27 June 2013 — Falkvinge on Infopolicy
While international politics in the West has been leaping over each other to suck up to The Empire’s New Clothes following September 11, 2001, the United States wasted no time in reinforcing the order of Pax Americana – that the US would establish peace in the world through superior firepower.
The world was turned into a simple black-and-white “You’re with us, or you’re against us.” In the decade that followed, many countries that were inconvenient to Pax Americana were invaded, none of which had anything to do with the events on September 11.
The rattling of sabers were reminiscent of a high school bully: “if you don’t accept that we can do whatever we want, we might be mean to you, so behave.” Or, as US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed that sentence in just slightly more diplomatic language recently: “Hand over Snowden, or there may be consequences.”
Most people in the United States aren’t aware that their country is acting like their hated high school bully to most of the rest of the world. The few who do tend to take it with humor: bumper stickers have been seen satirizing this as “Be nice to America, or we’ll bring democracy to your country”, playing on the media spin that every war of aggression to maintain Pax Americana is about “bringing democracy”somewhere.
So when one man, Edward Snowden, reveals to the world that the Empire stands naked and that it really has been behaving like a bully, wiretapping everybody wholesale, there are shockwaves. But that’s where the similarities with the folklore tale ends. Where the naked emperor cringed and realized the game was up, the naked Empire instead chooses to keep rewarding sucking up, pretending that nothing has been revealed at all, and to punish the whistleblower at all costs as a warning to others.
Politicians in the United States have been quick to call Snowden this, that and the other thing. No wonder. The surveillance hawks who couldn’t care less of the human rights of the world would much rather talk about Edward Snowden as an individual than about the fact that the world’s trust in the United States has been systematically betrayed wholesale.
Take Microsoft software as an important example. As part of the NSA unravelings, it was uncovered that Microsoft gives security holes to the National Security Agency for exploiting before it sends out security repair patches to its users and customers – essentially betraying the trust of every customer worldwide, and making sure that no government, corporation, or media outlet can ever trust Microsoft products again: for Microsoft gave the master key to every customers’ operations to the NSA.
Without Snowden setting the ball rolling, we would not have known this, and we would continue to have been owned – in the hacker and literal sense of the word – by the United States. Now, we can at least see that any Microsoft-developed software, and probably any closed US-developed software, is a huge security risk that no nation outside the United States can afford to take.
Today, Snowden is said to be comfortable on the inside of Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow, pending new travel documents being issued by some friendly country. (You have to love the fact that he’s enraging US bully hawks by planning his trip to China, Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela. The only thing missing would be a trip to Pyongyang with a stopover in Tehran – and we find ourselves rooting for the countries that shield him, those countries we have been told sternly are black-and-white evil.)
What’s really interesting is how other people who have had their doubts about the United States have started to come forward. There are now rumors that those who have been doubting the Empire’s ability to pay back its enormous debts are starting to raise their voices about it. No wonder: the United States has long been bankrupt, but people have been… pretending… otherwise to make sure that a crash to the world economy doesn’t happen on their watch.
If the doubts in creditworthiness take hold, things can come crashing down quicker than you would expect. Compare with 1987, at what felt like the height of the Cold War – who would have guessed that the Soviet Union would be formally dissolved just four years later?
If history teaches us anything, it is that all empires come to an end. History books could theoretically point at Snowden’s leak of conscience as the starting point of major, major changes to the geopolitical order. At least they ended a blind and naive trust in the United States’ interest in doing good for anybody but itself.