by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
The world around us is changing at an incredible pace, and with such change come many pitfalls as well as immeasurable opportunities. At the same time, the more things change the more some things stay the same. For example, the most important issue humans will have to confront in the years ahead is the age old issue of concentrated power.
One of the most destructive side effects of the financial crisis and the corrupt official response to it, has been an even greater concentration of wealth and power in the hands of some of the most unsavory characters planet earth has to offer. If we are to evolve and create a better paradigm, we’ll need to address this forcefully and thoughtfully.
I say thoughtfully, because what history has shown is that the typical response to a small group of crooked elites seizing all money and power is to launch a violent revolt that merely empowers another small group who said all the right things during their crusade, but then act as viciously and unethically as those they replaced once in power. This situation can and should be avoided at all costs. The idea isn’t to swap one group of rulers for another. We need to think about building a world defined by networks governed by rules, but with no rulers.
Indeed, this is the greatest lesson Bitcoin has shown to the world. It is a global network/community of people who have voluntarily opted into an alternative monetary system with no one in charge. Let me repeat that again, nobody is in charge. There’s no CEO, there’s no individual empowered to come in and just make changes to the code. In contrast, there’s a sprawling community of developers, entrepreneurs, hodlers, thinkers, writers, etc, whose degree of influence within the network changes over time.
It’s no surprise then that many of the most influential and respected leaders within the community at this moment were largely unknown five years ago. Bitcoin’s governance can be best described as anarchy, and it’s precisely this structure that appeals to so many. It’s a voluntary system governed by rules, but there are no rulers. There are key influencers and people whose opinions matter to the direction of the project, but these people have no official position, and their influence can disappear as quickly as it rose. It may not be clean and pretty, but it’s the way I think governance ought to work.
Another significant and potent lesson we can learn from the success of Bitcoin is the global community that’s been built around it. This global network helps people understand how connected we are as human beings. That we have infinitely more in common with each other than the corrupt governments and sleazy oligarchs who rule our respective nation-states. It’s a very valuable lesson that “we the people” on a global level need to internalize if we’re to overcome the centralized hierarchies that dominate human affairs on earth at this time.
Humans are easily divided and conquered, both within our respective nation-states and on a global level. Here in the U.S. we’re instructed that there are two main ways of viewing the world politically (Democrats or Republicans) and that we must make a choice between one or the other. This is beyond ridiculous and we should stop playing such a stupid game immediately.
On a more global level, we’re constantly propagandized that some outside barbarian is right outside the gates and we must give up our civil liberties in order to stay safe. In my own lifetime alone, it’s gone from Russia to Iraq, to al-Qaeda, to ISIS and now back to Russia. There’s never really been a break from non-stop fear mongering, particularly since the military-industrial-surveillance complex was institutionalized after 9/11.
In contrast, the universal truth is we’re a global family of human beings and we must stand in solidarity with one another on a planetary level if we’re to overcome centralized oppression, which all of us suffer from irrespective of what our passports say. The very wealthy and powerful work together on a global basis, and we must do the same. We’re all in this together, and we have a common enemy. That enemy is concentrated power, within our communities and on a global basis.
A perfect example of what human beings are up against on a global level was outlined in a recent article by Glenn Greenwald published at The Intercept titled, First France, Now Brazil Unveils Plans to Empower the Government to Censor the Internet in the Name of Stopping “Fake News.”
Here are a few key paragraphs:
Yesterday afternoon, the official Twitter account of Brazil’s Federal Police (its FBI equivalent) posted an extraordinary announcement. The bureaucratically nonchalant tone it used belied its significance. The tweet, at its core, purports to vest in the federal police and the federal government that oversees it the power to regulate, control and outright censor political content on the internet that is assessed to be “false,” and to “punish” those who disseminate it. The new power would cover both social media posts and entire websites devoted to politics…
Tellingly, these police officials vow that they will proceed to implement the censorship program even if no new law is enacted. They insist that no new laws are necessary by pointing to a pre-internet censorship law enacted in 1983 – during the time Brazil was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that severely limited free expression and routinely imprisoned dissidents…
The move to obtain new censorship authority over the internet by Brazilian police officials would be disturbing enough standing alone given Brazil’s status as the world’s fifth most populous country and second-largest in the hemisphere. But that Brazil’s announcement closely follows very similar efforts unveiled last week by French President Emmanuel Macron strongly suggests a trend in which government are now exploiting concerns over “Fake News” to justify state control over the internet…
Both Brazil and France cited the same purported justification for obtaining censorship powers over the internet: namely, the dangers posed by alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. But no matter how significant one views Russian involvement in the U.S. election, it is extremely difficult to see how – beyond rank fear-mongering – that could justify these types of draconian censorship powers by Brasília and Paris…
All censorship efforts rest on the same tactic: generating fear over exaggerated threats posed by villains, sometime domestic ones but more often foreign villains. The Brazilian and French tactic for inducing the public to acquiesce to this censorship faithfully follows that script…
Ill-defined terms that become popularized in political discourse are, by definition, terms of propaganda rather than reliable, meaningful indicators of problems. And invariably, they wreak all kinds of predictable havoc and inevitably give rise to abuses of power. More than anything else, such terms – which, by design, mean wha
tever powerful groups wielding them want them to mean – so often produce arbitrary censorship in the name of combatting them. Just consider two similarly ill-defined but popular propagandistic terms – “terrorism” and “hate speech” – which have been appropriated by governments all over the world to justify the most extreme, repressive powers.
The last decade has seen multiple countries on every continent – including the world’s most repressive regimes – obliterate basic civil liberties in the name of stopping “terrorism” – by which they mean little other than “those who oppose our regime.” And then there’s “hate speech,” which can sometimes be used to silence Nazis or overt racists, but also can be and often is used to silence a wide range of left-wing views, from war opposition to advocacy of Palestinian rights. State censorship is always dangerous, but the danger is exponentially magnified when the censorship targets (terrorism, hate speech, Fake News) lack clear definition…
Then he sums up the situation perfectly in a brilliant paragraph at the end.
Ultimately, the core question here is a simple one. What is a more serious threat: the ability of people to publish false claims (which have existed since humans developed the capacity to speak or write and are subject to correction), or vesting governments around the world to censor entire websites and social media postings on the ground that they have judged them to be “false” or “Fake”? Since the advent of the internet, the one danger regarded as most menacing was having states and corporations assume control over the political content that one can express.
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