Assange calls Schmidt/Cohen book a “blueprint for imperialism.”

Okay, it’s not often (see never), you’ll find me quoting Julian Assange other than with an inebriated smirk. Although erudite, I think of the man as kind of a digital-age Abbie Hoffman whose primary cause is to increase the relative importance of himself. And we haven’t heard much from Assange lately, holed up as he is in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London; but the Sunday New York Times offers this OpEd in which he excoriates the book The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.  Regardless of whether you believe, as I do, that Assange’s paranoia of states like the U.S. is overplayed for dramatic effect, it is very interesting that he describes Google as having “thrown in its lot with traditional, Washington power elements . . .” All credit to Twitter follower Leslie Burns, who observes, “It’s like spiders who eat their parent.”

From the article:

“The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism.  This is the principal thesis in my book, “Cypherpunks.”  But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us  that the death of privacy will aid governments in “repressive autocracies’ in “targeting their citizens,” they also say governments in “open democracies” will see it as a “gift” enabling them to “better respond to citizen and customer concerns.” In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the “good” societies closer to the “bad” ones.

See also The web is not a panacea on this blog.


© 2013, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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  • Yesterday was odd for me. I found myself in agreement with both Assange and Justice Scalia. What a mad world.


    It is funny you mention Scalia…

    What I found fascinating was the NYT reader comments in response. Very few even attempted to address the merits of Assange’s arguments. The largest share sought to disqualify Assange from debate on the grounds of his past actions, admitted and alleged, personal and political. The next biggest group were his fan club, quick to portray him as an information age Saint Sebastian. Several people also decided to criticize his polemical style rather than engage his point.

    Of course, criticism of the form of his comments, and even of the record of his public life, is not illegitimate. But the preponderance of it reflects something illegitimate that has happened to public debate: That such approaches are used as tactics to avoid engaging honestly on the merits of the point raised. Don’t debate, disqualify.

    The whole approach is interesting in how it reflects modern Conservative Movement worldview. In a sense, the commenters are doing what Scalia so often does: Insisting that the plaintiff doesn’t have standing, so therefore the merits are irrelevant. This demand for pedigree as a prerequisite of consideration has become a defining feature of contemporary U.S. society. Assange’s notoriety protected him from the most common rendition of this approach, which runs along the lines of: “Who is this person? I never heard of them, so they can’t be anybody, and nobody who isn’t anybody can possibly have anything to say worth my listening to.”

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