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Re: <nettime> WikiLeaks and the Culture of Classification
Brian Holmes on Mon, 15 Nov 2010 22:52:59 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> WikiLeaks and the Culture of Classification


> WikiLeaks and the Culture of Classification

> ... Instead of seeking to weed out the overclassified material and
> concentrate on protecting the truly sensitive information, the
> culture of classification reacts by using the WikiLeaks cases as
> justification for continuing to classify information at the highest
> possible levels and for sharing the intelligence it generates with
> fewer people. The ultimate irony is that the WikiLeaks cases will
> help strengthen and perpetuate the broken system that helped lead to
> the disclosures in the first place.

I think the above is characteristic of this phase of informationalism:
organizational routines that formerly provided solutions are now
stiffening to the point where they become problems in themselves. In
this case, the ability to set up and manage huge encrypted networks
leads to the overextension of classification even as it multiplies
the opportunities for leaks. The interesting thing is, the dynamic is
totally legible but nothing will be done about it: too many people
have made careers setting up the systems, too much equipment has
been bought, too much time has been spent inculcating a culture of
secrecy, and even though all the above are not really productive,
they represent a fixed capital that becomes a barrier to innovation.
In short, we have entered the sclerotic phase of informationalism.
The same thing can be seen in the financial markets: high-frequency
trading works great, it makes the traders and investment banks very
rich, it's totally unproductive, it can only produce more and worse
crises, and there is no sign whatsoever that it will stop.

I like Felix's idea that that Wikileaks is exacerbating dysfunctional
organizational tendencies. It's probably an involuntary effect, but
hey, you know that when you massively break a barrier of secrecy
in this way, you are gonna produce some kind of welcome effects.
This observation should be coupled with the one Felix makes in his
excellent Mute magazine article:

"People are asked to identify personally with organisations who can
either no longer carry historical projects worthy of major sacrifices
or expressly regard their employees as nothing but expendable,
short-term resources. This, I think, creates the cognitive dissonance
that justifies, perhaps even demands, the leaker to violate procedure
and actively damage the organisation of which he, or she, has been at
some point a well-acculturated member."

That's a formula, not just for leaks, but for generalized low-level
employee sabotage, i.e. the neoliberal manager's worst nightmare. In
response, the entire social system stiffens, security panic sets in
and gradually, the nightmare becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This
is the way the great technologial and organizational paradigms like
Fordism or Informationalism come to their end, not with a bang but
with a slow deflating hiss of discontent from millions of disgruntled
and exploited underlings. One can only hope that some dynamic of
visionary change arises in counterpoint to this process of slow decay.
Or rather: one can take heart in the slow decay, and move quicker on
the vision thing!

best, BH






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