Téju Cole on the Paris attacks and Daniel Wickham’s list of “defenders” of the freedom of press

In his great piece “Unmournable Bodies”, which I wholeheartedly recommend reading, Téju Cole writes:

We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others. […]

Western societies are not, even now, the paradise of skepticism and rationalism that they believe themselves to be. The West is a variegated space, in which both freedom of thought and tightly regulated speech exist, and in which disavowals of deadly violence happen at the same time as clandestine torture. But, at moments when Western societies consider themselves under attack, the discourse is quickly dominated by an ahistorical fantasy of long-suffering serenity and fortitude in the face of provocation. Yet European and American history are so strongly marked by efforts to control speech that the persecution of rebellious thought must be considered among the foundational buttresses of these societies. Witch burnings, heresy trials, and the untiring work of the Inquisition shaped Europe, and these ideas extended into American history as well and took on American modes, from the breaking of slaves to the censuring of critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom. […]

Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen.

 

Daniel Wickham has just posted this series of tweets, spicing up the “staunch defenders of the free press attending the solidarity rally in Paris today” with a little context, I’ve made them into a list over here. An excerpt:

danielwickham

 

P.S.: “In case you were wondering how short the gap is between ‘free speech’ and ‘ubiquitous surveillance'”(Deb Cachra):

freespeechvssurveillance

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appleWave your hands in the air like you don’t care

wpid-20140918_132851.jpgCash: the procedure of buying in which the exchange of goods for money is horribly visible, the spending of money most painful and the consumer profile least traceable. No wonder cash gets marketed as hard, inconvenient and unsocial. Poor cash. [insert image of person at the discounter checkout spending minutes searching for coins. teh horrorz! lolz]

Then the magic payment evolution fairy made us credit cards: Easier! Plastic is more slippery than paper. Faster. Plastic is everlasting and everywhere. The material itself suggests you can never run out of money. The sexy sliding of the card through the machine vs the awkward fumbling with cash. Paying with credit cards is the ice skating of payment procedures. Elegant and fast, and it scratches only the surface of endless frozen lakes of money. No worries, the ice is thick enough, come on! [insert image of person at the discounter  checkout spending minutes to chose which article to put back because they haven’t get enough cash with them. omfg the shame!]

Along comes applePay, appleWatch: No pulling, no sliding, just wave that *what’s the opposite of monument?* at the till as if it was nothing. The very gesture of careless spending, buying as ephemeral caress. It’s not about making things easier, it’s about disconnecting liberating us from the feeling of spending money, about erasing financial worries from the process of buying. [insert image of person at the Tiffany’s checkout spending minutes to realize that credit cards have never really been faster or easier than cash and also today plastic means pollution. sadface. Curtain.] 

Me, secretly whispering in the dark: Cash is my vinyl.

Cyborg Unplug

cyborgunplug

I consider Cyborg Unplug to be a positive, tactical response to a growing and widely felt social issue, one born from the technologically-enabled abuse of mutual, human respect.
Julian Oliver in Blinders For Google Glass

Cyborg Unplug, the anti-surveillance device by artist Julian Oliver has been widely written about over the last days. Mainstream press mainly reports on it as privacy tech that can block Google Glass. That’s a shame because it’s less and more. On the other side of the ring you got progressive techies that damn Cyborg Unplug for stepping on their rights and infringing their freedom. In his connected blog Tante compares it to pre-crime policing and writes:

This is the digital equivalent to a paramilitary group running through town and harassing people they don’t like. …

If you don’t want to share your wireless, that’s fine. Forcing your ideology on other people isn’t. And don’t hide behind “privacy” or “self-defense” when you mean “I want to be an asshole because fuck you and what you want.”

I find this a disturbingly aggressive “public’s public” take on a device that does hardly more than a technical version of asking you to stop. Let’s look a tad closer at what got this anger boiling: Cyborg Unplug is a router that is able to disrupt the connection to your wifi for not only Glass but also similar devices that can be abused for unwanted surveillance. It does not block the actual filming. If someone has recorded something they can simply connect to a different wifi and upload it. In my eyes that makes Cyborg Unplug neither the effective Glass blocker the Glass haters report on nor the evil pre-crime tool that tante tries to portray it as. Both opinions show how the tech realms often are not the best place to review smart devices that pose social questions. After all the average white tech guy’s horizon for that seems to end at making it an issue of social acceptance of his latest smart tech toy and loudly protecting its unlimited use against the issues of those who are socially more vulnerable by material that gets filmed or gathered and/or published without their consent.

When I first read about Cyborg Unplug I thought: I would. I host a little queer club night which is exactly the kind of semi-public space you wouldn’t want someone to Glass-film without asking and make it public on some social network. To give you just one obvious reason: There might be people who have not come out yet. Another is the “dance like no one is filming” part: It’s supposed to be a safe party space in which people can let go and letting go acquires a kind of unspoken mutual agreement in a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” style. One of the reasons why I love small underground club nights of the left is that most of the time that consensus automatically is in place and people party hard but are respectful about whom and what they snap and publish pictures of. A tool like Glass is a game-changer though, even in such places. After all it takes away the inhibition of being seen while filming someone – that makes for one social acceptance border less to cross. It makes filming without consent so much easier.

cyborgunplug-a

And looming larger than any app or platform is Google Glass, a technology that fully embraces and instantiates the street-photographer ethic, prioritizing the wearers entitled right to see. “The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them,” Mark Hurst, CEO of the consultancy Creative Good, wrote a year ago. Glass wants to place the wearer behind a portable two-way mirror: On one side, the viewer sees all without being seen, while the objects of Glass’s gaze can’t tell how their image is being processed. More than just a new way of seeing, Glass also enforces a new way of being seen.”
Nathan Jurgenson, Permission Slips

A tool like Cyborg Unplug puts up a permeable substitute border for the one Google Glass broke down. It’s not exactly like smashing someone’s Glasses, it’s polite. It’s not technophobic but a tech lover’s reminder of respect of privacy, and privacy is about consent. The makers of devices like Google Glass don’t mind privacy, else they could have long gotten active about this. They could have integrated a pop up that, whenever your camera lense face-detects that you are about to film a person, asks: “Do you have their consent?” It’s not that they don’t know how to place annoying pop up reminders wherever it is good for them.

With our digital devices becoming more and more mobile the ethics of respecting someone’s privacy have long gone past being a question that can be answered geographically, like “at home is private, everywhere else is public”. As the digital network surrounds us with every step we take “at home” can be public (e.g. if you do a video blog from there) while a geographically public space can be a digitally private space (e.g. if you share intimate texts with someone while standing in the middle of a crowd). Privacy ethics have become a nomadic question, an omnipresent issue so complicated that most of us just shrug it off. Social implications often only get tested by pushing the social limits of a new gadget. The discussion of possible effects always lags behind. Many people don’t realize what it means that anything you do can be taken out of the frame of a certain time and place and be published anywhere and archived and dragged out forever. This potential decontextualisation still often is met with the standard victim-blaming “simply don’t do anything in public, that you don’t want to be seen doing” or with the post-Snowden data apathy. Not to mention the luddist “smart tech depraves our youth and steals our jobs!” credo. Me, especially as I love so much about the possibilities digitally enriched life has brought I can not and will not ignore its often negative implications, especially for those living outside the norm. That’s why I am happy about little tripping stone tools like Julian Oliver’s router.
May Cyborg Unplug hit right in the face of the privacy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯s the NSA leaks have summoned.

P.S.: <3 cyborgs, hate borgs.

“Discreetly” up yours.

nails“We are Undercover Colors and we are the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.”
 
Undercover colors is a product that a team of four young men wants to throw on the market: Nail polish that changes its colour after contact with date rape drugs like Rohypnol or Xanax. The idea is that you stir your drink “discreetly” with your finger to test it. And of course on first look it sounds nice: You don’t need to spoil your date by showing distrust, like when you pull out a testing strip in front of his eyes. I love the CSI mobile chemistry lab science gadget part of the idea. They are good in marketing. They have learned from similar products’ promo mistakes. They use the right words: “Choice”, “discretion”, “empower”, “shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators”.
 
“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I say oh bondage, up yours!”
 

 
I guess you already feel the huge BUT coming up: While this nail polish sure might be handy, this doesn’t shift the fear. It’s just one more way to keep the problem restricted to women. I’m tired of things women should do discreetly. We are to bleed discreetly, we are to shave discreetly, we are to keep our anger about sexism discreetly, oh, we are so well trained to not spoil men’s fun with our problems (see that “our” melting from acidic sarcasm? Not nice, I know. But, hey, I empower you to save it by simply not treating human’s problems like women’s problems). How they market it, this nail polish is just one more way to keep our fear secret. Thank you, men, for giving us a “choice” to find out or not if some guy might rape us. Discreetly. Thank you for “empowering” us with nail polish. I think the marketing here is worse than the product. It plays with feminist language, takes it out of its context and twists it into, well, I guess Poly Styrene would say: into bondage.
 
If i was to come up with a fashionable date rape drug testing tool, it would be something clearly visible, something flashy, it would be the new cool to stir your drink with it. In fact every edgy club and every cozy pub would serve all drinks with it, no matter to what gender it’s served. It would be a glow-in-the-dark stick, sonic screwdriver-style, that goes off blinking and buzzing madly when it senses date rape drugs, shooting glitter cascades so that everyone around notices it. And it would automatically pour a permanently sticky neon glow-in-the-dark colour in your drink – (you know, like that stuff that cops in tv crime shows use to mark ransom money) – so you could pour it all over the person who put that crap in your drink and even if he ran away it would be visible to everybody. And the colour would itch like hell. That would be nice. And empowering. I clearly should have become a scientist designer person.

Queer Ally For The Straight GQ – My problem with the #Mundpropaganda campaign

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A few days ago german GQ has started a campaign called ‘Mundpropaganda‘ (Word-Of-Mouth). It’s a photo series of straight celebrity men kissing. Lots of my gay friends seem to like it. Some because sexy. Some because yay, allies. As ever so often I’ll be the spoilsport. Let me pick a sentence from the GQ editorial to explain why:

“Heteros kissing each other – this kind of courage is absolutely male.”

This sentence should make it clear: It is not a GQ welcome to gays but it is about fake same-sex kisses as heroic act of heterosexual men. Maybe the intention was different, maybe GQ just aims to get the gays without giving actual gay sexuality a room or having a tearjerking ‘social conflict’ section for the christmas edition. I don’t care about the intention, to me the result matters.

To make it a main statement of the campaign that it takes courage for men to kiss each other is the ‘no homo’ of this campaign. At first glance the pictures might look erotic but the surrounding texts and the ‘making of’ clip have the clear message: “It’s really hard for us to do this but we overcame our disgust to show solidarity with you – aren’t we great?”. It is so explicitly stressed that the kisses are fake that it robs those kisses of any shadow of gay desire. The interviews are there for the kissers to state how hard it was for them and that they like kissing women much better. The ‘making of’ clip shows some of them breaking down in laughter when trying to kiss, etc. Parts of this are dangerously close of even redemonising gay sexuality as disgusting and unnatural, no matter if aiming for the opposite. Surrounded by all this talk about how they are fake the actual pictures become a deeply desexualised bro-thing. Thus the kiss does more for reaffirming the kissers’ heterosexuality than actually being the homoerotic protest they want it to be. (For more on this effect I recommend reading “Bro-Porn: Heterosexualizing Straight Men’s Anti-Homophobia”, by Tristan Bridges and C.J. Pascoe)

I don’t know if GQ got the idea from the actually existing creative protest form of queer kiss-ins. Those often include straight allies. It’s not that same-sex straight people making out with each other to protest homophobia is always a bad idea but if they use instant markers to assure they are not really gay it’s a clear sign that it disrespects and sometimes even ridicules queer desire. Also it might be counterproductive to do it for queer people’s applause.

bro-hug

In an effort to not criticise it but instead be a bit of a queer ally for the straight GQ: What would this campaign have had to look like to please me? At best it would have been queer-inclusive sexy kissing, and with ‘queer’ I mean all kinds of gender and sexual orientations. So people look at it and can’t tell a difference, they just see kissing as a sweet sensual erotic act between all kinds of human beings. If you need to limit it to ‘fake kissing’ then why not put a lesbian woman kissing a gay man next to those straight guys. If you don’t want to include women because it’s a ‘gentlemen’s’ magazine, why not have at least gay and trans* men mixed in with the straight guys. The absolute minimum though would have been: If only including straight men DO NOT mark them as such. To speak in celebrities: It’s a bit like the difference between George Clooney and Jake Gyllenhaal. Both often were asked if they are gay. Gyllenhaal makes it very clear that he is not and adds some ‘tits and ass’ remark, in a not so nice ‘real straight men are sexist’ proof-move. Clooney on the other hand says he would never say that he is not gay because that would mark being gay as something he feels the need to distance himself from and that would be disrespectful to gay people.
In this (more-than-slightly-flawed but adding-Clooney-to-a-blogpost-does-no-harm) comparison the ‘Mundpropaganda’ campaign obviously is much further on the Gyllenhaal side of things.

mackle-gentrification
GENTRIFICATION IS REAL via sophfierce twitter

Different dude, similar thing: Macklemore. I only really realised how much I despised Macklemore’s big hit ‘Same Love’ when I heard Angel Haze taking it over:

Her version (here are the lyrics) is so much more empowering. Some efforts of being a straight ally leave no room for actual gay people being heard. They condemn queers to the position of desiring those straights from afar and/or applauding them for – well, in the GQ case, if you think about it: actually for publicly reestablishing straight male disgust of male same-sex kissing.

In “Why We Should Care How Straight Allies Benefit From Their Support” Tristan Bridges and C.J. Pascoe ask:

How much recognition does Macklemore deserve for coming out as a straight ally? (And he lets us know that he’s straight, mentioning early in the song that he’s ‘loved girls since before pre-k,’ and his other hit songs feature a fantastic array of misogynistic lyrics.)

They compare the situation to the ‘economy of gratitude’ often taking place within straight couples:

In her research, (Ariel) Hochschild found that husbands were often given more gratitude for their participation in work around the house than were women. That is, men were subtly—but systematically—“over-thanked” for their housework in ways that their wives were not. This simple fact, argued Hochschild, was much more consequential than it might at first appear. It was an indirect way of symbolically informing men that they were engaging in work not required of them. In fact, we have a whole language of discussing men’s participation in housework that supports Hochschild’s findings. When men participate, we say they’re “helping out,” “pitching in,” or “babysitting.” These terms acknowledge their work, but simultaneously frame their participation as “extra”—as more of a thoughtful gesture than an obligation.

We would suggest that something similar is happening with straight male allies. We all participate in defining the work of equality as not their work by over-thanking them, just like housework is defined as not men’s work. By lauding recognition on these “brave” men in positions of power (racial, sexual, gendered, and in some cases classed) we are saying to them and to each other: This is not your job, so thank you for “helping out” with equality.

Tristan Bridges and C.J. Pascoe warning conclusion from this is:

“Let’s not make anti-homophobia the equivalent of “babysitting” for dads and activism a de facto ‘second shift’ for marginalized folks. The movement toward equality should be everyone’s responsibility and mandate.”

Another point that struck me about that campaign is that by trying to cater to a male gay community GQ adds to an already existing gap between gays and lesbians. In the world of the GQ, a men’s mag that stands for a stylish brand of misogyny that reminds me a bit of old school James Bond, straight women almost exclusively exist as the fuckable other and lesbian women basically don’t exist at all.

I followed a twitter link to another GQ story that has since been taken down: A story in which a man tells us that he was the kind of type who could get every woman so to as a new challenge he set out to turn a lesbian straight. In which he apparently succeeded four pages later. (I only skip-read through the first page and it was every inch as you’d expect it: Misogynist, stereotyping lesbians’ looks, claiming that lesbians are straight women who have not yet been fucked by Mr. Right.) When the first signs of a soc media shitstorm showed GQ took down this story, saying it was from a few years ago and no longer represented their attitude. By now they even have even put an interview with the lesbian activist Yelena Goltsman online. PR disaster prevented? Apparently.

Of course this GQ campaign is not in the first place an advertisement for the magazine but the passages are fluent these days and I see parallels to a certain type of advertising that uses social criticism. Take the #whipit Pantene ad that deals with gender-based double standards.

The message is: “Don’t let labels hold you back. Be strong and shine.” As long as that doesn’t hint at the kind of ‘shining’ that includes women running Jack-Nicholson-style with an axe after the labels that hold them back I can’t really see how shining is supposed to help against double standards. One of the comments on youtube or facebook for the #whipit ad was: “Sell product by convincing your target market that you are more invested in contributing to emotionally charged, globally relevant (…) issues than you are in advertising your product.”

Or take the ‘Beauty Sketches’ Dove ad, a real tearjerker:

Mind that Dove just as well as Axe are part of Unilever which is quite a nice concept: Destroy women’s egos with Axe ads and rebuild them with Dove ads. I guess it’s pretty easy to spot how the social criticism aspect is being emptied of meaning if not even ridiculed by the context.
Same goes for ‘Mundpropaganda’. Think of it as a set-to-go-viral campaign to sell a men’s lifestyle magazine to gay-rights-supportive men and gay men without losing the conservative straight men of their readership. When they write about homophobia they manage to somehow write women out of this by simply not talking about them. They talk about homophobia as if it wasn’t about women and TI* people, too. Also let’s not forget that it is the kind of magazine that caters to a certain type of men: Masculine, self-assured, successful, stylish. Not-so masculine looking, behaving, thinking men or trans*-men are not part of the GQ world. It is about as unqueer as it gets: One-dimensional straight masculinity.

This echoes with some gay men, especially as the negative stigmatising as ‘gay’ is connected to femininity. ‘Gay’ as a slur can be exchanged with ‘like a girl’. The stereotype of the effeminate gay is something many gay men fear to be compared with and maybe the gym-obsessed muscle gay scene as well as the conservative gays are but a reaction to this kind of homophobia. Queer people come in all shapes and sizes and colours and from all classes. That was and should stay a strength of the queer community. Campaigns like ‘Mundpropaganda’ can widen the gap between successful white males and the rest of the LGBTI* community. As Mykki Blanco said: “Homophobia comes from misogyny, the hatred of women. If you can’t see the connection between homophobia and the hatred of women, you’re blind.”
So, however-male-defined brethren, if GQ says “this kind of courage is absolutely male” please don’t drool over those straight guys but rather say: “Suck my left one! Every queer-feminist lady out there has shown more courage and has contributed more to my gay rights than your self-congratulary straight-exclusive campaign!”

Beastie Boys sue GoldieBlox

In a slightly glasshouse/stone-move sample-happy Beastie Boys sue the makers of a parody of their song ‘Girls’ that was made for girls-empowering toys by GoldieBlox, in a quickly gone viral video:

Someone suggested on twitter last night that the reason could be that the Beasties do not want any of their songs in advertising. Not sure if that’s true? That’s something in which I usually am 100% on the artist site, as you might know. But of course it’s not that simple black/white subject.

If it comes to parody or creative remix use I’m on the parodists and remixers side though. This ad is an example of how good advertisement should be: It doesn’t feel like a commercial. It’s entertaining. It sells an empowering gender-role-crashing message just as well as its product.  The whole Rube-Goldberg-machine thing is brilliant but I actually like the use of the song even more:
The original song by the Beastie Boys is plain sexist, having lines like “Girls, to do the dishes, girls, to clean up my room, girls, to do the laundry, girls, that’s all I really want” or another nice line: “I asked her out she said, ‘No way!’, I shoulda probably guessed her gay”. It’s a sweet smart move to use that kind of song and have girls – not women (that makes it an even better reply to the original, by taking up the belittling way in which women are called girls) – and have them girls snottily shouting/singing fresh girl-empowering lyrics over that song: “Girls to build the spaceship, Girls to code the new app, Girls to grow up knowing they can engineer that, Girls, that’s all we really need.”

Hope the Beasties will think this over again.

Saved by the Merkelphone

So Merkel’s and a lot of other world leaders’ phones have been spied on for more than 10 years. (german / english) Erm… so what?! Trying to monitor people in leading positions of government or economy is espionage in the traditional sense. Nothing new here. I find it hard to put into words how blatantly and undemocratically arrogant it is by our government to react only now, after months of news about the ongoing mass surveillance. Now that the government sensationalizes it suddenly it’s a subject for tv again, too. And suddenly you find people like Anke Domscheit-Berg or Juli Zeh in talk shows. Why not before? It just adds to the impression that the mass surveillance of ‘regular’ citizens poses no problem.

I guess… as government you best do nothing about it, maybe you can find ways to use the surveillance net for yourself. Would be a shame to waste it, now that it has already been built. Now that the magic Merkelphone has been attacked though, we cannot show weakness, we have to react, now it’s ‘us vs them’. According to the Spiegel the government’s reaction now will be to build a stronger counterintelligence and there are thoughts about a german or european walled internet. which means – just in case you do not understand: The german people can feel secured. No, really, cheer, people, you will have been saved by the Merkelphone. All the great risk-taking leaking and journalistic work will turn out to be the perfect argument for an arms-race of security services worldwide. Instead of social changes give them more security. For those who still think there is not enough done for us to be properly secured – don’t worry. Just check out this Reuters piece about partnerships between facebook, Apple and the police. Or read this article (in german) on the german army getting ready for operations within their country. If you think that’s just about lame aid for flood victims, well… maybe read the government’s answer to a minor interpellation from Die Linke here. Oh, I feel so safe now, I’m with Butters.

Living in a democracy we should be free to dance with no one watching and not have to act as if no one was

I hate getting all worked up about current politics but sometimes (actually more and more often) it happens even to me. Then I have to start reading up on subjects cause I haven’t regularly read the papers and that confronts me with my ignorance and thus makes me even more grumpy. Not a nice situation. What has made me start this blog entry last night was reading the news, reading how after german Verfassungsschutz (as the NSU case has clearly shown) now the BND also seems to act beyond any constitutional limitations, and they seem to do so without even the slightest care about human lives. Leaking german data of mobile communication to the NSA has been ‘common use’ ever since 2003/2004 for the BND. That might have helped to make US drone strikes a bit more… erm… ‘effective’?! So, Germany, ‘we’ aid ‘targetting’ or rather – (as there aren’t enough inverted commas to go on writing like this): killing people now?! I hope no one believed the BND’s weak claims that those data are not exact enough for targetting when the same technical wizardry works pretty good in GPS routing hundreds of stag doers home safely every week-end when they got too drunk to remember their way.

Just enough to make it still look like democracy

The waves of news about the huge NSA-centered surveillance network have reached a level at which a call for neutral authorities to monitor and judge those secret services is not nearly enough anymore. What we know by now is so far beyond a point at which trust could be restored by transparency that I can’t think of a consequence but the elimination of those institutions and big changes in the government. Which of course won’t happen, I’m not that much of a dreamer. All of our ruling parties either couldn’t stop or helped make way for this, the roots go back in time. The arrogance or pretence naivety – and I hope it is pretence as it seems preferrable to actual cluelessness – with which highest-ranking politicians play around with this subject is unbelievable. As this is happening so close to the next elections in Germany it also discloses in which desolate a condition our democracy is. People shrug lethargically in ‘can’t change anything’ poses and indeed there is no eligible party that stands for data security / privacy (yes, I know… Piraten – ach…). Merkel is on holidays, the opposition protested a bit but has pulled back now as they see it doesn’t work as vote-turner. Steinbrück – there’s the pretence naivety again – now already praises Obama‘s “look we haz made you a transparency website and I did the dishes”-speech. I don’t even want to read up on all the single reactions anymore. I’m tired of waiting for real efforts in clarification instead of all this shuffling around, these power games with everyone dripping with pre-electoral saliva. The only thing that they seem to be busy trying to control is the effect those leaks have on their citizens. Let’s keep things stable, motivate people to use their right to vote, but don’t get too political when doing so. Just enough to make it still look like democracy. Funny thing is, that while losing more and more trust in democracy I still feel a much bigger yet unexplainable urge to go and use my vote this time than at the last elections. Guess all this talk about secret files makes me go all Mulder, in a ‘I want to believe’ way.

 Bild

This is not about a single country though, it is about as international as it gets because after all it is about how our lives are interwoven with our magic interwebz, and smartphones, etc. From pictures of cats (I knew I’d find a reason make embedding a cat picture relevant even for this text!) to random communication with strangers from all over the globe, from music streams (why has nobody told me yet that Airhead‘s ‘For Years’ album is such a good summer soundtrack?) to viral videos, from big news networks to obscure blogs, from Grindr to Geocaching, from silly twitter puns to deep discussions, from skype to snapchat, from shopping and banking to the nostalgia of facepalming over getting farmville request from friends, family, bosses on facebook. Of course you leave a certain level of privacy behind as soon as you click around or post something on the web or even when you just travel with your smartphone in your pocket but you do each of those things in a certain context and decide in that context if you want to put that information there or not. What makes this whole NSA surveillance thing so scary is that someone collects all of those tiny traces and is able to connect them.  Geez, I don’t even use payback cards. I have little doubt that there will be or are data collections with which they even can do so years from now. The act of connecting the dots might not be perfect now – *oi, amazon, are you really recommending me dat because I read dis?!* – but algorhythms will get better and this kind of future is getting a bit too dystopic for my taste. I do not care which countries’ governments’ surveillance it is that does so, I don’t want anyone to have that possibility. No one can tell in which hands these data and possibilities will end up years from now. Still, here we go, stripped of fundamental rights and feeling helpless about it.

The mantra of the meek of heart: “It doesn’t surprise me” and “I got nothing to hide”

What could make it worse? Yes, of course: People. People peopling. To be more exact: People’s apathy about it. People’s notion that it doesn’t really concern them, people hypnotizingly humming the mantra of the meek of heart: “It doesn’t surprise me” and “I got nothing to hide“. Hey, it should surprise you! Am I the only one that hasn’t been informed when our basic rights got thrown over board? I reject being told I’m the naive one here. I don’t want to type this with the feeling of someone looking over my shoulder. I don’t want the Telekom to track everything I do with my phone. I don’t want to start thinking twice before I type certain words in certain contexts. I don’t want to catch me thinking, ‘oh, well, if I were to chose my artist name today I might not pick ‘eve massacre’ even if it’s just a nod to a chapter in a great Irvine Welsh novel. These are bits of freedom and innocence lost. I also don’t want to learn how to encrypt, Mr. Friedrich and Mr. Applebaum. Oh, and maximum LOLs to the ‘email made in germany’ joke. Good one. Almost as good as the antivirus software ad with the slogan ‘good against secret services’. After the secure email services Lavabit and Silent Circle shut down deleting all their customers mails without warning Lavabit maker, Ladar Levison, said in an interview: “I’m taking a break from email. If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either” – well, that doesn’t even encourage to start looking for secure alternatives. Phil Zimmermann (Silent Circle, inventor of PGP) also says in an interview for Gigaom: “The surveillance landscape is far worse than it has ever been and I feel like everything we do is now observable. (…) I don’t think any of this can be fixed merely by the application of cryptography.” If you feel like doing so anyways, you might like to check prism-break.org. I thought about it, as well as about listening to friends who said they’d use the web less from now on, but that just feels like hiding or retreating. It somehow feels as an equally wrong move as twitter silence in the face of rape threats. I agree with Friedemann Karig: “What should protect you from spying is laws, not encryption. Else cryptography will soon turn into cryptonite for the idea of informational self-determination – and thus for web freedom.” (clumsy translation by me, full text here). Living in a democracy we should be free to dance with no one watching and not have to act as if no one was.

This is to democractic liberties what that Thicke song is to feminism

The only upside of this whole surveillance nightmare is that it gave me a new trust in at least some journalists’ and bloggers’ integrity and the power of critical journalism and blogging. The Guardian – just last night with a new article – and many others have done and are doing a brilliant job in giving us all the information in bits and pieces and commentary we can understand and which helps us reflect it all. This is why can’t but keep this blog posting brimming of links – yay, journos & bloggers! And of course: yay, leakers!
That The Guardian has not shed all the leaks at once but did and keeps doing so in little doses gave us time inbetween the disclosures to see how people in charge react. No matter if in the USA or Germany or wherever else, it seems to be the same: a) denial of knowing anything, b) when it gets revealed as lie they belittle it and shroud in vague replies, putting real explanations off, c) they claim it is all for our good (Terrorists! They hid under your bed! Stay under your cozy blankets! Oh, and by the way: Be happy you still have blankets! It’s just because of us! Because of our german economagic powers! While other countries economies crumble like this cookie! Look, more cookies for you! So hush now!)… erm… where was I? …. ah, yes: How the responsible people deal with it and how it hopefully won’t end: d) They let the disclosures go on, add vague policital candy-promises here and there to bounce it off their backs until the disclosures get too many or too complex and it drags on for too long to keep people’s attention so finally it all turns into blurred lines and no one cares anymore. “You know you want it”. See, this is to democractic liberties what that Thicke song is to feminism. And there is an awful lot of people humming along to that song this summer, so be afraid.