Apple bites man from the government

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Prolific Heretic TOC contributor Dissident steps up from the Comments column today to the top of the page, with Part 1 of a two-part guest blog on the related topics of state security, fear-mongering and the Dark Net. His piece was submitted on the eve of the Paris terrorist attacks. Although these awful events thus go unmentioned, there is no need to be deflected by them. Dissident’s piece is about baseless, irrational fears, rather than entirely well-founded ones about jihadist fanatics. For more about Dissident, who has a substantial body of published work to his name, see my introduction to his guest blog in January this year, At last, the paedophile as hero!

 

SECURITY AND FEAR-MONGERING LEAD TO DARK PLACES

  1. Privacy Vs. Security: A Surprising Turn in the Never-Ending War…

I’m sure most of us in the Kind community are by now aware that various government agencies in the U.S., particularly the Department of Justice, are heavily resisting the new encryption technology that Apple – along with rival companies, like Google and Microsoft – is using for iPhones and other communication devices. And interestingly, not to mention surprisingly, Apple politely told the DoJ to take a hike when the latter demanded the company surrender records of text messages sent by suspects of something or other who utilized Apple’s encrypted iMessage system. Of equal interest, as explained in a good New York Times article, is a similar battle the DoJ is having with Microsoft over the company’s refusal to comply with a warrant to turn over private e-mail correspondence from a user who was a suspected drug trafficker:

The conflicts with Apple and Microsoft reflect heightened corporate resistance, in the post-Edward J. Snowden era, by American technology companies intent on demonstrating that they are trying to protect customer information. “It’s become all wrapped up in Snowden and privacy issues,” said George J. Terwilliger III, a lawyer who represents technology companies and as a Justice Department official two decades ago faced the challenge of how to wiretap phone networks that were becoming more digital.

Wow! Think about this for a minute. Big companies like Microsoft and Apple foregoing public brownie points by putting the privacy of its users above that of the state’s demands? That may be the most surprising recent political event since Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory with Britain’s Labour Party! Or the announcement of Pee-wee Herman returning to the screen following Paul Reuben’s long-ago bust for indecent self-touching in an X-rated theater, take your pick!

That certainly hasn’t been the trend for the past two decades, with tech companies publicly vowing to fully cooperate with the state whenever they declare their war on something. Could it be that good P.R. with the state may now be taking a back seat to protecting the privacy of tech customers in accordance with civil rights legislation and/or principles? Stranger things have happened, after all.

As noted in this NYT piece by Nicole Perlroth, the summer of 2015 found a group comprised of 14 of the world’s top computer scientists and cryptography experts uniting to oppose the American and British governments’ unprecedented degree of surveillance-oriented hacking into corporate data centers over the past decade. This, too, is due to a major backlash in the era of post-Snowden revelations that are now causing civil rights activists, computer technologists, and even the state’s usual comfy bedfellows and beneficiaries – the big corporations, albeit specifically those that deal with private communications – to overcome their reluctance to challenge actions claimed as vital for combating terrorists and other miscreants.

Usually, it pays for big corporations to cooperate openly and proudly with the agencies of the state which they have empowered to protect their hegemony over our class-divided society, but it’s always interesting when major conflicts of interest between society’s two separate ruling branches arise like this. It makes things crystal clear as to which of the two ruling class branches is the real boss in society, and a true spectacle is guaranteed during the rare occasions when such conflicts happen to work for, rather than against, the interests of common people and consumer interests. So let’s enjoy this while we can and take a closer look at what’s happening here, and how it relates to us Kind folk.

  1. To Snow on Security’s Parade

As Perloth wrote:

After Edward J. Snowden’s revelations – with security breaches and awareness of nation-state surveillance at a record high and data moving online at breakneck speeds – encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights. That has put Silicon Valley at the center of a tug of war. Technology companies including Apple, Microsoft and Google have been moving to encrypt more of their corporate and customer data after learning that the National Security Agency and its counterparts were siphoning off digital communications and hacking into corporate data centers.

And then, there is this: “Yet law enforcement and intelligence agency leaders argue that such efforts thwart their ability to monitor kidnappers, terrorists and other adversaries. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to ban encrypted messages altogether.” Is this surprising to anyone with a modicum of political knowledge? Do online videos frequently have annoying buffering glitches? Do bears shit in the woods? Do yellowjackets enjoy inviting themselves to your outside summer family barbecues? I think you get the gist. And the relevance of all this to the Kind community? Read on!

  1. Beware The Dark Net

All the usual hysterical nonsense, lies, and exaggerations about Kind-related issues are being used to claim that encryption and any privacy-granting technology – or any privacy at all, actually – must be nobly given up in the interest of protecting children from the prevailing cultural bogeyman.

The newest mysterious threat to arise in relation to that is the Dark Net, which refers to many difficult-to-locate sites on the internet hidden beneath layers of onions (i.e., encryption technology, often accessible only by surfers who use Tor). The Dark Net, something which relatively few surfers navigate, has become the new demonic darling of the technophobes’ eroticized nightmares. It allegedly hosts any number of sites that cater to numerous forms of human debauchery… everything from drug trafficking sales, to hit lists for people its users want “rubbed out,” to all the oft-heard claims of sites that traffic in child torture (now often referred to as “hurtcore”). The latter allegedly features an endless selection of pics and vids of children or adolescents who have been kidnapped and subjected to horrific forms of brutality, all to cater to the alleged legions of “pedophiles” who are said to thrive on such depraved sadism.

It’s the old Satanic ritualist-cum-child-snuff-addict re-dressed in technophobic clothing for the digital age. It amazes me that so few people both within and outside the Kind community have yet to identify it as such. Yet all of this should seem quite familiar to anyone who has carefully watched cultural trends during both the past 35 years of the current hysteria, and all previous moral panics throughout history.

  1. I’m Gonna Bogeyman, Bogeyman On Down the Roa-oad…

Predictably, at least one reader, likely a member of the Kind community, will attack this post along these lines: “Everything they say about the Dark Net is real! I can’t talk about it in detail here because of the rules, but I’m telling you, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it! So I don’t understand why you’re saying this type of shit, Dissident, when you don’t know!”

Oh, puh-lease! Reality check: Where have we heard this type of thing before? And how many times?

Are these respondents liars? No, they are resplendent drama queens, caught up in the aesthetic excitement offered by notions of the macabre and terrifying. Let’s examine the history of this prolific trend over just the past few decades alone.

Such claims always seem to carry a variant of the familiar bogeyman archetype, whether it be in a religious or fully secular guise. These stories show that people in our alienated, consumer-focused, heavily competitive society have a deep-seated need to believe in things like the Dark Net. The idea of a Hell after death has been superseded by imagining a real Hell on Earth.

This particular Hell and those shadowy figures said to rule it (no reports of horns or clown masks as yet) are designed specifically for the digital age, replacing the underground tunnels said to lie beneath the McMartin pre-school, where terrifying evil allegedly lurked. And no matter what guise this evil took, it usually situated the greatest threat to children (and underagers in general) outside the “safe” confines of the nuclear family home. And more specifically, this cultural trope is embodied in the idea of adult sadists who get a perverse sexual pleasure out of torturing and brutalizing children, evil-doers who seek to share that brutality with the allegedly countless other members of their demonic ilk. And allegedly making millions of dollars on an international level to continue financing the creation of this nightmarish form of erotically-overtoned entertainment to such depraved legions. And always staying one step ahead of the police, who mysteriously never seem able to account for the innumerable horribly mutilated and/or murdered bodies of young people that one would logically expect to pile up from such a sought-after hobby of global scope. And whose families mysteriously never come to the public for support and help in finding their purloined children (are we to believe each and every one of what must be a multitude of such families are too “scared” or “ashamed” to come forth?).

Even if these kids were covertly brought someplace, tortured horrifically, and then returned “safely” home under the neighborhood’s radar (as if none of these residences had their equivalent of Gladys Kravitz), one would think that parents and teachers would notice the plethora of cigarette burns, rack-torn muscles, sliced flesh, and severed tongues. But apparently we’re to believe that these Dark Net torturers can teach Michael Myers a thing or two about supernatural stealth, physics-defying logistics, and making a Houdiniesque art form out of covering their tracks to escape the authorities and resume their mayhem for throngs of eagerly awaiting audiences across the globe.

This sounds similar to the claims of “child torture sites” that so many people, Kinds and otherwise, of the supposedly noble variety, would claim to just stumble upon early in the previous decade before the Dark Net had caught the public’s fascination. No evidence was ever provided (“I obviously can’t link the sites here for legal reasons, dude! We have to save these kids!”). And most tellingly, if the pics and vids depicted real instances of horrible torture caught on camera, as opposed to just young-looking actors taking the role to cater to “extreme” interests of individuals who weren’t actually so ghastly evil as to insist upon the real deal only, no explanation could be provided for the lack of bodies, understandably emotional families coming to the public, or anything more ephemeral than the knife-wielding murderers dressed like clowns who apparently infiltrated America’s day care centers during the 1980s, and who allegedly filled the nearby grounds with the bones of numerous slain infants and toddlers.

Any horrifying imagery out there would likely turn out on inspection (but fantasy is preferred to scrutiny) to have been the result of young-looking thespians playing a role, aided by convincing but not-difficult-to-acquire special effects. This would mirror the numerous claims of snuff films in the 1980s. Countless people swore they had seen them, but no evidence was provided to substantiate that an ongoing international business of such a nature was routinely racking up bodies, adult or otherwise.

Nevertheless, such fantasies, from Snuff to Hurtcore, continue to fascinate and horrify the public, because they are fueled by two very potent and symbiotic forces: people’s need and willingness to believe the worst, and the benefit government agencies derive in pandering to this need. More in Part Two.

 

Extremists plot to disrupt ‘distressing’ dissent

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Today is Heretic TOC’s third anniversary. So I hope you will join me, in spirit at least, in celebrating. Cheers!

Looking back, the occasion of the first anniversary was marked by some rather uncharacteristically gloomy reflections on my part titled What’s the point of it all, really?  To my own question, I replied:

To be entirely honest, I am not sure. I know there are umpteen blogs I want to write, and that I am in absolutely no danger whatever of running out of things to say… But I do sometimes wonder whether… I might do better to concentrate my limited time on authoring books, or submitting articles to academic journals.

I am glad that I carried on blogging, and that was reflected in last years’ anniversary reflections, Oh shit, I forgot the kid’s birthday! My own existential angst over Heretic TOC’s purpose and future do not appear to have been shared by visitors, who continue to grow in number. The average hits per day here in the opening month, November 2012, was 89; in the corresponding month of 2013 there were 192; for 2014 the figure was up to 296. This year it is up again, to 363.

The most satisfying aspect of Heretic TOC for me has been the extent of engagement by fellow heretics, with a grand total – a very grand total – of 5,767 comments published so far as I write. One piece in this third year, Inadmissible Testimony, drew an astonishing 484 comments. This year also saw the most page views in a single day since the blog began: 1,685 on 20 July.

One wonderful aspect of this participation has been the generally high quality of the comments, which on a good many occasions have given me information and ideas I have quietly purloined and salted away in my own database for future exploitation. Some of these contributions have even been pressed into more immediate prominence, yoked into service as guest blogs in their own right. One of these, Towards the aetiology of paedophobia, turned out to be the first of a magnificent trio by Lensman (who now has his own excellent blog, Consenting Humans, writing as “leonard sisyphus mann”), the others being The future is green, and liberating for children and The staircase has not one step but many. All three were and remain truly profound analyses, worthy of continued study and reflection. If there is to be any lasting legacy of Heretic TOC, these pieces alone will comprise a mighty chunk of it.

As for any others that may be worth re-reading, I have been telling myself in the run-up to this anniversary that I really must have a good rummage through the back catalogue to fish out the best ones, with a view perhaps to running them as an e-book called Best of Heretic TOC, or whatever. In fact I mentioned just such a possibility in last last’s anniversary reflections. The only problem is actually getting around to doing the task. At least I have at last made a start, though, and following an appeal made here in July I am now kindly being helped by Ronnie (who posted on the About page) to compile an annotated index of every blog.

Looking forward, my feelings are still somewhat equivocal, as they were at the first anniversary. If there were any foreseeable prospect of kind people getting a better deal any time soon, if the mood were shifting towards the liberation of kids’ sexuality, rather than its suppression, I would doubtless feel a whole lot keener. To write in such an atmosphere would be truly exciting and exhilarating.

Even in a bear market, though, there are those who will always make a fast buck out of selling assets short, enabling such speculators to profit from panic. In a way, that is what the now thriving Virtuous Pedophiles are doing. They are selling kindness short, talking down the value of being kind and thereby making capital out of enabling unkindness to prosper. Their brand of writing and putting themselves about in the media might well feel “exciting and exhilarating” to those who sully themselves with it, but their success comes at the heavy price of selling their souls.

I make the point following the remarkable recent media coup by Todd Nickerson, already well known in kind circles for his posts as  “Markaba” at GirlChat and elsewhere. Not that he uses the word kind to describe child lovers. On the contrary, in a long article in the hugely influential American online journal Salon, he went out of his way to adopt the divisive language favoured by the VPs. Thus he disparaged those of us who seek liberation through long-term cultural change as “pro-contacters”, thereby deliberately fostering the false and libellous impression that we invite kind people to be heedless of present laws, or even (since it is left to the reader’s imagination) that we would condone or excuse non-consensual acts.

The media loved Nickerson’s blend of pity-seeking and finger-pointing. Big pieces soon followed in Daily Mail and The Independent; there was an interview on Irish radio.

Unfortunately, we can expect more of the same. Much more. The VPs, with whom Nickerson is now actively associating himself, have for some time been presenting a package that clearly appeals to the media, and they are now becoming a widely recognised brand.

Posting their own facts and figures on Sexnet recently, they claimed to have over 1,000 members now, albeit, in the words of Nick Devin, co-founder of VP with Ethan Edwards, “They don’t all stay around obviously, and not all participate.” Sexnet moderator Mike Bailey humorously replied: “Congratulations! (I know it’s not true, but kind of funny to think of Nick, Ethan, and 998 FBI agents on a website.)”

Many a true word is said in jest, for sure, but I rather think those FBI agents and their British equivalents will be focusing harder on Heretic TOC than the VPs, for the obvious reason that we are more likely to be perceived as a source of “extremism”.

If the success of the VP brand presents a threat to heretical thinking – and make no mistake, it does – the crudely coercive agencies of the repressive state constitute a far bigger one. In the UK, especially, where this blog is written, the latest ominous development is the government’s plan for a  new Extremism Disruption Order, already briefly mentioned in the comment columns here.

British radical Peter Tatchell has set the scene on his website, in an article titled Extremism Disruption Orders menace free speech.

The government’s main intention, announced earlier this year, is to crack down on Islamist extremism, with a view to stopping the process through which young Muslims become radicalised into taking part in bomb plots and going abroad to join “Islamic State”.

That sounds fine, but the measures the government has outlined strike at the heart of free expression. They are so broad and vague they could penalise a range of dissenting and minority opinions. The government has refused to define what it means by extremism, but the legislation will clamp down on “extremists” even if they have not broken the law. Don’t take my word for it, or Tatchell’s. Here is what prime minister David Cameron said when he was introducing the proposal:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” He then went on to promise that the government “will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”

So, no more tolerance! Obeying the law is not enough! What will be demanded in our supposedly liberal society, it seems, is total conformity.

Simon Calvert, director of Defend Free Speech, set up to oppose the initiative, said:

“Defend Free Speech believes innocent people will fall foul of this unnecessary and dangerous piece of legislation. It will criminalise those who hold unpopular, unfashionable or challenging views. This could include pro- and anti-religious groups, trade unionists, environmental and animal rights activists, critics of UK foreign policy and people campaigning for LGBT rights. Indeed, we have already seen police urging teachers to report on parents who go to anti-fracking protests.”

In such a climate, it does not need much imagination to understand that pro-kind views will be in the firing line and that a blog such as Heretic TOC will immediately be branded extremist, even though it could hardly be more polite and moderate. Indeed, when the politicians talk about what “extremism” should be taken to mean, they tend to talk in terms of “glorifying” terrorism and “normalising” paedophilia. Unlike the anti-frackers and the rest, us heretics would be seen as prime targets along with the directors of obscenely glamorised beheading videos.

Defend Free Speech has warned that EDOs could be used to prevent individuals from going to certain places, mixing with particular people or even using mobile phones, the internet and social media. The group says the government will use the civil law test of “the balance of probabilities” rather than the stronger criminal test of “beyond reasonable doubt” in order to impose the EDOs and that even the mere risk of causing “distress” could be enough to trigger the new powers.

My guess is that the worst fears expressed by Defend Free Speech will not come to pass. This group appears to be very broad-based, and its leadership includes heavyweights such as former Conservative Party leadership contender David Davis MP, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP and ex-Chief Constable Lord Dear. Robust resistance to the worst excesses of the EDOs can be expected from the now rather splendidly militant House of Lords.

Whose freedom of expression will not be accommodated though? Why, us heretical kind people, of course. In these circumstances, it may become impossible in the coming year to continue a blog such as Heretic TOC unless it is written from outside the UK. In any case, there must come a time when, as an individual, one’s contribution has run its course. While this is not quite a valedictory on my part, it is intended to hint that others – especially those in other parts of the world – should be thinking how best to sustain a discourse of heresy in the perhaps not very distant future.

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