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<nettime> The 'Jake' Appelbaum case, or the rise and fall of celebrities
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:56:41 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The 'Jake' Appelbaum case, or the rise and fall of celebrities

The social, and political 'sad demise' (the Hinglish word for death) of 
Jacob 'Jake' Appelbaum is for me symptomatic, and symbolic, for an epoch 
definitively coming to its close. To me at least, it resonates with the 
words of Rieger and Gonggrijp, years ago at a CCC conference: "we lost 
the war". The best I can make of it, is that 'we' have increasingly come 
to looking like our opponents, not to say enemies, in attitude and 

'Jake' features allegedly as the perpetrator of unsavory, reprehensible 
acts - to paraphrase a James Bond movie, "strictly speaking as a Swiss 
banker, the numbers are not in his favor" - and the 'hidden assets' are 
also, for the time being, nowhere to be seen - but he is also a mere 
actor in a larger scheme of things: the slow descent into the bottom 
floor of the opposition against the current world order - to use a 
shorthand, neo-liberal surveillance capitalism.

It has a lot to do with numbers. These, surprisingly, looked to be in 
our favor. Gatherings were ever bigger, the amount of people and 
resources mobilized were ever larger. It was probably a delusion. Just 
as the numbers increased, so decreased actual, personal participation. 
Larger groups foster 'strong personalities' - and Jake is surely one, 
for better or worse - and transform the rest, by sheer inertia, into 
mostly passive followers.

Reading about 'standing ovations' at the end of Appelbaum's speeches 
(and of many other, sorry, there is no other words, 'scene celebrities') 
I can't help to be reminded of what one once read in Romanian newspapers 
during the dictatorship. From memory, and excuse the spelling: "Applause 
puternice si prolungat - se scansea 'Ceau-ces-cu! Par-ti-dul! 
Ro-ma-nia!" ...

Jake's 'sad demise' is symptomatic, and symbolic of what we long 
thought, but now cannot longer deny knowing: That grand adventure, the 
'hackers movement' as carrier-vanguard of the 'digital revolution', has 
truly come to an end - quite some time ago. It had already been 
irremediably corrupted by the security, or rather, 'securocratic' 
industry, which has managed to attract so many hackers to its fold, 
seducing them with toys for the boys and the promise of 'breaking the 
system' - at the wrong end of the system - that it now looks perfectly 
mainstream. And now it would appear to have been betrayed by one of its 
very figureheads, which should not have been one of its figurehead, not 
because of personal failures that were bound to manifest themselves, but 
simply because there should be no figureheads in the first place.

Making the rise of celebrities possible inevitably ensures the creation 
of a celebrity cult, itself the blueprint for individual failure. We 
should not have allowed ourselves to grow so big - as an aggregate. In 
my opinion we should: either revert to the small scale, and there, not 
behave as a start-up, but go for soft and slow ; or organise very 
strictly beforehand how we are to … organise. Revolving 'presidencies', 
rotating speakers, revocable mandates and permanent consultations have 
already been experimented with in history (think of the Paris Commune, 
1871). Or better still: we might go for both, but still prioritize the 
first approach. Maybe in terms of a Bolo'bolo type of scenario (*)

Meanwhile, and that is the larger scheme of things, the 'world as we 
know it' is fast heading towards its own system collapse. Unfortunately, 
this is much better realised at the other side of the social, political 
and economic spectrum than at ours. 'Incidents', like what is occurring 
around Jacob Appelbaum, are not helpful. But they should not be ignored, 
and even less minimized, in the name of the common cause. Let me be 
clear, just as with Julian Assange, if the stories are true (they 
unfortunately largely look like to be), any inference of a 'kompromat' 
is BS. My advice to 'Jake' is to take a (big) step back, and go for a 
long period of relax and contemplation.

By then, and by then only, it will emerge that Jacob 'Jake' Appelbaum 
delivered a sterling contribution, as a 'worker for the cause', our 
cause. The failures of his personality, for which he will have to take 
the moral blame, are for his victims to ponder and act upon. Though 
there too, I would advise some restraint, and a truth commission 
approach. Learn the lessons that have to be learned, at all levels. That 
would be the best for all of us.

Wishing all well in these unruly times,
patrizio & Diiiinooos!
Firenze, June 10, 2016.  


(*) Its author, 'P.M.', now more widely known under his real name Hans 
Widmer, has re-scripted the scenario - without reneging on the original 
one - in terms of urban 'neighborhoods'. Cf: The Power of Neighborhoods, 
New York: Autonomedia, 2016 (http://www.autonomedia.org/node/198)
(caution: it is a very Swiss, even 'Schwyz', story ;-)

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