Herewith the concluding part of Dissident’s two-part guest blog, which began with Apple bites man from the government.
Who Loves Being Afraid of the Dark?
Note the suspicious and familiar-sounding claims surrounding the authorities’ move against Eric Eoin Marques, the founder of server Freedom Hosting, who has been touted as the CP kingpin of the world.
I’m not saying “extreme” interests do not exist, or that there aren’t various sites offering means of conducting illegal activity, sometimes commercially. And I’m certainly not denying that human depravity and even pure evil exists out there. What I am saying, however, is that organized cabals of unspeakably evil people commanding vast resources and preying on children is something we have heard falsely claimed so often before that it makes no sense to embrace every new bizarre assertion as true in the absence of strong evidence.
So who are these people outside of the government who spread wild rumors and would seek to visit such places? And why? These are questions that become clearer when we look at similar trends, throughout history, including recent decades.
As suggested in Part One, it seems certain individuals with an “extreme” degree of interest in the darker side of human existence – both real and imagined – are aesthetically smitten by the cloak of mystique and exhilarating terror a demonic vision of the Dark Net provides, which adds “spice” to the mundane and often dispiriting world we have to live in. Those taken in by this phenomenon would logically include less defensible fetishists along with Kind people.
Such a tendency can be seen readily in other minority groups that have struggled for acceptance. This would include the Wiccan communities and New Agers in general, who have seen a small portion of their number embrace what they call the “Left Hand” path, which twists their cherished beliefs and practices into a gothic motif embracing a dark aesthetic, sometimes involving nightmarish images straight from the pages of a medieval grimoire.
Granted, religious/spiritual minorities are not the same as sexual minorities, but both have the parallel of being misunderstood groups in a deeply Judeo-Christian culture who have been pushed to the fringes of society, and whose members have had to struggle for acceptance against a surfeit of media-mutated imagery (note the gothic, stereotyped “witch” imagery for Wiccans). This is bound to have an effect on the psyches of some members of these disenfranchised groups. It also explains the “goth” and “emo” aesthetics favoured by so many youths who have felt marginalized: young people are also a misunderstood and persecuted minority, denied full personhood in a society every bit as gerontocentric as it is Judeo-Christian. Dark, morbid, and depressing imagery revolving around blood, torture, and death (both suicide and murder) seem to be commonly adopted by those seeking to express their disaffection with a society that has rejected them, and to resist it.
Why should heavily persecuted sexual minorities like the Kind community be an exception to this prevalent cultural tendency? My contention is that we aren’t, and the archetype of the callous, sadistic torturer of children and adolescents for erotic pleasure is the contemporary end result. The scary dark alleyways and mysterious woodlands of the past have yielded to the unlit virtual highways of cyberspace as the natural habitat of these mythical demons, perfectly adaptable to both traditional Judeo-Christian imagery and the secular attire of the modern digital age, as needed.
What aspects and aesthetics of the collective human psyche do you think Net-created bogeymen like Slenderman (with elongated arms, all the better to grab you with) come from, and why are these bizarre figures conceived as a threat to children? Add a distinctly taboo erotic element to that archetype, take him out of the old haunting grounds of the wilderness and into the new but equally mysterious digital landscape, and you have the near-perfect image of the sadistic Dark Net child torturer. And let’s note how many people claim they have actually seen Slenderman when wandering through the woods, or in their closet when they have had to get a broom out of there in the middle of the night. Two young girls even claimed the reason they repeatedly stabbed (but thankfully failed to kill) a peer was to appease this version of the archetypal fiend. Once a macabre psychic meme of this nature grasps onto the public consciousness, it takes on a pseudo-life of its own. And it morphs easily, capable of shape-shifting to any form moral crusaders and government-employed fascists need it to.
Freedom is Darkness
The onion-layered mysteriousness of the Dark Net allows governments to play on fear of the unknown; everywhere, people are rendered passively quiescent as the global surveillance state takes shape.
Take a histrionic claim made recently by James Michael Cole, Deputy Attorney General of the United States, during an October 2015 meeting with top-level Apple execs for the purpose of convincing them to betray their customer encryption program. Given an authoritative status in the august pages of The Wall Street Journal, this claim was examined more skeptically by Jason Mick for DailyTech, who wrote:
“The report states that DAG Cole, the second highest-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Justice, claimed that children would die if Apple carried out the scheme. His argument reportedly boiled down to that law enforcement might be able to find details in a missing child case on a suspect’s phone, but be stymied by encryption, leading to a delay in finding the child. Such a delay, he argued could allow a child to die. Apple executives weren’t buying into the DOJ official’s hypotheticals. The WSJ report states: The meeting last month ended in a standoff. Apple executives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory. They told the government officials law enforcement could obtain the same kind of information elsewhere, including from operators of telecommunications networks and from backup computers and other phones, according to the people who attended [emphasis in original].”
The “safety of the children” issue is constantly used by officials to justify just about any invasion of civilian privacy. The Kind community is most certainly concerned about the safety of children, but we take two things into consideration that the government would rather the public refuse to think about rationally: 1) child abduction by strangers is exceedingly rare; and, 2) as Apple officials noted, there are other readily available means of a technical sort to siphon pertinent information that would help lead to the rescue of an abducted child.
Clearly, these concerns are not actually about protecting children, but simply excuses for gaining access to anyone’s private communications and transactions, in order to dig for anything that could be construed as embarrassing or compromising personal “dirt”, including evidence of reading material preferences and potential signs of political dissent. The government knows how Americans decry unwarranted intrusion into their privacy by state or corporate officials. So “stranger danger” and the stereotypical pedophile are invoked to make such intrusion seem necessary and to circumvent constitutional protections.
This is not to claim that corporations like Apple or Google are inherently friends of the common person or of freedom in general, let alone our natural allies against the state. As Mick notes in his article: “Both Apple and Google have been very cooperative with detecting and reporting child abuse material detected in their messaging and cloud storage services. In fact, they’ve been so proactive that they’ve actually come under fire from some users who claim the companies shouldn’t be inspect[ing] user data for signs of child abuse.”
Yet corporations looking through private customer data on the off-chance of finding naked pics of a six-year-old in the bathtub isn’t going far enough for the state; they insist on doing the job themselves. Could it be, perhaps, because Apple and Google officials have no major interest in looking for political dissidence? As further noted by Mick, even as some users criticize the big corporations for “violating their privacy” by inspecting the data that users willingly give them, federal law enforcement agencies are attacking from the opposite direction, claiming they are not doing enough to assist law enforcement. Mick cites the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director, James Brien Comey Jr., as the leading voice of criticism against smartphone encryption.
Could this be due to the FBI’s long and sordid history of monitoring law-abiding citizens for no better reason than a suspicion that they may be unpatriotic by jingoistic standards? As Mick noted:
“In a recent interview, [Comey] admitted that the FBI had abused the public’s trust in the past with investigations against civil rights activists and other abusive actions. And he admitted that his agency operates relatively non-transparently so the public has no real way of knowing if those kinds of abuses have stopped. But he argued that the public should take the FBI’s word that it’s since improved.”
Mm-hmm. Let’s at least be thankful that Director Comey had the character to own up to something that’s been proven numerous times over.
Let’s not join the herd under the spell of the Dark Net mythology; let’s not be too eager to embrace a sinister story for whatever macabre excitement it may bring into our lives, mistaking it for a reality. It is to the benefit of the fascist elements of governments across the world that we endorse such a vision. We do ourselves no favors by swallowing without question what they want us to believe. We need to oppose the game, not get sucked into it ourselves. We do not need to compound any real darkness in the world with variants of all the usual archetypes, which moral crusaders and their government-based allies are eager to use against us and other minority groups—or anyone fighting for progressive change.