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Could you define "intelligence institutions" ?

Without a proper definition your blogpost stays either vague and or the ambiguity will not lead to the proper discussion this topic deserves.

By labeling everyone who works for "intelligence institutions" as evil we push away from us the many people on the inside who could be our allies. Remember that all the Whistleblowers who spoke at OHM were once also part of an "intelligence institution" (a term that remains rather vaguely defined as above comment remarked).

There are many more Bradley Mannings working for various NATO armies, many more Edwards Snowdens making a living by keeping the systems of surveillance and oppression running. By not clearly defining "intelligence institutions" and labeling anyone near them as 'the other' and/or 'evil' we push away those who would, with a little encouragement, become our most important allies.

But the much more structural problem with this whole debate it that is seems to have become a nasty case of navel gazing about the difference between 'hackers' (a term not defined) an "intelligence institutions" (also not defined). The navel gazing is mixed in with a lot of indignant foot-stamping about the various evil things done to 'us' by 'them'.

Actual structured discussions about why the West seems to be rolling back 800 years of human-rights progression at a breathtaking pace are nowhere to be seen. It's much easier to be angry at 'them' and thereby suggest that if 'we' (not defined) can just 'defeat' (not defined) 'them' (not defined) then in glorious 'victory' (not defined) everything will be OK somehow. Being angry about headache-symptoms while not checking if it is caused by dehydration or a brain tumor is not a smart move.

By not discussing the 'Why is this happening' question but instead staying mostly in indignant-footstamping-mode the hacker community makes itself mostly irrelevant. Things like prank-calling the NSA ( and suggesting we have 'won' something there is just an indication of how truly lost much of the community is. 'Hey, we really stuck it to that receptionist for 6 minutes'! I'm sure the US intelligence apparatus is shuddering with fear. Seriously?

Anyone in favor of a sustainable and democratic future of this planet has been losing horribly since the day Gov. Bush was elected by five judges. Thanks to the info Manning and Snowden gave us our society can *maybe* begin to have a grown-up debate about the scale of our problem. But anyone who thinks these things are even tactical victories is deluded, especially since almost no-one is actually *acting* on the implications of all this info.

If 'we' just want to feel good about ourselves because of our moral virtue and cleverness then navel gazing about 'them' vs 'us' is fine. If we actually want to do something about the entire planet burning down around us this won't cut it.

'Intellegence institutions', at least in common usage, is well enough defined to pick out some whistleblowers from them. These whistleblowers as examples, however, enforce the rule and argument in a 'them' and 'us' way that might want to be avoided. They were within and actively reached out, as individuals, to people embedded in networks outside that were not, they hoped, infiltrated by other members of said institutions.

Dear Arjen,

A bit of a polemic style is nice - I appreciate that - but misquoting, dismissing self-reflection as navel-gazing and complaining about the lack of definition of words which you subsequently use yourself without further questioning doesn't particularly add to a fruitful discussion. Nevertheless, you have a fair point in addressing the need to analyze why society is drifting in all the wrong directions.

I'm not quite sure which groundshaking humanitarian events took place around 1200 AD to make you think we're rolling back 800 years, but let's assume you're referring to the project of Enlightenment and the claim to universal human rights that originated from it.
In that context, it may be good to consider how historically these claims to human rights have done rather little to prevent states from degrading into various forms of authoritarianism and/or totalitarianism. Call me cynical, but I have zero faith in the consolidations of power that we call states to inherently adhere to any moral values that stand in the way of sustaining and expanding that power. Such seems to be the nature of the beast. The question then becomes not so much 'why is western society digressing from enlightened ideals?' but rather 'why hasn't it done so much earlier?' or 'what constituted the hegemony of enlightened ideals within western society in the first place?'.

One analysis answering the 'why hasn't it done so much earlier?' I find appealing is that throughout most of the last century western society was forced by the Soviet Union to pose an ideological counterpart to socialism. The threatening rise of socialism called for an ideological answer which was found in terms of individual freedom. With the end of the cold war, there is no longer any need for this ideological answer. To put it bluntly: without the threat of socialism, the western states no longer need to give a damn about our individual freedoms.

As for 'what constituted the hegemony of enlightened ideals within western society in the first place?', this should be traced back to the interests of the bourgeousie during the French revolution and the rationale of the class-based industrialized society examplifying the age of modernity. Books can (and have been) filled on this subject, but suffice to say we live in an era where modernity is in deep crisis, if not already completely dead.

Ofcourse a reaction on a blogpost doesn't allow for the detail or nuance these questions call for, but I'd be happy to see your insights in the matter.