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17 November 2014

Publish All Snowden Papers?

Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 09:08:18 +0100
From: "Patrice Riemens" <patrice[at]>
To: nettime-l[at]
Subject: <nettime> All Snowden Papers?

I am not joining the demand(s) or signing the petition(s) for all the 'Snowden Papers' to be turned out to 'the public'. Not because I am opposed to their publication - I'll come back to that next - but because I am not motivated enough to add my (small) bit of credence to push for it to happen. As the Dutch would say "we've got the hoard" , and since we also know the gist of what it holds, its full content in all details is no longer of immediate importance. What is really important is what is to be done, how to act on the knowledge we already have.

Yet there is a secondary, but not trivial point of importance regarding the non-release of the full set of 'Snowden Papers' held by Greenwald and/or participating news-media: why were they not released, 'by default', in the first place? It may be me, but I have not heard very much by way of coherent explanations beyond, e.g. , their need to be 'redacted' (*) - a humongous task. The most cogent, if somewhat down-to-earth argument is the plausible desire of the concerned parties to keep the 'Snowden' revenue stream alive - call it their milch-cow. OK then.

But one may also, without falling into conspirationism, speculate that other forces are/were at work. That the powers that be may have made it somehow understood that full disclosure might carry undisclosed, but very dire consequences indeed. I would be curious to know more about that - if only to some extent.

The real and, in my mind, only important, overriding question, is how to act after and beyond the political and social watershed that is 'Snowden'. Because Baroness Thatcher's dictum has now been fully realized: there is no (longer) such thing as society. There are only 'us' and 'them'. Before 'Snowden' we feared, now we know for certain, and _must_ act (**) on the fact that 'they' will know limits whatsoever in the development, expansion, and subsequent application if they feel the need to, on 'us', of an unlimited array of oppressive instruments of surveillance, control, repression, and ultimately, inescapably, of extermination. 'They' did it before, they will do it again, with the vengeance bestowed to them by the ownership and mastery of a total, totalitarian tech.

But there is a non trivial problem in the way of an answer, and hence of action, here: there is no such thing as a clear, demarcated, 'us' and 'them'. All of 'us' are in various, and very different ways, part of 'them', from the minute, unavoidable to the near-full and TINA-consented. And all of 'them' partake, in a diminishing sense as you near the top the pyramid, in something of 'us'.For the top, a radical - yes I mean, with roots and all - 'que se vayan todos' is probably the only solution.

For the rest of society, meaning 'us', nothing less than a full overhaul of the 'system' would do, starting with that glaringly difficult act that the French call 'prise de conscience' - so, good luck! Nonetheless, a dispersed, but quite coherent movement ('of movements'?) in that direction has started for some time now. Politically speaking, it could be subsumed under the term 'subsidiarity to the fullest extent possible'. Will it gain traction towards a mass movement? Pessimists will say it is and will remain very minoritary (adding 'watch the tanks coming' for good measure), while optimists think its growth is unstoppable, 'Mad Max' scenarios notwithstanding. I personally adhere to the latter view, while not discounting the former.

So to conclude, it is towards a better, 'commonist' society, under the banner 'an other world is possible' that we should apply our efforts, both in action and in thoughts. In that light, the demand for full disclosure of all 'Snowden documents' is fine with me, yet doesn't escape the slight semblance of a diversion.

Patrice Riemens
Firenze, November 17, 2014.

(*)  At a time when the Dutch state is suing to have one of their armed forces' former translators, name and number fully documented and public, deported back to Afghanistan, overruling the near 100% certainty that he will be killed on arrival, the demand for 'redaction' sounds hollow - to say the least.

(**) My standing joke at whomever - in institutional setting - will not listen is " see you in (the International Penal) court in have years time, pal!" It is being 'variously' appreciated ...

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