If you have a movement that depends upon a digital platform, you don’t have a movement.
There are technically sound reasons for handling overpriced tracking devices smartphones with a degree of caution. That goes double for the allegedly “secure” messaging apps that run on them. These concerns have taken on a heightened sense of urgency given that senior politicians and government bureaucrats are throwing around terms like “domestic terrorist.” Those are fighting words by Beltway standards, and an omen that security services are in the process of adopting a new threat du jure. Activists may want to pause for a moment and consider the benefits of more traditional forms of organizing.
If you have a movement that depends heavily upon a digital platform, you don’t have a movement. What you’ve actually got is a honeypot that, wittingly or otherwise, will snare those drawn to it. In the end, all of that data traverses a maze of interconnected pipes which are centrally monitored and controlled by you-know-who. Which is to say that powerful data correlation techniques are not imaginary and so-called “strong” encryption is a graven image. Making presumptions about security is an act of blind superstition. You may as well start hanging garlic to ward off vampires.
Rest assured the powers that be are watching like hawks. A joint intelligence bulletin recently circulated by the FBI and DHS mentioned potential plots against the Capital on March 4 and March 6. The House of Representatives dutifully freaked out and cancelled its March 4 session. On the other hand, the Senate opted for business as usual, maintaining a fairly normal floor schedule. Did calmer minds prevail? An inside source told CNN that rumors of another capitol siege were “mostly online talk and not necessarily an indication anyone is coming to Washington to act on it.”
What’s important here isn’t the alleged plots or ensuing hysterics. What’s important is the incidental reference to authorities somehow being privy to the sensitive deliberations of groups that reside out on the political periphery. That is something similar to federal efforts currently underway in Germany. The actual likelihood of another attack on the capitol, in the immediate future, ranges from low to nil for obvious reasons.
The activation of domestic intelligence should serve as a reality check for keyboard operators who’ve grown accustomed to talking a big game online. Illusions of network privacy are about to run smack into a surveillance apparatus that’s historically unrivaled. As with America’s nuclear arsenal, the internet is a direct descendent of the military. It arose out of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a collection of routers and servers premised on surviving nuclear war and enabling mass surveillance. Leveraging what spy chiefs refer to as the “home field advantage” they erected a sprawling panopticon fueled by Silicon Valley’s talent for automation, artificial intelligence, and scalability.
Apologists reflexively claim that there’s no reason to be concerned. They say commercial data silos primarily exist to sell ads. Unfortunately, classified documents reveal that when spies want access to said data they’ll get it. The generals and the C-suites have been in cahoots since the days of the rotary dial phone.
The whole notion that resilient long-term organizations will coalesce around social media portals is a bit naïve. Real movements don’t emerge from the pseudo anonymity of internet channels, which are literally crawling with informants, hackers, and artful government spies. Politics is, and always will be, a human activity. Real movements are built around face-to-face human interaction. Years of directly engaging in the sort of shared purpose that forges relationships and builds trust.
Sure, social media gets the numbers to spike. There are celebrities who garner hundreds of thousands of likes every day. But the problem with this mindset is that the corresponding interpersonal structures are towers of sand that can disintegrate as fast as they appear. Lest anyone forget the array of curious circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of “Propertarian” YouTuber John Mark.
Real movements require the judicious employment of in-house security. That is, domain experts who know how to methodically identify and manage potential insider threats; who can rigorously utilize policies, procedures, and resources to achieve higher levels of confidentiality and integrity; who can enforce baselines of operations security; who will establish redundant out-of-band communication streams that render mass surveillance untenable; and who can develop layered trust models that safeguard the core cadre from infiltration by opposition assets. This is one area, in particular, that has been woefully neglected by the current generation, and it shows. It’s not easy, not quick, and definitely not cheap. But nothing worthwhile ever is. That’s especially true in an age increasingly defined by active measures and rampant clandestine intrigue.