None of us are surprised, and at this point, we aren’t even sure if we have something to hide. Did the link I sent qualify as dissent? I argue myself to sleep in the stark hours of the morning, wake to twisted sheets, slightly sweaty, but didn’t I always?
I don’t know, anymore, if I’m the enemy. Except I know that unlike my enemy, and the enemy of my enemy, I’ve never been sure. About anything.
Who am I kidding I’ve been sure a million times but turned the corner to a new surety as surely as the seasons change. Dolphins rape. While bonobos order snacks from a vending machine and chimpanzees speculate about the origins of stars. And we are all cyborgs, they say. Software is eating the world. Software has eaten me.
Or if there is, I am not resourceful enough to find it.
And it is so slow.
I spent hours trying to find .onions that worked, clicking every link on poorly maintained lists, only the terror that I might come across illegal content could keep me interested after all those 404s. (What is that, TOR? A pounding on my door?) And the little spinning circle. Loading, loading … not loading.
And the articles you read – on the clearnet – are trolling you, or the authors have themselves been trolled. Of course.
I spent almost all my time waiting for pages to load, browsing the same few indistinguishable forums, or copying and pasting links that had no description from a green web page written in Portugese. Performing deep searches that would return 4 results.
Realizing I probably would need to find someone in the know, who I know, outside of any web, to induct me into the grand secrets. If there are any.
And it is so slow.
In other words, exactly like the web in the 90s.
The adrenaline rush of the dark web is entirely about knowing you can go to prison.
And that’s something we didn’t have in the 90s. We were innocent back then. The web seemed lawless and anonymous. The wild wild west without the shootout. Anarchy is the ideal condition when there is no threat of physical violence. That bully who barges in and ruins the party just when things were getting fun.
It took the power of the state to reinsert the dance of suffering and loss into our virtual playground. But with SWAT teams and sting operations, lawsuits and regulations, they managed to bring the culture of fear and guilt into a world without consequences. Because they need consequences. No region of pure freedom can be tolerated by those whose entire life’s work is telling you what to do in yours.
This is worth saying again: Do you realize that nothing needs to be illegal on the internet? If all transmission of information is communication, is speech, why should any part of it be regulated. Or forget our parochial first amendment: if the government arose to protect us from harm, why are they involved in a realm where the only harm caused is to your feelings? No hacker can use a computer to break your bones, no internet troll can so much as tickle your nose. It’s virtual reality, man. You can shut the computer, off.
No, this is where the pretense is at its most tenuous, and so the theater has become more surreal and vicious, to distract you from the evidence: this suffering is wholly at the hands of the people who are claiming to protect us. Prosecuting people for what they view, what they read, download, upload, what they write, what they transmit, copy, share, access, configure, make, connect.
Who is the serpent in this garden?
I don’t care if they read my emails. I don’t want them putting me in prison for something I wrote. Isn’t that the meaningful discussion, the one we aren’t having?
This discussion should be about supermax isolation and forced work camps. That’s what’s happening here, in the USA, in 2013.
I’ve always felt reluctant to write a book, or even essays. I don’t like to put my views in writing, because what if I change them? When I change them.
And now every statement I make is a statement? It’s not lost on me, the connection: That when they challenged my father for his conscientious objections, their evidence was news clippings of a childhood boxing star.
And one of the thresholds of adulthood is passed when you realize there is no such thing as your “permanent record.” But of course there is.
I can’t even figure out how to delete something from the program where I’m typing this.
Thinking out loud is not allowed, or at least that’s what some loudmouths have found.
The hardest thing now, is knowing where to place my paranoia. The NSA threat was always a gentle joke. But no matter what Kurt Cobain said, it isn’t paranoia when you know they are listening.
It is resignation.
What I’m not resigned to is something I also don’t know how to change: how eagerly we imprison people, and how reluctantly we free them.
And that’s before we get to the topics of indefinite detention, renditions, waterboarding, prolonged psychological torture, and every other thing I don’t know about which is being done in my name. The surveillance is a distraction. What are they doing with the info? Why must it be a secret? Every time I find out what they actually are doing, a little bit of my humanity dies.
When are we going to address the fact that there were medical personnel assisting in the tortures at Abu Ghraib? “Wait,” you ask, “why are you bringing up Abu Ghraib? Isn’t that forever-ago history?” Because when we let Abu Ghraib go by, and reelected the commander in chief, we agreed to a world where justice is replaced with a nightmare of retribution.
When I was a boy, I had recurring nightmares. Witches harassed me and tormented me every time I slept. It was horrible and reoccurred every night until finally, I prepared myself. I lulled myself to sleep, repeating over and over “it is just a dream, it is just a dream.” That night, when the witches and goblins wanted to chase me, I turned to face them. “I am not scared of you” I said, “you are just a dream” – in confrontation I had my first moment of lucidity. And cured my nightmares.
We collectively agreed to ignore the nightmare. To submit to the nightmare. So the nightmare grows, reaching wet tendrils in to our waking lives.
The list of executive abuses in the past decade is endless. Everyone from Social Servicesto Border Control to the IRS to unnamed private armies seem to have a loophole through which they can step in to my home, and utterly destroy my life. Legally. Without consequence or recourse.
This is our narrative: Bad people don’t deserve justice. Bad people need to work in chain gangs or be locked up in isolation 24 hours a day, for years on end. That’s for regular bad people. The really bad people don’t get a trial, and would be lucky to simply be locked up until their corneas are destroyed by lack of sunlight.
This is the dangerous intersection, just ahead.
We have law enforcement agents who admit to infiltrating political groups, convincing people to commit crimes, and then arresting them. Prosecutors who openly pursue legal action because of an individual’s political beliefs.
We must address these issues, from a point of principle, each and every time, if there’s any time left.
I am not so old, but when I was young, I didn’t feel this way. I didn’t worry that the ideas I expressed could get me in trouble, possibly ruin my life. Perhaps I was naive. Or maybe things have changed.
I woke up today in a society where I am afraid to run TOR because using an encrypted, anonymized, connection out of my house might add me to another list.
I really don’t care that they are making lists. I am terrified of what they are going to do with the list. And I am confused that I am alone in this concern.
I hop on the social network to criticize the latest instance of a traffic cop arresting someone for “disorderly conduct.” This generally involves saying something the officer doesn’t like, and my friends rally to defend. “After all,” they say, “you have to show respect.” And yeah, you can watch a thousand videos on this interweb showing police assaulting people for failing to do just that.
The fundamental assertion of government: we need this authority to make the world a better place. We need you to compromise this right. This liberty. We need you to allow us our secrets. Break off a piece of that paycheck. And show some respect.
To whomever is reading this document, I want you to know I do respect you. You work hard to protect our citizens, and it is a difficult and thankless task.
The divine right of the monarch was replaced by the will of the people. And the people have spoken. It is for your own good, after all. We don’t invade countries, we liberate them. And we don’t control a population, we protect and serve.
This is America.