Freedom strangled by macabre fantasies

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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.

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.

 

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