BPSDB On April 29th a person using the twitter account “@septscelles” released a large file to Barrett Brown that purportedly contained secret US Chamber of Commerce documents. ~ Muskegon Critic
That works for me since I want to talk about the context rather than the content, and now can do so without the distraction of what the hacked information may or may not mean. Call this a preemptive discussion for if and when there is some sort of “real” release of information from one of the Denier monoliths.
I think there are three important issues to consider:
- The validity of the content;
- Our response to the content;
- Our response to the nature of the release.
The validity of the content
Of the US Chamber of Commerce release The Atlantic Wire reports:
“Suspicions? Well, yes–Brown has reason to believe the new cache of documents isn’t totally on the level. Recall that when Anonymous released a bunch of documents from the cyberintelligence group Team Themis, those files described various strategies for discrediting watchdog groups–including creating “false documents” and “fake insider personas.” So Septscelles may be a concerned citizen who values transparency, or, as another posting at AnonNews puts it, he or she may be trying to “discredit Anonymous through a campaign of misinformation.”
A supposed leak or hack could well be a deliberate release of false documents to distract and discredit progressive information sources. Obviously one of their best defences against a real damaging release is to get us to cry wolf so often that when something real does happen the universal response is “ho hum, what else is new?”
Equally, an insider with a grudge or a hacker who went to a great deal of trouble and came up dry could well try and doctor internal documents to give the appearance of wrong doing. In time this would naturally be exposed, but in the meantime people in the climate science community may have made some ill-considered statements.
No matter how juicy or damaging the information may seem, our best course is to reserve judgement and advise caution until the information has been verified somehow.
Our response to the content
It’s highly unlikely that any hack or release will contain information that unambiguously and with absolute clarity exposes malfeasance and wrong doing. This is true regardless of how incriminating something may seem.
While the the CRU Hack was pretty clearly shop talk and insider bitching to the knowledgeable reader, it was easy to see how some of the out of context quotes appeared quite sinister to a naive reader.
The last thing we want to do is repeat the stupidity of the climate change Deniers who continue to cling pathetically to the CRU hack as meaning anything.
As with the former point, reserving judgement and advising caution must be our response until there is clarity.
The nature of the release
This is by far the most difficult aspect to handle.
Whether a hack or a Wikileak, it is pretty much a given that the nature of a release would involve some sort of illegal act. How does our community respond to the act? Do we praise it? condemn it? make no comment? How do we respond to the Deniers inevitable, hypocritical condemnation of it as a violation of law and all standards of decency?
The temptation is naturally to cheer “our guy” as being an e-Robin Hood fighting the tyranny of the corporate usurpers. However, recall that when it came to the CRU hack quite a few in the climate science community condemned the act of hacking as illegal, unethical etc. What will those people say if and when there is one that works in our favour? those who made no comment?
It is too much to hope that if it happens the one(s) responsible will step forward and accept the consequences, which while personally difficult for them would be brilliant in that fearless strategic nonviolent resistance is incredibly potent. Just look at the impact Tim DeChristopher‘s open acts of resistance are having.
Were it to happen this way we could simultaneously affirm the upholding of the law while praising the courage and commitment of the ones responsible. We should be so lucky, but I’m not holding my breath.
As it is unlikely that the activists in question will act strategically folks may want to think through now what their response will be.
How will we avoid charges of hypocrisy and double standards? or of being traitors condemning a hero?
In fact, regardless of whether any such leak/hack ever happens it is a good idea to sort through one’s morality and decide just what one’s ethical stance is with regard to political action. The coming years promise to be interesting with respect to the politics of climate change and there will be instances where it is not simple or clear, just as there were with the civil rights movement, South Africa, etc.
How will we handle the inevitable questions? Far more difficult, how to respond to the unspoken challenge those who act courageously pose to those who do not?
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
It is worth knowing and abiding by whether you comment on this blog or not.
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