About this week’s show:
- David Cameron calls for internet control
- Is it strategic communication or propaganda?
- Head of NSA “treat networks as if they were weapons.”
- Be sure to order Monroe Price’s book, Free Expression, Globalism, and the New Strategic Communication
The McAlvany Weekly Commentary
with David McAlvany and Kevin Orrick
“If you look at the Constitution, it’s primarily a limitation on governing, not a limitation on the rights of the people. The discussion is shifting in the direction, not of, how do we maintain freedoms and protection against a corrupt state, but instead, how do we maintain safety in the context of an ever-changing world? That, to me, is an interesting conversation, and one that is fraught with problems.”
– David McAlvany
Kevin: David, this weekend you had me read a book by Monroe Price called Free Expression, Globalism, and the New Strategic Communication. It was an excellent book. It talks about this world that we have talked with other authors about, which is this cyberspace world. It is hard to get definition, it is actually hard to even have a vocabulary, but we have to be watching it, because it is where everything is being disseminated at this point.
David: From a historical perspective, it’s not as if information has been static for the last 100 years. We have had, going way back, hundreds of years, to the Gutenberg press, a major transformation of the way communication occurred going from the visual image. If you walked into a church you had the pictures that told the story, and the story was full of content. But that changed with the Gutenberg press, which put words at your fingertips, and if you learn to read, then whole new vistas can open up to you.
And of course, things have changed since then with the introduction of the Transatlantic Cable, and satellites, and so many things. As you and I have talked about, there used to be ABC, CBS and NBC, and then all of a sudden there was a revolution, going to 24-hour news, – the CNN effect. And these kinds of changes seem, on the front end, to be disruptive, and there are things that are both positive and negative with changes and innovations, both in technology and means of communication.
And this is really what Price is talking about. He wrote a book in 2002, which was very interesting to me, called Media and Sovereignty: The Global Information Revolution and Its Challenge to State Power. Obviously, there are things that change when media changes, that give people, whether it is other states or other non-state actors, the opportunity to press their interests, and he expands on this in his most recent book, written just this year, Free Expression, Globalism and the New Strategic Communication. And this is really what he is looking at. How are states made? How are they maintained? What causes the dissolution of a state? What can you say is the precipitating event when a state fails? This is really what he is interested in because there is a story which is told via the media which reinforces the definition and role of a state.
Kevin: And a state, Dave, is a narrative of legitimacy. He brings out the fact that, actually, states and nations are really just stories tied to power. Let’s stop and think about that for a second – stories tied to power. I know the story of the United States. An Egyptian under Mubarak knew the story of Egypt, yet there was a shock value based on some of the new communications devices – cell phones, Twitter, Facebook – that overthrew – we saw Arab Spring just spring up. Maybe there were a lot of forces behind it, but there was a communication network that was out of the control of the legitimate narrative of Egypt, which would have been Mubarak’s Egypt at the time.
David: Exactly. And it was legitimate to Mubarak, but it wasn’t to someone else. So, there was a delegitimizing process which took place, and took him out of power. The same thing we’ve seen with Gaddafi, with Saleh in Yemen, with al-Maliki in Iraq, and most recently, just even in the last six to 12 months, or if you want to go back to the Arab Spring, include the last several years. The use of the Internet, and the use of social media – this media and form of communication can be very disruptive.
Now, disruptive is good and bad, it depends on what side you’re on. For those who are sick of an autocratic, dictatorial rule, this is brilliant, this is perfect, this is “democratic.” This is certainly moving in the direction of freedom. But on the other hand, if you are a state actor, if you are someone who is in control of the mechanisms of statecraft anywhere else in the world, you look at what happened in the Arab Spring and you say, actually, we are just one narrative shift away of being thrown out and on the streets, looking for a real job.
Kevin: And look at how things change, and how people who want you to think one thing change over time. Look at the Assad government. From the national perspective here in the United States, a couple of years ago Assad was to be overthrown, and so the rebels who were coming against Assad in Syria were being supported by the United States. Now, all of a sudden these rebels turn out to be a new force called ISIS and ISIL, and our whole outlook toward Assad, our outlook toward Iran which was an enemy a couple of years ago, now a quasi-ally against ISIS, all these narratives are changing based on new information and new quick changes in the stream.
David: That’s exactly right. You look back at the rebels in Syria, and we were supporting the rebels until the rebels started deciding that they wanted their own Caliphate. And guess what? They came up with a narrative that has sold very well across the Islamic world, and in fact, it is in the process of becoming a state, going from being a non-state interested party to now shooting for having their own state structures. It is just fascinating how media has evolved, and how the use of the Internet has evolved, and as we consider the world holistically, we want to know what changes are on the horizon.
We want to know who is in control, why, and for how long, and what are the implications into the marketplace of these types of changes? On this point, nothing has changed. Media continues to be the means by which a picture of reality is formed and maintained. We just have new media which are able to deliver content very quickly and give instant feedback on things that are happening. Can you imagine World War I if there were Twitter feeds and live satellite video of the events happening in the trenches?
Kevin: Of the chemical warfare, of the trench warfare.
David: It’s a completely different experience if it is all experienced by the folks back home in real time. The nature of warfare has changed, the nature of doing business has changed, the nature of communication has changed, and for states, the nature of maintaining power has changed.
Kevin: Let’s just look at the last week or two, Dave, this Charlie Hebdo situation. First of all, when you have satire in media – this is a magazine. It probably had very limited spread, but the entire world saw the covers, and the entire world has formed an opinion, whether right or wrong, in different directions, and then we see the over a million person march in France, so France and other countries are trying to continue a solidarity narrative in that respect. But you know, Dave, these are sudden events and this is what Monroe Price talks about – asymmetries. It is asymmetric in that your larger countries, at this point, sometimes are at the mercy of very small players.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s take politics out of this. Let’s look at what happened on Twitter in the last 24 hours. The New York Post Twitter was hacked. Listen to this Twitter. What if you had read this and you were trying to manage a portfolio? Here is what it said: “Federal Reserve head Yellen announces bail-in emergency meeting, rumored negative rates to be set at 4:00 Eastern today.” And then another Twitter came out right after that, which said, “Negative interest rates required to avoid market recession due to low oil prices.” Now, the stock market had a pop and drop right after that. The stock market was affected by these Twitters. It was just a single hacker.
David: And what is interesting is, again, it is a medium which, in this case, all of your natural gate-keepers got taken out, and you were able to communicate something which was not, in fact, true, but it impacted the market. So, you’re manipulating the market with false information. The FCC should be all over this. They should be investigating the abuse of the media outlet for personal gain, because consider this. Most of your volume on the New York Stock Exchange today is not you and me looking at a Twitter Feed and saying, “I wonder if that is true? I wonder what the implications are for that, if it is true?” No, in fact, it is computer models which take news headlines, Twitter Feeds, or any other instantaneous data, make judgments on a preprogrammed basis, and position in the market accordingly. So, this is very interesting, certainly, to what we have in the marketplace, and manipulation of price and trend.
But on the other hand, let’s go back to the political. David Cameron has suggested in recent weeks that the Internet needs a new regime of control and oversight. And this was the same kind of concern when he had people marching in the streets in August of 2011. David Cameron was asking for special and sweeping powers by the state, and the assumption by all in his government is that if you can master the information flow, you are going to bring safety to the general public, and those in office will handle that information with kid gloves. They are benign in terms of their use of information. They are simply seeking to serve the public.
And the public, on the other hand, might want to know who controls what? Why? When did they have access? Who else has access? If there is no such thing as encryption, what happens to data that is transferred over the Internet, or if encryption is somehow disintegrated or downgraded so that government can have better access to financial records and what not in their search for criminality?
Kevin: And you know, David, when something happens to someone, like the Boston bombing, a lot of times people say, “Don’t they know this information? Why can’t they find out how these guys are communicating and where they got their information? Yet, the same person who is not under stress might say, “No, we want to have a free Internet, and we want the NSA to stay out of it. And so, there is this equation. You know how an equation is set up where one side, if it increases, the other side decreases?
And the equation, at this point, that we are looking at as we are facing this new world, Dave, is freedom versus surveillance or control. It reminds me of a quote, and Price brings this up, this is from hundreds of years ago, John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost said, “Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” What he was saying was, just let everything be free. Let there be free speech. This country was based on that freedom. But Dave, right now we have governments trying to remain legitimate, and states trying to remain legitimate. How do they do that when you have independent players that can dominate?
David: There are a couple of points to be made. One is that from a philosophical perspective, my view of the truth is objective, and that’s Truth, with a large “T”. There are all kinds of truths with a small “t” which can be propagated as Truth with a large “T” and in point of fact, they’re not true at all. And that’s what we have with the narratives that states try to propagate on a routine basis. For instance, were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Kevin: It’s looking like that was probably propaganda, Dave.
David: But it was a useful narrative and it got everyone in Europe interested and involved to commit troops to the process. Now, the fact that there were flaws, or lacking supporting data for that after the fact, was almost irrelevant, because the narrative accomplished what was needed to be accomplished, and that is how loose truth is handled by politicians and policymakers. So, I guess there is a distinction here between truth with a small “t,” that is, fabricated, and Truth with a large “T,” which is objective.
And I think that is what Milton is getting at. Milton is suggesting that there is Truth with a large “T” that can stand on its own. It doesn’t need to be filtered. It doesn’t need to be controlled. It will speak for itself, and let it battle out with falsehood. I have an appreciation for Milton in that regard, although I can see the criticism coming to Milton because people will say, “Yeah, but your truth is not my truth.” And that is the point of departure where I would say, “You’re talking about a small ‘t’ truth, and I’m talking about a large ‘T’ truth.”
Kevin: And we think as Americans, though not every country thinks this way – as Monroe Price writes this book. He talks about a case in Africa, in Somaliland, where you have a lot of different gangs who gain control of the media, which in this case happens to be radio stations in Somaliland. Each one has his own narrative, and his own way of thinking, and actually, in the minds of the people, it is creating chaos. They are yearning for a single, unified, governmental force. They are yearning for security. And so, when the question is posed to someone in Somaliland at the time, the majority, according to Monroe Price, would say, “No, don’t give them radio stations, don’t allow an independent voice. Let’s go ahead and try to have some sort of unification, even if it means government control.”
David: And this is how complex the issue has become, because when you are looking at media, and the dissemination of information, and the idea of there being the potential for insecurity for a given state, the state is going to want to control those media outlets simply for the purpose of preserving who they are, what they are, what they are trying to project into society. And so you have all kinds of ideas that have come up in the last several years. Take, for instance, the fairness doctrine, the idea that somehow, if I have an opinion, and it’s a Republican opinion, or a Democratic opinion, or an Independent opinion, for me to take airtime and express that opinion…
Kevin: You have to give equal time to the other side.
David: And that’s the only way to keep things fair.
Kevin: Well, and who decides the other side?
David: Well, what is the other side?
David: It assumes that we do know the spectrum, but also, there are natural limits to communication. If I have ten minutes to communicate something and it is going to take ten minutes, and that is all the time that I have, but now I have to split it in half so the other guy can take five minutes and express his viewpoint, it reaches a point of absurdity when I want two minutes to say something that may be incredibly bullish about the economy, but for fairness I need to have someone else who has two minutes of something bearish to say about the economy, just so that everyone knows it’s fair.
That’s one way of handling conflict in the area of media. There are other ways of handling conflict in terms of media and information dissemination which we talk about with Nazli Choucri, Cyberpolitics and International Relations. What we talked about in December was looking at who controls the Internet? Who controls the kill switches? Who determines what information flows, and why, and are there policy agendas? In fact, are there international relations agendas in play?
The nature of the Internet is that it is transnational and that is what is particularly interesting. We are not talking about the New York Times or the Miami Herald, or what have you, where it is a local paper, it is a domestic paper, it is dealing with some of our issues, and there are a number of people, editors primarily, who are determining what comes out of that particular news source. We are talking about something that can be used as a tool to undermine other countries anywhere in the world by state or non-state actors, and this creates a high level of insecurity for those in state positions.
Kevin: And you’re talking transnational. We are seeing a movement right now with ISIS where we are seeing recruits coming from all over the world because of the media that they are seeing, and they are in support of ISIS. You have people leaving Australia, leaving the United States, going over there and doing that, and yet, this isn’t even a nation, Dave. We are not talking, necessarily, about a national identity here. What we are talking about is a movement, a Caliphate movement, that really, seems to have started from a grassroots level, but they are well-funded and they seem to have some mastery of communication.
David: Good and evil are always possible, and I think this is in any sphere of life, and a part of what dignifies the good is the possibility of evil. You see the contrast between light and darkness, one by the other, that which gives life, and its contrast, that which takes it away. I think when we look at something like ISIS or ISIL and what they are doing in terms of using social media, or you could even argue, abusing social media – let’s just leave it neutral and say, using social media for their advantage – we would say that their long-term objectives, establishing an Islamic Caliphate, not of a peaceful kind, quite frankly, one that is reminiscent of periods in history we would rather not repeat.
David: You could say, “Well, we don’t want this to happen.” How do you address it, as a state? Do you shut down the Internet? Shut down free speech? Filter free speech? Who are the people filtering free speech? You could say that that kind of activity is already occurring at an extreme in North Korea, where there is no free speech, there is no inflow or outflow on the Internet. So, you can take it to an extreme, like North Korea, or you can begin to create a filtration process.
Well, what is involved in that filtration process? We’re going to have to define what kind of speech we consider to be appropriate or inappropriate? Who does that? I guess this is my issue, and where my hackles are raised at times. I would like to know who adjudicates, and on what basis. Ultimately, we are going to have to defer to someone if we decide that filtering is the appropriate response. And the only reason this is particularly relevant is because I have opinions, you have opinions. We speak via a podcast on the Internet.
Kevin: Right. Your dad’s newsletter.
David: He has published a newsletter for 40 years. This is a version of alternative media, and for us it is very important. I may be right in an opinion, or wrong in an opinion. We are continually trying to refine and reflect on reality, and determine what is truth. We want to know. What is truth? Going back to that famous phrase from the Middle East, “What is truth?”
Kevin: One of the ways, Dave, that you have tried to investigate issues that are on your mind is to talk to the people who are probably going to have the ear of the decision-makers. Like you said, who adjudicates? Whoever is going to be adjudicating probably will be reading the same material, like Free Expression, Globalism, and the New Strategic Communication. They’ll probably be reading Cyber Politics in International Relations by Nazli. So, we should probably go ahead and listen, at this point, to some of your conversation with Monroe Price.
* * *
David: Let’s dive in with current events, leading us to a more theoretical discussion of Media and Sovereignty, a book that you wrote in 2002, and of course, the ideas you explore in your most recent book, Free Expression, Globalism, and the New Strategic Communication. In recent weeks, it has been suggested by David Cameron in the U.K. that the Internet needs a new regime of control and oversight. This, to some degree, echoes his comments in August of 2011, when he was considering sort of special and sweeping powers by the state.
The assumption by all in his government is that mastery of the information flow is safe because those in office are benign in their handling of the information, and it is with safety in mind that they are asking for greater powers. Of course, if that is just self-assessed, there is no anxiety. The public would like to know, on the other side, which controls what, and why, and for what purposes. And so, we have this sort of perennial issue of those in power wanting to control information in a bid to maintain stability and continuity of rule, in contrast to the public’s desire for freedom of expression and control of opinions and dialogue, etc.
Monroe: By the way, I am not sure I agree that that is the public’s demand. There are publics, and then there are publics. There is a huge vast public that wishes for something like freedom of expression, but even that public probably wishes for some level of regulation or some level of security and stability.
David: Perfect. Well, let’s dive right in. As media is quickly changing, and methods of delivery of information, explore this with us – this difference of interest, and as you say, what may be in the public’s mind, or not in the public’s mind.
Monroe: First of all, you have to think of not an undifferentiated public globally. We tend to think, in the West, that we know the public; the public is us. But the public is us here, and even within the West there could be divisions, but the public, globally, is composed of very different attitudes and a very different framework, and very different relationships to the state. I also think that there is a sort of interesting distinction between the desire for free expression and the desire for stability and prosperity and security.
David: And which do you think ends up being the more important in the United States context?
Monroe: We don’t have to have a winner among these interests, we can have them living together in uneasy relationships in some way, and worked out differently in different places. And I think that is another interesting riddle about the Internet is whether it is the same solution to these issues globally and universally, or whether it is differentiated from society to society. And if it is differentiated, can it be differentiated? Is the technology such that it will have to be universal?
* * *
David: So, defining strategic communications, that is, the effort to change the values of a target society, that is helpful. We’re all about that. Businesses do that. NGOs do that.
Kevin: Nongovernment Organizations.
David: Religious organizations do that. States do that. Strategic communication is something that is critical to just about everyone on the planet, and to see those as campaigns focused on altering or shifting consensus views, whether that is values at home or values abroad, this is what we do as a country. When you look at our foreign policy, we’ve talked about hard power and soft power, the distinction between those two things. Hard power is if you want to say, we’re going to affect change via tanks and bombs and guns. Hard power is the muscle you use to force change.
Kevin: And that even be turning the Internet completely off. That is a form of hard power, as well, would it not be?
David: Yes. Soft power, on the other hand, is creating one of those legitimate narratives, a story, to which people can respond, “Ah, so this is what the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave stands for.”
Kevin: “Buy war bonds.” Like you said, let’s say we had the Internet back in the early 1900s. Selling of war bonds was a narrative that everyone pretty much bought into because of patriotism.
David: As Monroe Price says, there is not much of a difference between strategic communication and propaganda. There is nothing actually negative about propaganda.
* * *
David: Is there a contrast, is there are difference, between strategic communication and propaganda?
Monroe: Well, first of all, the word propaganda, itself, has no negative or positive connotations, it was the way of propagating, of growing a faith in something. It could be a faith in religion, it could be a faith in a way of life. It could be a faith in democracy. So, it seems to me we have recently imposed this negative framework on propaganda, that it is deceptive and lying, which it often is. I am not sure which is the larger category, propaganda or strategic communication. Is strategic communication a subset of propaganda, or is propaganda a subset of strategic communication? I haven’t made up my mind yet.
* * *
David: The critique of having a strategic communication campaign is that it becomes some sort of ideology that is being superimposed on other people, and how fair is that?
* * *
Monroe: I was impressed with the new phrase by the Pope that he coined on his way back from Manilla, and that was the problem of what he saw as ideological colonization, some antipathy that he was noting to the idea that one society tries to impose or influence the values of another society. This is sort of what I mean by strategic communication, which I talk about in my new book. It is really the effort to change attitudes of a target society on some value that is fundamental to its existence.
And one of the things that is interesting to me is the rise of strategic communications, that is to say, looking at the world in which there are very strong forces, religion, government, etc., all of which are engaged in a kind of dynamic effort to affect the values in target societies. That is a kind of way of thinking about the way speech works in the world. And the question then is, how do those target societies regulate, or affect, what information is coming in? That goes back to your idea of a bubble of identity on the one hand, and influencing other states on the other.
David: It raises an interesting point, this idea of ideological colonization. You mentioned that in Hong Kong there was this fear that the BBC in 1997 was somehow going to maintain an ideological colony there in Hong Kong once power had been transferred. But isn’t it a bit naïve for the Pope to talk about ideological colonization when you describe strategic communication as an effort to change the values of a target society, and that is not necessarily a state which is crafting strategic communications? That could be an NGO. That could be a religious organization like the Catholic church.
Monroe: I thought it was a little ironic since the church is one of the great ideological colonizers, for some people in a good way, and some people maybe not so good. But its history over centuries has been one of trying to help shape ideas in other societies. It is the way we work, it is the way strategic organizations work, to think about the way in which technology provides new opportunities to engage in some version of ideological colonization.
David: Yes, it certainly has a negative tone when you throw in the word colonization. The way you describe it in terms of strategic communication, this is something that I think we are all about, whether or not you are a corporation, or Harvard University is going to have strategic communications in order to define its identity, set its course in the public square, and certainly help raise support for the various funding programs. No one is exempt from that.
Monroe: The interesting question is whether the receiving state, which I sometimes call the target state, has any say in the way in which the strategic communication works. That is to say, how do you govern the mix of images within your society? How do you govern the bubble of identity in an environment in which there are very strong, very powerful, competing entities all over the world who have an interest in making your society more consumerist, more religious, more pro-environment, more anti-environment, etc.? Each of these has its own kind of phalanx of strategic communication behind it.
David: It seems to me that this is the case with corporations trying to compete for shelf space in the grocery stores in Latin America, Russia, North Africa, wherever it may be. Nestlé would like to focus their strategic communications and have people view their products differently, so they are going to try to shift consensus views, even what is valued in terms of the food food chain. This happens all the time.
* * *
Kevin: Well, Dave, a former guest that we have had on the show, Dinesh D’Souza, has talked about the negative connotation of the word colonization. Even Obama’s background had a huge negative connotation to the colonial period. There is a move right now worldwide to criticize colonization and the colonial period, and restate a new worldwide paradigm. It is interesting that the Pope used that in his phrase, as far as colonization goes.
David: Well, I think it’s unfair, because in one sense, and this is to quote Monroe Price, “A state is, in part, a collection of stories connected to power.” And he goes on to say that viable states have to manage and limit the process of narrative formation, both at home and abroad. This is what we had during the Cold War. You had a narrative of the worker being finally honored, respected, treated well, and that was the Soviet narrative. On the other hand, they were sending the counter-narrative our way in the form of something to tear down our culture to say that capitalism is, in fact, the means by which the worker is taken advantage of, disrespected, not compensated for what he has done, but in fact, put under the boot heel of the bourgeois.
Again, you have had narratives over and over, and conflict between narratives, probably since the beginning of time, but what Monroe is formalizing here is just a language to help parse who is in control of the narrative. Who is experiencing insecurity on the basis of a shifting narrative? What goes into defending an existing narrative when new media steps in to suddenly delegitimize? All of these are very relevant to politics, geopolitics, the changing state of the world, and frankly, stability, not only in the U.S., but as you pointed out earlier with the New York Times Twitter hack, even the stability of the marketplace.
* * *
Monroe: We haven’t talked about cyber security, but the question is, “Is cyber security another way of regaining control, or having to regain control, or feeling that they are forced to regain control, or having a justification for regaining control, of the entire infrastructure?” Although cyber security has to do with protection of dams and banks and finance, etc., it contains within it the mechanisms for control of the flow of information, as well.
David: And this is very much the hot topic, both here in the United States, and in the U.K., where the notion of encryption – and again, we’re going back to where we were talking earlier about anonymity and privacy taking back seat to a national interest, that is, regaining control and making sure that infrastructure, whether it is power grids or nuclear plants, or what not, are not disturbed via the Internet.
Monroe: Right. I think it will be extremely important to try to address these issues of privacy and freedom of information. It will be interesting to see whether there are different solutions to this problem in different countries of the world, and how and whether those differences can live compatibly with each other.
* * *
Kevin: Well, he brings up cyber security, Dave, and of course, it’s a huge issue, especially with what we are seeing right now being revealed about the NSA. Edward Snowden has brought to light some very, very uncomfortable things, and he was well-placed, and it seems that in many ways he is an ideologue, whether a person agrees with him or not. We were talking earlier about Andrew Huszar, who was on the show. He was the head of Quantitative Easing, the first 1.2 trillion dollars in quantitative easing for the Federal Reserve. His conscience got the better of him and he quit and spoke out, and apologized to the American public because he felt like he was doing damage. And in many ways, what is coming out with Snowden is similar, at least in my book.
David: Right. This is, again, that conflict of what is necessary for safety or a sense of social security may run headlong into, or in conflict with, freedom of expression, or our general freedoms. And Price mentions in his book, “heightened national security fears, intensified self-censorship, legislation that would normally be implausible,” this is to quote Mr. Price, “gains currency during periods of fear.” So, essentially, government has free rein and can do a lot more in that context of fear and it is only as the fear begins to subside that people say, “Hey, wait a minute. What is happening here in terms of the aspects of freedom that, under normal circumstances, we might tend to prioritize?” It was in the Spiegel Online article – this is a German newspaper – the title of which is “NSA preps America for Future Battle,” where they are again going through Edward Snowden’s discussion of the things that he learned working as a subcontractor with and for the NSA, and it is very interesting.
Kevin: It’s uncomfortable.
David: It’s very uncomfortable, and I think this is why we need to, as individuals, consider the issues that are in play, because we are dealing with issues of freedom, we are dealing with issues of control, we are dealing with what defines government, and the role that they play, for us, or in some essence, what they do to us. And these are all interesting issues that sort of define the course, not only of the country and the freedom story, but also, what happens in those marketplaces, because we do know from the historical record that freedom tends to promote economic viability and success. And to the degree that you begin to clamp down on freedoms, you also see a regression, in terms of economic progress.
So, we are very interested in these things because we are interested in what drives the markets. We are interested in what drives the context in which we live our lives. We are interested in, as we mentioned earlier, the truth. And we are interested in who and what, and how power is being consolidated in our day and age, in ways that are unique, which haven’t taken place before, because of the relationships between information and big data, and these kinds of things. I think Price sheds quite a bit of light on that.
Kevin: David, reading books like this, and Nazri Choucri’s book, and just looking at the world as it is right now, it is so complex, it is moving so fast, there is really no way to consolidate it into a single thought process. So, I think a lot of times these shows, and these books that we are reading, are preparation for a world that we can’t fully explain. I’ll give you an example. There are 40,000 employees at the NSA. What are they doing? Are they keeping me safe, or are they taking away my security and my freedom?
David: We have the sense that when we send out our Twitter feeds, we have greater freedom of expression, but according to Monroe Price, this is the means by which you gather more data on an individual and create the perfect profile for surveillance. So, what is it?
Kevin: It is the ultimate paradox.
David: Is it freedom of expression, or is it the means by which we are controlled in the future? And we can only hope for a benign state instead of a malignant state. This is the challenge. Anyone in a particular time slice who is making political decisions based on what they have today – they need to think outside of their time slice. They need to look with reference to the past, and anticipate the future, and assume that the structures that we have in place, the laws that we have in place, actually don’t assume benign government, but assume malignant government.
That is what our government did when they originally set in place the Constitution. They didn’t assume the best of humanity, they assumed the worst, and thus, they needed restrictions and limitations, not on the people, but on government, itself. If you look at the Constitution, it is primarily a limitation on governing, not a limitation on the rights of the people. Of course, the second is subsumed under that.
But this is what is interesting. The discussion today is shifting in the direction, not of, how do we maintain freedoms and protection against a corrupt state, but instead, how do we maintain safety in the context of an ever-changing world? That, to me, is an interesting conversation and one that is fraught with problems.