Libertarians

Context

So, I receive queries for people wanting my point of view on various things – ok no, on internet and surveillance, privacy and stuff like that, they do not consult me for issues like climate change and the like. So my email adress is like public data, and people finds me.

It’s not always easy, because there’s a lot of people out there wanting to do a subject on “hackers” without more precision. You need to asks them a lot of things, help them to understand that “hackers” in not a precise enough subject and that they should focus on a specific problematics. And then you need to know the media who’s asks for the job, especially when you’re dealing with students in journalism.

Speaking of student in journalism, I try to be available, to answer them or to put them in contact with others more suited to answer their specific questions.

That’s why this one is a tough one for me. Because it puts me in front of a paradox. I always thought that convincing people needs to talk to them. I inhereted that from Telecomix, and I tried to do it on each occasion. If someone as an angle that I disagree with, then it’s probably because one of us (at least) is missing a point somewhere, and it can only be solved by more discussion.

However, I know the media behind the query. And they’re known to pose hackrs as sociopath who are after your credit card. They capitalize on fear, not on information sharing, and I tried twice to get around that and it did not work.

Hence this blog post. It’s the email I shoud probably write to this person, but I think it might be beneficial to have it somewhere more public. Name are changed, and no metadata of the original mail. Traduction is mine.

Questions and answers

Hello Okhin

Hey Mat,

I’m 19, and I’m writing and embodying a TV documentary in which I try to prove to my parents generation that, no, I did not abandon my privacy, and that Internet is more than a simple tool for my generation.

Cool. Sounds like a good project and I agree that your generation didn’t abandon their privacy, even if you – and I – spent a good part of it online. And I couldn’t agree more on the fact that internet is not only a tool, it’s a form of communication that enables a lot of different form of societies.

I’m focusing on the problematic of Digitals Native freedom, close to the freedom concept of the libertarian (like Larry Page, Elon Musk …) who emphasize the freedom and happiness of the man. My generation is not Foucault’s one, meaning a generation institutionnalized from childhood to retirement, but the libertarian’s ones, building a new world of economic collaboration in a reinvented society.

I’m not a libertarian. Libertarian – at least in the French way – are basically asking for total freedom for corporations (either single person company of worldwide megacorporations). Libertarian choose to inforce economic freedom over social ones.

And you do it also. You’re not speaking about the social aspect of internet, how Internet did change the balance of power between egemonic corporations, states and citizen. No, the aspect you’re focusing one is the economic one. Larry Page and Elon Musk are probably visionary, they did help to build a non-sentient AI, and to fix part of the way we exchange money.

But they’re building a world for an elite. We’re still below a tird of the worldwide population connected to the internet. Worse, most of the countries not connected to it are currently exploited by neo-colonial corporations to exploit them in order to build all those gadgets we use everyday to make our lives easier.

The world for those libertarians is a world where the weak can’t exist. I do agree that economic freedom might help – wel, economy is clearly not my strong suit – but we’re elaving in a world where companies – through Lobby group – actually pass law and can sue states under secret trade agreement.

For me Internet is a social tool. It can helps connect people, build communities, strengthen social link, and get a better understanding of the world. It can helps people throwing away a governement, organise dissent, but also to have care and help of communities members.

Yes, it can be used to build “new” economic system – altough libertarians are around since before Internet so I really do not think a totally free and unregulated market that will have no other purpose than justifying its existence and not to support mankind is something that exited long before the internet (since the first industrial revolution I’d say).

And I do think that the biggest mistake pioneer of the internet did back in 1990-ish is to allow advertisment network and monetization system to get a foot on internet. It certainly fast-tracked the “massive” adoption of internet, but it also give way to much power to those few groups who earned a lot of money selling those advertisment to take control of data – and part of the infrastructure.

I’d rather have an internet build by a community and for communities – using taxes and yes a state – the purpose of state is to maintain wellfare and infrastructure for all people not to govern.

It will be embodied documentary for the mainstream audience.

Currently, I’m focusing on a different angle. I think that I could make a stronger point if I speak about code. “Code is Law”, while showing that conding nowadays, is having power. What I wrote here is EXTREMELY narrow, but I try to know more on this subject (for instance [A state TV] is interested by my project only if I develop this part) and to have a good grasp of the issue. I also need time to immerse myself into this culture.

So, you want to basically say that hackers – people who codes and understand it – are an elit and that they’ve seized control of the world? It might be true (there’s currently an elitism in this so-called hacker community which is an issue), but I try to oppose it as much as I can.

That’s why there’s free software. Free software exists to ensure that no elit could be left in charge because they’re the only one to know how things works. That’s what’s in the hacker manifesto after all, And in every things that hackers do.

And also, if you really need to code to use a system, then you should need to build a car to drive it. You should need to know agronomics to eat vegetables. Even if I do admit that all those exampls are true, there’s a big issue in it, it states that we are born with all the same capacity. Which is false. Prejudicies, handicaps, social stigma, life accident, all these can lead to someone not being able to code. Or to understand how a car angien works, or what are the implication of eating meat instead of vegetables on the global scale.

You cannot asks to a single mother of three to learn how to code to use a system. And still, she can use it. And that’s a good thing. If you make code skill a requirement to use internet then internet is no longer a tool for emancipation, it became a tool of oppression. I want my communities to be inclusives. I want care takers in my communities. And I think internet enable that. And I really think you do not need to code to do that. Or to send enrypted email – or at least you shouldn’t.

So no, I will not say that code is a requirement to live in our world. Even if the french governement currently thinks that we need to teach kids to code instead of – for instance – criticism, building a thinking process and giving thel the key to explore and understand the world they live in.

I’ve came to see you with the director at a conference you made and we really liked your way to explain the issue 🙂 [This is a reference to this talk]. In this case, with our documentary we’re clearly speaking to “old farts” who tries to graps the issues of the Internet world. It’s kind of rare to be able to get this mssage out on the television even if it done – it’s true – simplistic approach (the young connected person that I embody, etc …).

Yeah, well, since you’re condescending with your audience I have big issues. Also – and you’ve probably never been confronted to that since you’re a young documentarist – a national TV will never let a positive message about internet get broadcasted.

I mean, I’ve tried twice. I got burned, I stop. If you think you can do it, then go for it. But you really should stop considring that people who aren’t conencted to the internet or who doesn’t see it the same way you see it do not live in the same world than you. They have a different culture, but you both share the same world. And excluding them from it won’t give you a better world, it will give you a world where you’ll be in power.

So yes, I could have accepted to meet you, but I will not. You can go see a lot of people, for instance Stéphane Bortzmeyer can probably deals with the “code is law” part. But I will not because I disagree with a lot of your ideas.

I hope you’ll find some answers in this post, and that it will raises some questions.

I wih luck in your project.