarchist Bookfair, demonstrate alongside Stop the War activists at American embassies around the world, don V for Vendetta masks and turn up at Occupy events. It seems to me that anyone who calls themselves an anti-capitalist, a radical or a libertarian should want to disassociate themselves from these people. We need to understand how they have gained a foothold in radical movements, and how to make a better movement without them.


Previous posts: Assange/ShamirWe Are Not All Julian, and Julian is Not Pussy Riot; WikiLeaks conspiracy theories; Assange and left rape apologism; What counts as a "distraction" for the anti-imperialist left.
Elsewhere: The Soupy One on Anonymous and Assange; Paul Stott on parapolitics;

*I've copy edited Nick's text ever so slightly for smoother reading. On his need for some copy-editing, Nick says: "I can't read the subject matter of that post over and over without getting sick and its a blog not a dissertation." Fair enough. I've also removed some of the links, as I don't want to link to Nazi sites.

**Nick tells me that many models have suffered from rape and sexual abuse in the course of their employ. 


Waterloo Sunset said…
On, read this from Maggie Mayhem-

On Attack the System, I think describing them as "anarchist" without qualification is a bit of a grubby smear. Not only is it an attempt at guilt by association, it ignores the fact that it's primarily anarchists who have opposed and exposed them. Even the onebigtent Infoshop won't have anything to do with them. I accept that this may be down to Nick not knowing much about them as opposed to malice though.

On "cyberlibertarianism" I think you're seeing it as a unified movement, when it isn't. It's more of a tactic- think black bloc. Anonymous contains both people who defend child porn and people who take down child porn sites. The Pirate Party is a complicated case- I've certainly met people from it who are generally socialist, don't support Assange and are mainly into e-democracy systems. The fact it has a single name makes the various pirate partieslook way more monolithic then they actually are. I prefer to start from a point where we ask why the left isn't attracting young, idealistic, progressive types, rather then attacking them for our failures.
SnoopyTheGoon said…
If I am allowed to make an unrelated point: that new "Share" button totally sucks, unfortunately.
I wasn't able to tweet this post...
Waterloo Sunset said…
That's Bob's fault for stubbornly refusing to move to Wordpress, no matter how much we nag him. ;)33
bob said…
WS, as (almost) always, you're absolutely right: ATS is not anarchist as most anarchists would recognise it. Spencer's Public Eye piece on Troy Southgate and "national anarchism", linked to in the original post above, is good on this issue.

On "cyber-libertarianism": yes, it is much more heterogeneous than I realise I have given the impression here, and lots would not think in the same way as those named here. Pirate Bay's far right funding was not something (to my knowledge) that the Pirate Party's founders had any connection to, and what the German Pirate Party did should not indict the Swedish one, etc.

This is spot on: "I prefer to start from a point where we ask why the left isn't attracting young, idealistic, progressive types, rather then attacking them for our failures."


The share button works for me, but it's true is appalling compared to Wordpress...
Anonymous said…
the anti-Semitic thing was always a nonsense and popular smear
which Shamir himself adequately dealt with

James Ball: a Portrait of the Petty Cheat as a Young Man
bob said…

It is absurd to think that single article by Shamir refutes the dozens of articles which solidly established long ago that he is a vicious antisemite. See e.g

But if yiu don't trust any secondary sources, it's obvious from his own writings. Take this appalling claim that the Holocaust is a fake narrative used to enforce Jewish supremacy, whose victims are the Anglo saxons

Or more recently this on Bernie Sanders, soaked through with bizarre manifestations of classical Christian Jew-hate: "the Jewish establishment is as anti-Christian and anti-Church as it was in the Middle Ages... [Israel] is the symbol of Jewish supremacy. By pandering to Israel, American politicians accept this supremacy. And it is translated in their attitude to the banks, which are as Jewish as synagogues, or more so, and to free trade which is good for Jews.
Sanders rebelled against these classic Jewish attitude: he called to break up the banks, and he spoke against “free trade” agreements which devastate American industry, impoverish American workers and create more happy kosher billionaires. ... This is defiance of the Jewish tradition of financial priority."

Or this on Hillary Clinton which manifests both antisemitism and the deep, deep misogyny that is becoming an increasingly pronounced element in Shamir's rhetoric: "The connection between Jewish activism and violent feminism has been made obvious in this election campaign as never before. In a classic Jewish subterfuge they sent a woman to provoke the man, and then accuse him of lack of chivalry. The Jewish female activists goad Trump and his supporters"

Anyone unable to recognise this as clear antisemitism of the most ideological and eat full time and frankly has no business talking about antisemitism.
Anonymous said…
Julian Assange doesn't have "close links" to Shamir. That was all the invention of ex-Guardian journalist James Ball. Assange met Shamir a total of two times and, like dozens and dozens of other journalists and media partners, gave some of the Cablegate stash pertinent to their geographic region. Wikileaks' media partner for Russia was the newspaper Russian Reporter.

WikiLeaks statement on Israel Shamir

The real reason TPTB use Shamir to attack Assange and Wikileaks is because Swedish journalist Johannes Wahlstrom (Shamir's son) gave Swedish police a good eye-witness account of Assange's time in Sweden, making clear (if you read it in conjunction with the other witness reports) that the allegations against Assange were trumped-up at best, and very likely entirely false.

Johannes Wahlstrom's police statement:,00.shtml

I think this is beyond question now that Assange has released the testimony he gave to the Swedish prosecutor in November 2016, especially if you take into account the included date & timestamped women's text messages retrieved by Swedish police from their phones, which were sent around the time of the alleged events.

I'll probably get moderated for this post and it'll never see the light of day here, but I'd like to say a couple of things before you do. I'm a woman who has herself reported rape to the police. (No, I didn't get justice because the Crown Prosecution Service was even worse about taking hard-to-prove cases to court back then than it is now.) So, I'm no rape apologist. But I do believe that justice in rape cases should still be possible and, most importantly, that public trust in the legitimacy of genuine verdicts should be maintained.

I've looked at this Assange case very closely, and the way it has been politicized in both the mainstream press and on social media. To my horror, I've watched as this case has utterly obliterated the concept of Presumption of Innocence - so especially important in rape trials. If Assange is somehow convicted after this farce of an investigation - or, worse, shipped straight to the US instead - there is a very strong possibility the general public will never believe in the veracity of a rape conviction again. Think of that - and how important to the healing process for rape victims a Guilty verdict is, how important it is to be heard, and believed - the next time you attack Assange (pre-charge, pre-trial, officially deemed a victim of corrupt due process by the UN) on Twitter.

bob said…
Anonymous, if you are the same Anonymous as the previous one (would be lovely if you took a consistent pseudonym, to make it easier to follow the threads), then can I assume you are withdrawing the claim that "the anti-Semitic thing was always a nonsense and popular smear" and now just making the claim that Shamir the antisemite has nothing really to do with Assange?

I'm a bit unclear exactly what you are claiming Ball made up, as Ball is hardly the only or first source for Assange and Shamir being linked. Are you saying that Shamir was not an accredited Wikileaks journalist, and not the official gatekeeper for Wikileaks in Russia? It seems Russian Reporter (part of the Expert group, as you know very pro-Kremlin) got access to the cables only via Shamir.
bob said…
By the way, the first report of a Shamir-Assange connection was in Moscow Times, which described him as their content aggregator. It was then picked up Michael Moynihan of the liberatarian and only much later picked up by the Guardian (not just Ball, but also Andrew Brown, David Leigh and others, who had actually worked closely with Assange), who corroborated the story via sources at Wikileaks, giving details of payments which Wikileaks have not been able to refute, just to deny.

As well as this, there is the case of Shamir's son, who is also a Wikileaks employee. I could go on...
Anonymous said…
Hi Bob,

No, I'm not the same as the other Anonymous contributor.

One needs to be very careful about saying the Shamir allegations came from various sources. No, they don't in fact - they originate entirely from a small clique around David Leigh (whose protege James Ball was) and spread out from there. Perhaps Andrew Brown can be treated separately. He was actually the Guardian's religious correspondent based in Stockholm. Have a look at this report filed, maybe in a rush (see the apology about the lack of translation at the bottom) on the same day as the Guardian went big on its skewed version of the Assange police protocol, stolen by James Ball, then still at WikiLeaks (his employment dates being 23/11/10 to 15/12/10 + 1 further day in January) from the WikiLeaks press server while Assange was in Wandsworth prison. This is what James Ball was rewarded for by his old City University mentor David Leigh with a job at the Guardian. For details of this, see the Annotated Transcript WikiLeaks produced to respond to the Alex Gibney documentary We Steal Secrets.

If you look at the Andrew Brown piece, you'll see its focus is less on Shamir himself but more on his son, Johannes Wahlstrom. To me, it's clear its real purpose was to discredit an important defence witness for Assange.

Curiously enough, the same day the Guardian splashed the 10 Days in Sweden article on the Assange protocol and Andrew Brown's piece it had written three stories on the Belarus cables a few hours before and uploaded the redacted cables for publication on WikiLeaks.

If you are really interested in following back the whole Assange/Shamir saga back to its roots (including the original Russian source for the story that Shamir "handed WikiLeaks cables to the Belarus regime"), this is a fantastic piece of research:

The Guardian and WikiLeaks: The Double-Cross System

[scroll down to the section A Strawman and Lukashenko. Whole thing is rather long, but it's worth reading in full]

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