Wednesday, December 04, 2013

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...