Barrett Brown, regular contributor to The Onion, discusses the apparent attack on WikiLeaks by several national intelligence agencies, how hyperlinks make internet-sourced information easier to fact check than traditional media, the upcoming release (April 5 at the National Press Club) of a WikiLeaks video that reveals a Pentagon murder-coverup and why effective data encryption is now more important than ever.
Iâ€™m Scott Horton, this is Antiwar radio. Turns out that my guest on the show right now, Barrett Brown, writes for The Onion. Welcome to the show Barrett, how are you doing?
BB: Very well, how are you doing?
SH: I appreciate you sitting on hold and being patient with me there. I always thought that The Onion headline on the Oklahoma City bombing should have been Americansâ€™ Buy Lone Bomber Scenario, Hook, Line and Sinker, and then the whole article could be about how we all just forgot that there ever was a John Doe number two and all that huh?
BB: Itâ€™s gotta be more subtle than that I think you know?
SH: Yeah, actually their headline about the Oklahoma bombing was â€˜Angel Sightingsâ€™ or â€˜On The Rise â€“ Oklahomaâ€™ orÂ something, anyway
BB:Â Oh no itÂ was after Mcveigh was executed there were thousand of angels floating up into the air over Oklahoma City or some such, yâ€™knowâ€¦
SH: Alright, anyway, so letâ€™s change the subject to something contemporary here which is Wikileaks, a very important website and there is very important news about it, I guess first let me finish doing your introduction here, oh and I hope we can actually talk about this toward the end of the interview because this is something fun to me, the book which I havenâ€™t read yet but I want to is called: Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny. That sounds like fun.
BB: It was a lot of fun, absolutely.
SH: Yeah, cool, and then: Hot, Fat and Clouded is coming out this year, Barrett Brown also writes for Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and The Onion. So there is your bio there. Now tell us, what is Wikileaks and what is so important about it this week?
BB: Wikileaks has become one of the most crucial methods by which previously classified or otherwise secret information both from government bodies and non-government bodies can be taken by a whistle-blower, (unclear audio) will have a method of distributing that information and will do so in a manner that protects the anonymity of the leaker in question and really making sure that as many people as possible have access to that information. Itâ€™s been around for a number of years, they have broken a number of important scoops regarding Guantanamo Bay, where they printed an older version of the Guantanamo procedural manual that was used down there just to embody the regulations usedÂ day-to-day at Guantanamo. More recently they have done a lot regarding the Icelandic banking crisis and certain negotiations that are ongoing regarding getting everyones credit back in line in terms of nation states. Theyâ€™re constantly putting out new information, often times it will be thousands and thousands of pages of data that then has to be looked through for anything that might be of particular interest. They need money for legal fees for server costs â€“ that kind of thing -and this would be a good time to donate in light of what has been going on.
SH: Yeah, letâ€™s hold what has been going on for just a second because I want to chime in here and say that this is really the internet at its best.
SH: This is where any Daniel Ellsberg now, he doesnâ€™t have to convince The Times to finally run the damn thing, he can just send it to Wikileaks â€“ the only kind of good rat in our whole society is a government employee who is ratting on his boss and giving up documents that the American people need to see and this is what this website is all about.
BB: Absolutely and to the extent one sees the inside of the media you know, working inside the media, one sees those destructions that have developed that really prevent it from filling the functions that it may have been able to fill decades ago or, that it has never been able to fill but could. For instance, there are a lot of individuals working in the media and each of them have their own life going on, they have their own emphasis they have their ownÂ roles in the structure, they have an editor who may or may not be interested in running a piece, maybe it is important but for some reason or another he justÂ doesnâ€™t think it is going to be in his best interest to run it. It may seem too conspiratorial, it may not have Â good timeliness â€“ it could be something as simple as that â€“ thereâ€™s a lot of reasons why mainstream outlets including some of the ones that I write for, just arenâ€™t in a position to put out the kind of information that Wikileaks and other institutions that have developed on the internet are able to do every day.
SH: In fact The Washington Post, uh, Iâ€™mÂ sorry I canâ€™t remember the context, oh I can remember the context, it was this article about the Durham investigation into the torture, not the torture, the other one, the Durham investigation into the destruction of the CIA tapes. They had a paragraph in there, a short one that just said, â€˜The Washington Post has been asked to not reveal the mans name due to etc etcâ€¦â€™ and that is the kind of thing that, itâ€™s always been that way right? With The Washington Post going back to Watergate or whatever, ifÂ the government calls up The Washington Post and says, â€˜We really want you to sit on thisâ€™, they will. The New York Times sat on the RisenÂ and Litchblau NSA spying story for more than a year.
BB: Yeah, again,Â there is a lot of ins and outs, there are a lot of individuals who are willing to take a government contract for various reasons, either because they do believe it is in the national interest or because just personally they donâ€™t want to be the one to yâ€™know, toÂ upset certain people, higher up at the publicationÂ or in the government. I mean there is justÂ a lot of structural deficits right now, there always have been really, particularly now, that just prevent the media from being anywhere near what it could be in terms ofÂ informing the public.
SH: Well you know itâ€™s funny,Â Iâ€™m looking at your articleÂ at www.trueslant.com right now and it seems like all thisÂ competition would force them to get better but I guess they have just ceded all the real journalism to the internet.
BB: Yeah. And that is probably the best because the internet has certain advantages structurally that, even beyond the mentalities of the people involved inÂ the respective mediums of traditional media and internet -things as simple as hyper-linking. I mean the existence of hyper-links; a lot of people of my generation have reallyÂ made it such that we want to see primary sources if someone makes an assertion. If someone is talking about something that happened in the past, on a blog, we expect to see, and do see a link back to the raw material. That is something that was not possible in the printing press age. At the most you would have references in the back, footnotes, those kind of things, and you could go to the library presumably, if you were so inclined and look up and make absolutely sure that everything was in context, butÂ that would have been either improbable, or impossible in some cases. I think the fact that we are able to check into primary sources at a fundamentally increased degree right now is one of things that we should be thinking more about. I think it is one of the great advantages of our age that has not really been looked into to the degree that it should.
SH: Right, well this is how I first came to love antiwar.comÂ – it took me about two seconds, I looked and all it was was two or three hundred links back in 1999 or something and then I read my first Justin Raimondo column, and he had 50 links to all of the proof about all of his assertions all throughout the article too, and I clicked the links and it was good stuff. That was not just the magic ofÂ www.antiwar.comÂ but the magic of the internet entirely. In fact sometimes in a Raimondo column the link will simply be to a Google search for aÂ certain term just to set you off going on your own direction. I think that is how I learned you can do search site, just this one site, for faster please at nationalreview.org, you know what I mean? Youâ€™re right and Iâ€™m just trying to agree with you. I think the internet, I guess the problem is that people still watch TV news, they havenâ€™t really, the consumer hasnâ€™t fully made the transition yet, but weâ€™re working on it.
BB: Well, in the demographics, you see the difference, older people of course are more likely to watch TV news, and to get information fromÂ the really lesser instances of TV news, like Fox News,Â people who are younger who are fundamentally more inclined to use the internet as such are going to have a greater degree of erudition than these older people. What you are going to have then as a result is a generation that maybe perhaps better adapted to understand the world around them, because they have grown up with this increased array of information, this increased accessibility. For the first time, to an extentÂ never seen before inÂ human history people today who choose to do so have access to an array of knowledge, past and present, absolutely incomparable` to anythingÂ that has ever existed before. So that is something that is worth thinking about.
SH: Yeah, well you know, toward the end of this thing I guess Iâ€™d like to get back to the question of how you see what is happening this week with Wikileaks in terms of indications of trends we need to be wary of in terms of the internet. There have been reports about Obama executive orders about you know, certain national emergencies being able to seize control over it and this and that. I guess, letâ€™s get to the particulars of the news this week, again, Iâ€™m talking with Barrett Brown from TRUE/SLANT itâ€™sÂ www.trueslant.comÂ and the article is:Â CIA State Department Apparently Acting On Plan To Destroy Wikileaks,Â the website we have been talking about here. Now what are theyÂ doing to destroy Wikileaks Barrett?
BB: (unclear audio) There is two plans that they are talking out. One is a plan that was (unclear audio) in 2008 and that was just made available on the 15th of this month (March 2010) by Wikileaks, which clearly had a mole within the army intelligence division â€“ the cyber intelligence division within that â€“ which leaked the document in question to Wikileaks. The document talks about Wikileaks, it is a very long document providing sort of summary of what Wikileaks is, what the intent of its founders is, what the dynamics are behind Wikileaks: what it does, what its effects are, and specifically what threat it may pose to operations conducted by the army and other military branches of the US Government. So what was in that document: They proposed marginalizing Wikileaks or lowering its degree of power, they use the term â€˜center of gravityâ€™ interestingly enough, the center of gravity for leaked documents or previously undisclosed information. They talk about reducing it as a center of gravity by going after leakers, having them fired, criminally prosecuted, and otherwise harassed â€“ which is not particularly original tactics, I mean that is something you would think would be (unclear audio) already,Â I mean generally these leakers in question are violating employment guidelines by leaking information of this sort,Â sometimesÂ they are actually violating the law to some extent. But what the other â€¦Â plan I guess you could call it, that has been enacted this week, apparently, according to messages deployed by Wikileaks a few evenings ago, apparently involves a joint operation between US intelligence services, The State Department at least and possibly theÂ CIA, and also the Icelandic Intelligence Services, and you probably donâ€™t hear the term â€˜Icelandic Intelligence Servicesâ€™ very often.
SH: Yeah, I think that might be the first time I have ever heard of it.
BB: Right, it doesnâ€™t come up very often but in this case it did, at least according to Wikileaks. So, anyway, so theyâ€™re saying that over the last couple of days they were the target of quote â€˜â€¦anÂ aggressiveÂ intelligence operationâ€™ unquote, by these entities, apparently I guess their main editor was I guess, wasÂ in Iceland at some point to assist with legislation being proposed in Iceland, that wouldÂ basically make Iceland a safe haven for information that might be considered illegal elsewhere in the world which of course would be, that is something of great interest to every government on the planet. They say they were being tailed, that one person was detained for 22 hours, that they were shown pictures of their production meetings, that they were asked specific questions during their detention related to videos that they say they have which they have de-encrypted which they are puttingÂ up on April 5th which apparently depicts an airstrike performed by the US government in January which appears to have killed a number of journalists and civilians in which was presumably covered up to some extent afterwards, perhaps blamed on another entity. So just to summarize, they have editors who have been traveling lately between Norway and Iceland and elsewhere and who have been tailed by people on the state department diplomatic cover,Â and people being detained, some computers being seized, there is no new informationÂ about that, Iâ€™m going to assume itâ€™s one ofÂ their computers. They have been recorded in some respects and have been photographed at their production meetings unknowingly to themÂ at the time and then shownÂ those photos recently. But beyond thatâ€¦
SH: So, Iâ€™m going to ask about those pictures real quick. Is there any indication as to what angle these pictures are from, theyâ€™re from outside -Â people showing up at the meeting â€“ do they have a rat on the inside of their board there or what?
BB: There is no indication of that. The only information that we have from them at this point is this clear message that saysÂ quote â€œWe have been shown secret photos of our production meetings and have been asked specific questions duringÂ detention related to the airÂ strikeâ€ unquote â€“ the air strike being in reference to the video they have, that they said they haveÂ de-encrypted. So we donâ€™t know anything more about howÂ those, what the nature of those photos may be -Â where they have been taken from, if they are pictures of people arriving at a meeting, if theyâ€™re,Â I would be surprised if they are photosÂ taken from inside the room by someone in there. I would imagine Wikileaks, these people are pretty hardcore in information freedom, if in fact there is some mole in Wikileaks itself then that would obviously be problematic with respect, yeah, that would be problematic, Iâ€™ll just put it that way.
SH: What can you tell me about this airÂ strike, this was in Afghanistan and some journalists got killed or what?
BB: Well, we donâ€™t know where it was, January which is when the airÂ strike apparently occurred according to them, that month had an usually high number of air strikes by the US government inÂ Waziristan, inÂ Afghanistan and elsewhere, so it could be in Pakistan it could be in Afghanistan, I meanÂ those are the most likely locations for an airstrike that could have gone wrong and killed civilians. This happens all the time, I mean there has been a number of incidents in which very large numbers of civilians have been killed by predator drones or otherwise. Often times when a Taliban or some sort of Afghani insurgent leader is expected to be at a location for a wedding or some such, they didnâ€™t show up, or he is there and they kill him and they kill a bunch of party goers along with him. That happens routinely. So my best information from having talked to people about this, people with no particular knowledge of this actual video, just people who have opinions I trust on these matters, best information I can come up with rightÂ now is there was probably a predator drone that fired upon some location where some alleged Al Qaeda member was supposed to be which accidentally killed some journalists and civilians instead and which was probably perhaps blamed on some other force altogether â€“ perhaps a suicide bomber or some such. Thatâ€™s what I would guess at this point but again this is not based on any information I have that no one else has, this is simply based on what Wikileaks themselves have put out, and they have put out a lot of you know, just sort of not very useful very short bursts of information regarding this video â€“ you have to kind of piece it together from what theyâ€™ve said.
SH: Yeah, their twitter feed is â€¦.
BB: Interestingly enough on their twitter feed there was a message that appears taken down yesterday that said something about it being a pentagon strike, a Pentagon video. Now of course one would expect the Pentagon to be an umbrella term that youÂ could use forÂ this video because of what is going on with everything else, but there is a reasonÂ they took that down but Iâ€™m not sure what that could indicate, oh here, the message that was taken down was:
â€˜Wikileaks to reveal Pentagon murder cover up at US National Press Club April 5thâ€™
Â Â And that is in reference to I guess theyâ€™ve organized or are trying to organize a presentation of theÂ video on April 5th at the US National Press Club.
SH: Yeah coming up April 5th it says. Well now Iâ€™m confused because, I mean I understand that the laws are different and that the CIA and the State Department can twist any arms of any intelligence agency anywhere they want and that kind of thing but, I sort ofÂ thought that the nature of the internet meant that it doesnâ€™t matter whether you are in Iceland or in Sweden or wherever you can have mirrors of all your files all over the place, where ever you want, more than the cops could ever keep up with, right? I mean is it really as simple as stealing some of their computers and then the information is gone?
BB: Well there is two sort of (unclear audio) we are looking at. We are looking at what is done and what can be done, and then what international law and national laws say. In this case, just look for example Wikileaks in particular in 2008 or 2009, rather a German fellow who owned the German Wikileaks domain name, his home was raidedÂ by theÂ German police, this was shortly after they had published some documents stolen I think from the Australian government and probably the raid was done at the behest of Australia. You have to understand then that intelligence services, even to the extent that they are competing, even with that, they have certain common interests, just by way of mentality or by way of actual practicality in terms of what they are trying to do in their respective countries. One of those things is matters of encryption. Theyâ€™re not real fond of there being civilian access to very high-end encryption techniques. Theyâ€™re also not fond of people having access to decryption techniques that would be relevant to their encryption techniques. That is the example. In general, on the whole there is a sort of mentality that one develops to the extent that one is at the center of secrecy and power and that is a shared mentality â€“ people like that have certain things in common with others no matter who they be and no matter how much they mayÂ have, no matter have much contradictory influence they have, they may be in competition on a day to day basis overall, I mean there is a certain shared mentality and that gets acted upon, and thatâ€™s why perhaps the US Intelligence ServiceÂ in this case did twist the arms of certain Icelandicâ€™s, or perhaps theÂ Australians did twist the arms of Germans. More likely they were happy to oblige. ThatÂ is just the nature of the game.
SH: Now Iâ€™m only level 2 computer dork or something, I can make windows go but I canâ€™t really work it from the inside like a lot of these geniuses can, so Iâ€™m pretty ignorant really about the architecture of the internet and that kind of thing, I guess the last real computer genius I had on the show kind of debunked my understanding, my overly simplistic understanding that there were so few routers that basically, if the government determined to do so that they could basically seize the internet with force by occupying the proper switches at AT&T headquarters and that kind of thing. I forget the young mans name who came on the show to set me straight about that, but he said that the internet is just too widespread, itâ€™s too interconnected and there is too many separate servers all over the place that ultimately no matter what any national government wants they canâ€™t really control the internet â€“ itâ€™s too late for them now, the genie is out of the bottle, no government can ever undo this thing and yet we do see news stories and headlines from time to time about how people inside the government would like to try and theyâ€™ll call it whatever they want about yâ€™know obscenity or whatever it is, Wikileaks, but it seems like they would like to control it, can you fill me in with any details about what kind of danger there is of the internet changing from the kind of free anarchic first come first serve sort of system that it is now to something much more under the control of the police â€¦
BB: Well aside from the question regarding the extent toÂ which national governments could seize control of partsÂ the internet, parts of the internet (laughs)Â what we do know, what we see every day is that certain national governments would very much love to and have acted in certain ways to do so. We have China with the great firewall that they have implemented in the last few years andÂ which has been reasonably successful in making it very, very difficult for the average Chinese person to get access to information that he otherwise would be able to access. There are various ways around what they have right now but theyâ€™ll keep improving it. Just as a side note, Thomas Friedman who is as youÂ know, considered the nations most respectable columnist wrote a long column on China back in 2000-2001 I believe, on China, and one of the myths he busted was that China was going to crack down on the internet and he said â€˜no, no they canâ€™t do that, they are not going to botherâ€™, and of course they did. That is one of my pet issues, a national columnist and being competent in the things they choose to talk about. But again, China of course has done that. You have North Korea, there are various nations that already have a tendency to do these sorts of things have of course done them and here in the US you hear various murmurings just about the dangers, real and imagined the internet presents. Based on thisÂ document that we will talk about in a bit I think,Â the leaked army cyber intel documents they are thinking about these things, I mean they understand that there are, they have legitimate concerns about the internets anarchicÂ nature and the concerns thatÂ we would call illegitimate in terms of being able to control populations and force a top down sort of vision for humanity which governments are often in the habit of engaging in. So we know there is a lot of things going on in that regard we know that there is a lot of governments that have enacted what they hope to be you know steps to censorÂ the internet, we know that there are freer governments that would like to takeÂ similar measures.
â€œIn free governments those always come out of theÂ rhetoric of things like law and order which is basically generally the umbrella proximate cause of whatever the hell they choose to enact,Â in this case child pornography is often cited as somethingÂ for which they require more and greater controls in orderÂ to counteract, so most likely what you will see at some point is more discussion of the internet as an incubator for terrorism, more discussion of the internet as a purveyor of child pornography, those kind of things, the hot button deals that get attention and then they will use those as they often do as a means by which to restrict internet access.â€
Now the question is can they do that? Will they be successful in that? There is no certain answer to that. That is going to depend on how citizens react to those measures. It is going to depend not just on the truth, the largest trends, but also on individuals coalescing and coordinating in manners provided for by the internet in such a way to counteract these things, bring attention to these central problems of censorship and to fight themÂ directly.
SH: Well I like to believe this, that the genie is out of the bottle I mean ultimately these computers were made by them for keeping track of us and the double edged sword fashion we found a way to use it back against them and they hate it. I mean Iâ€™m sure you notice the uh thing a couple of months back about Cass Sunstein, who wrote that thing, I forgot his official position or if heâ€™s got one but he is one of the Obama lawyers I think, and he wrote this whole paper about how government has got to get engaged on the internet and debunk people who say bad things about the government â€“ whatever it is, and of course that just became the biggest story of the week that people were citing and talking bad about the government you know what I mean, itâ€™s too late for them. Cass Sunstein and all of his undercover comments section writers cannot undo what they have already done.
BB: Yeah, and I mean and Iâ€™m not entirely sure, I donâ€™t know technically the answer to that question, the overall question of what they can do in terms of comprehensively taking over the internet. I think that would probably be a large endeavor even aside from public relations without going in toÂ all the preparation necessary. I mean say there was some major international disaster and for some reason it was you know, agreeable to the public to have the internet be seized control of by various governments, I donâ€™t know to what extent that would even be possible under those circumstances, that is a question to put to, and it sounds as though you may have spoken to someone who may have had a full opinion on that regarding the genie already having been let out of the bottle, I donâ€™t know I hope thatâ€™s the case, I hope it is the case that the actual physical nature of the internet is such that itâ€™s basically impossible to be deterred at this point.
SH: At least that is looking on the bright side
BB: Yeah I try not to look on the bright side I try to look at the most pessimistic outcomes
SH: Oh then you need aÂ James Bamford â€“ The Shadow Factory,Â have you read that one?
BB: Iâ€™ve not, noâ€¦
SH: Oh yeah, well that goes next on your list there Barrett, itâ€™s about how the National Security AgencyÂ basically downloads the entire internet all day every day, and in fact it was just in the news not too long ago, maybe a month or two ago that theyâ€™re working on, or finishing up the new facility, the new National Security Agency facility in San Antonio that is roughly the size of the Alamodome, which is huge, cos Iâ€™ve been at Ozfest there and itâ€™s gigantic, and they know how to rock in San Antonio, but anyway, itâ€™s a mile or so away from the brand new Microsoft headquarters and basically theyâ€™re measuring the amount of data that they can hold there in the petaflops and basically they have the capacity to store everything ever published by humanity in a tenth of the space that they have there and so, maybe they canâ€™t stop us but they sure as hell can watch everything we do and they have the software to supposedly make sense out of it all too.
BB: Well yeah and to the extent that that is the case that makes encryption, civilian access to encryption all the more important because you know, they are worried about encryption, that is why certain encryption codes are illegal. I actually have a friend of mine who I collaborate with on certain projects who actually has a tattoo of this illegal encryption code on his arm, he has basically made himself an illegal entity in the eyes of the government by virtue of having this particular code on him. Itâ€™s a very short code, under 50 characters but itâ€™s apparently currently unbreakable to a reasonable extent. I mean itâ€™s currently a viable method of keeping things encrypted and to the extent that the government is going to pursue its natural tendencies to keep tabs on things. Civilians have to pursue their naturalÂ tendencies, their natural and very reasonable aspirations to keep those things concealed. The alternative is a situation in which you know, the government is always the last word and looking at human history you probably donâ€™t want governments to be the last word. We have a very bad track record in setting up and maintaining our governments in such a way as would be conducive to humanities aspirations in general. So you know, lets keep things under wraps to the extent that we can.
SH: Hey everyone Iâ€™m talking with Barrett Brown fromÂ www.trueslant.comÂ and I have to ask you about this. The book it says here is Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and The Easter Bunny. I wonder do you prove in there then that all the geologists in the world are part of communist conspiracy to lie about how old the earth is?
BB: It wasnâ€™t hard either.
SH: It wasnâ€™t hard you just add up all the ages from Adam and Eve and then youâ€™re done right?
Â BB: I just figured hey, you know, this could potentially be used by Marxist (unclear audio) who proved their theories and thusÂ thatâ€™s what they were there for, thatâ€™s what the intention was. You know itâ€™s just natural logic. Even though ironically enough, I mean obviously I get a lot of, having been sort of a part of that debate, a number of years ago, I get a lot of accusations regarding the (unclear audio) conspiracy of evolution, the funny thing is the Soviets banned Darwin and they banned you know, the reasonable theory of evolution as originated by Darwin, replaced it withÂ LamarckismÂ which is aÂ bizarre, totally unscientific variance on it because they didnâ€™t think that the theory of evolution as proposedÂ by Darwin was conducive to communist theories â€“ Marxist theories. Iâ€™m not sure what their reasoning was exactly, but they seemed to think it was reasonable unless it was that the Soviets (unclear audio ..)Â donâ€™t know how many creationist listeners you have, probably 3 or 4, just be sure to tell them that that is the case and they can, they donâ€™t need to worry about the Soviets, you know the Marxists having a (unclear audio)Â evolutionary theory. The person who perpetuated evolutionary theory was a guy who was studying for seminary before he did it, and that was Darwin. So â€¦
SH: Yeah well, Iâ€™m sure he was in seminary at the wrong kind of religion somewhere or something â€¦
BB: Donâ€™t, donâ€™t forget Gregor Mendel who was a monk of course, who pre-dated Darwin
SH: You know, this is the thing too, is you know, Iâ€™m all for people having a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of things and in fact if people want to try to poke holes in evolutionary theory and say â€˜well they need better proof of the punctuated equilibriumâ€™ or whatever the hell it is, I guess thatâ€™s fine but what really bothers me is that itâ€™s like medievalismÂ or something, its like we live in a Iran where never mind the facts, we have this theology that overrides everything,` and I donâ€™t know man, itâ€™s like thatÂ Carl SaganÂ thing about the candle in the darkness that is the enlightenment and the scientific process and the assumption I guess, that human beings are reasonable and can use their brains â€¦
BB: â€¦The Demon-Haunted World: Science as aÂ Candle in the Dark that came out inÂ the late 90â€²s by Carl Sagan
SH: Yeah and you know, this is America and weâ€™re founded on the enlightenment principals of you know individualism and reason, the whole idea of our society was that people are basically capable of figuring out what is right for themselves and living their own lives and whatever â€¦.its very basis is the presumption that itâ€™s okay to use reason to know things and yet there really are parts of our society that just see that as the most cynical attempt to destroy their beliefs or something and then so itâ€™s like a reactionary thing, then they are mad at science and all, like itâ€™s all out to get them somehow â€¦
BB: Yeah well and one of the unfortunate deficits ofÂ where you might view conspiracismÂ yâ€™know sort of almost aÂ dedication (unclear audio)Â to conspiracy is that people,Â pushers like (unclear audio) evangelical Christians see any scientific theory that runs contrary to the belief as intentionally put forth against them, when in fact obviously the average research scientist is not thinking about the implications for theology when he does his research, heâ€™s trying to accomplish something and he does accomplish something which is quite a bit apart from what the priests do. The theory of evolution is one of those few things that I think really, that is something that you either ascribe to and I respect you or you donâ€™t and I have nothing more to say to you, I mean there are many, many differences of opinions one can have about history, and the meaning of things and general trends that sort of thing. Theory of evolution is one of those very few things that you know, I wouldÂ basically require someone to ascribe to in order to corroborate/collaborate with me on something. Iâ€™m actually setting up a project right now and that is one of the litmus tests, that and gay marriage, simply because I find the people that donâ€™t ascribe to the theory of evolution or who are opposed to gay marriage, see that is a pretty easy way of filtering out people who arenâ€™t going to be very intellectually honest or perceptive or knowledgeable of history and the human condition â€“ itâ€™s just one of those deal breakers and it should be. The theory of evolution of courseÂ being one of the most supported pieces of science that we have.
SH: Well you know I guess I shouldnâ€™t really fret too much about this because after all, well the whole first part of our conversation is about science in action. I mean the fact that you and I are having this conversation on the telephone and itâ€™s going over the internet and then going out on the radio and getting you know auto magically archived in 15 places and people in Japan are listening live right now and all these things just goes to show that science isnâ€™t going anywhere and this is our entire global economy and all of our societies however you want to define them or differentiate them are completely dependent on them for our division of labor â€“ you know Francis Bacon and all that isnâ€™t going away itâ€™s all saved on the National Security Agency hard drive forever, you know, so the crazies to the Christians canâ€™t really screw that up.
BB: No, not, well they have before to some extent, about (unclear audio)Â years ago only to some extent, and of course we have had a lot of advancements and that is wonderful and Iâ€™m very much in favor of that we just have to remember that we have to take advantage of everything that we have, for instance you know, to describe one, Iâ€™m talking to you from here inÂ Brooklyn and youâ€™re in Austin and people in Japan are having the words transferred through severalÂ mediums in the space ofÂ a couple of seconds. Iâ€™m sitting here in my apartment laying on my couch, prone, wearing dirty clothes, Iâ€™m not taking full advantage of the washing machine that is available to meÂ just down the street, my socks are dirty, Iâ€™ve been wearing these jeans for about a week or so â€¦did I forget to give a metaphor for what I think is going on on the internet? â€“ We have seen over the last ten years how much better the internet can be as a means of stimulating information for collaboration â€“ we know that, weâ€™ve seen that from a view of ten years ago and what we have now, all of these new meanings by youtube etc or you can have a video made public across the world without any filter within several minutes â€“ extrapolating from that you can probably determine that we have a long way to go in what we can achieve. So perhaps we could speed this process up if we spend more time thinking about what we can do with the tools available to us now, how we can better organize the people we have around us that we have access to now, what clever new methods we can devise of making that collaboration more effective. Iâ€™d like to talk to you a little bit more later about a project Iâ€™m putting together called Project PM which is designed with that in mind, which is designed as aÂ means by which to counteract the deficits we see in the media which in turn Â thinkÂ you can point to as fundamental cause of a lot of our problems in so much as thatÂ human society, human reaction is fueled by information and only operates positively to the extent that it receives accurate information, relevant information. I think the media â€“ the structure of the media is something that we are notÂ giving enough emphasis to right now. I think it is very fundamental, I think it is something we need to spend a lot more time on over the next few years, because other people are spending time on it â€“ the army intel agencies are spending time on it, you know, intelligent agencies all across the world are spending time on it and looking into what is going on on the internet, theyâ€™re analyzing it. Theyâ€™re trying to figure out to what extent they can make it work for them, likewise we as people who try to be aware of what is going on around us who feel the need, the duty to act in some way, I think we need to spend a little bit more time than we are right now, considering the possibilities and perhaps even acting on them.
SH: Right on, everybody, thatâ€™s Barrett Brown, you can find what we writes atÂ www.trueslant.com, his book isÂ Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and The Easter Bunny, and please go and check out this blog entry:Â CIA, State Department Apparently Acting on Plan to Destroy Wikileaks.
Thanks very much for your time on the show today, appreciate it.
BB: Thank you very much.
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