Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

L’Affaire Sony NORK

Douglas Wilson
Blog and Mablog
December 22, 2014

If festivals of hypocrisy were to be compared with the riotous celebrations that are actually already on the calendar, L’Affaire Sony NORK would have to rank right up there with the Mardi Gras in Rio.

Let us recap and without any snorting. Sony made what I have no doubt was a perfectly appalling movie called The Interview. The movie is a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un, the Dear Leader of an electrically challenged portion of the globe. North Korea didn’t like it at all, and no doubt with the help of other regional commies, hacked into Sony’s computer systems and released all the juicy info they found down there to the interwebs.

At this point, Western journalists — major privacy advocates all, provided we are talking about the NSA — couldn’t resist the chance to dish on Angelina, and responded to this particular North Korean dinner gong by getting all four feet in the trough.
As a consequence, we discovered all kinds of festive things, like major Sony liberal Democrat execs having fun to yucking it up at Obama’s expense with various race-chortle-jokes. And then, as a result of the controversy, theater chains got nervous and started bailing, and so Sony halted the release to the movie theaters, while maintaining they hadn’t caved. We will see. If they release it in other ways after renegotiating all the contracts related to it, then they might have a point. If they don’t, then what they just did was fold like a three-dollar tent in a typhoon.

And then, just after the nick of time, Obama weighed in by saying that he thinks Sony made a mistake here, trying not very hard to not get any race-chortle-joke-schadenfreude on the lectern. They should have called me, he said. We were talking to the White House, they said, whaddaya mean call you? But Obama was already on a higher plane. You can’t let these political leaders bully movie makers, said the man who had blamed the Benghazi fiasco on a by-standing movie maker who then had to spend a year in jail for it. Still with me?

At a certain point, however, however macabre your sensibilities are, the whole thing stops being funny. The reason it stops being funny is that the episode highlights a major security threat — cyber attacks — for which there is currently no adequate preventative solution at all. There will be suggested preventative solutions, which will all mysteriously grow the power of our government over our lives, but they will be a farce like all the rest of it.
“The means of defense against foreign danger have always been the instruments of tyranny at home.” James Madison

What North Korea did to Sony could in principle be done to nuclear power plants, to U.S. Bank, to public utilities, and the international headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s. The point has already been made — and it is accurate as far as it goes — that the NSA exists in part to guard against this kind of thing. A private corporation like Sony shouldn’t have to protect itself against the malevolent resources of a nation-state. One of the reasons governments exist is to protect us from attack, including this kind of attack. A private business in America should not have to pay for the kind of security it would take to guard against what a country could mount against them.

But . . . here it comes. It will be pointed out by those people still willing to defend NSA snoopervision that it is not possible to defend private business against such attacks without our protecting government also gaining access to the data they are protecting. And so, after an appropriate amount of throat-clearing, the suggestion will finally be made. “You will just have to trust us. We want to keep you safe . . .” Now I grant that we may require the kind of cyber defense that only you can provide, but if we give them that position, then it turns out that we will have no defense at all . . . against them.

So the answer is no. I don’t trust them. Not only do I not have any good reason to trust them, I have compelling reasons not to. Remember the point made just above about the maker of the Muhammad movie who had nothing whatever to do with all that unrest in the Middle East, but which was blamed on him nonetheless? The most powerful people in the world declared that they would hold him responsible, which they did, and so he spent a year in the slammer. That was a vile business right there. And then the man responsible for it stands up a couple years later and lectures incendiary movie makers on how to stand up to threats from tyrants?

Obama first got elected to the Senate because the sealed divorce records of his opponent got themselves unsealed. He is from Chicago. This is what he does.

The reason Obama has been against the Keystone pipeline is that he needed to use the piping material as a conduit between the IRS and the Washington political operatives who needed dirt on their opponents. This is what he does.

Not only does he do this kind of thing, but the fact that he does is openly known. Despite this, he continues on, and so I will continue on with wanting my government to know as little about me as possible. That is, I only want them to know what I am willing to tell them directly, and in public. Central to what I am willing to tell the government in public is the fact that I do not trust the government. This is good a priori policy for any government, but it is especially necessary with a government that has been as guilty of abusing information as our has.

James Madison summed up my feelings nicely. “The means of defense against foreign danger have always been the instruments of tyranny at home.”

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