Engineering our way out of mass surveillance


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I really appreciate that someone took the time and effort to videotape this, and I really appreciate that mr. McCarthy provided the full text of the talk.

But, dear videographer, for the next time, please consider investing in or making a small parabolic mike or a shotgun mike. I managed to snag a now-discontinued Sony ECM-PB1C a few years ago. While it’s not completely insensitive to side audio, it’s small, light, fits in a smallish camera bag, and can be mounted on top of the camera. A hand-built version, built onto a flash/tripod mount could be made from dollar-store items.


I don’t know. It seems to have capably picked up the disgusting eating/drinking sounds starting at around 17:00.

Yes, but the transcript is perfectly readable.

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I’m really glad that he calls this fascism, b/c everyone needs to understand that it IS fascism.


I can’t get past 1:00. He probably makes some valid points, but his speech is so sloppy I can’t take him seriously. Fascists? Really? Didn’t we get over calling the authorities fascists around 10th grade?

“Existential problem of ubiquitous surveillance?” In what way is this problem “existential?” Is that word just like Tabasco, making everything it touches better, or does it mean something? And war = murder? Isn’t that another one we… well, most of us outgrew in high school?

I just can’t stand liberals who make liberals look bad.


Nope, the term has a precise meaning, and he’s using the term quite precisely. Fascism is the centralising of political power within an alliance of Big Government and Big Business, with a concomitant loosening of the restraints on either. The alternative term is corporatism - it was Benito Mussolini who coined the latter term to describe his type of government. Hitler’s relationship with corporations like IG Farben and Krupp illustrated it to a tee. Now, what part of that doesn’t apply to current situation in the West?

  • Internal surveillance? Check…
  • Erosion of a relatively impartial judiciary? Check… (Think here of the ubiquity of plea bargaining (to avoid Draconian mandatory sentences) to convict the less well-to-do elements of society, because they can’t afford the chance of losing a court battle - that’s an erosion of judicial impartiality before a case even reaches a judge. That’s over and above decisions like Citizen’s United, etc.)
  • Regulatory capture? Check…
  • Usurpation of democratic functions by the Executive branch? Check… (whether of the functions of the judiciary when assassinating American citizens overseas, or of those of the legislature when enacting domestic policies through the Office of the Trade Representative by means of treaties like ACTA or TPP.)
  • Usurpation of governmental functions by private industry, with the government’s full connivance? (Hell, yeah! The privatisation of prisons is a classic example, and that certainly is not having a beneficial effect on society.)
  • Policies that favour Big Business to the detriment of the nation’s citizens? (Too numerous to count - anything from banking regulatory policies to IP regulations.)

I’m using examples from your country. My own country has similar shenanigans going on, although it’s a little harder to see the usurpation of power by the executive in a pure parliamentary system (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or isn’t happening - bien au contraire.)

Right now, most of the exercise of power is soft (and/or sneaky) because there is an entrenched culture of civil rights that needs to be quietly bypassed, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t already on the slippery slope. I think we’re in the situation of the frog placed in the pot of tepid water, and the burner was turned on a while ago.


    (of a proposition) affirming or implying the existence of a thing.

Not quite where I’d use it, but not really used incorrectly either. McCarthy is Icelandic. They don’t have a prejudice against sounding intellectual. Unlike a modern French philosophe, however, his language is quite clear.

In either case, I don’t think McCarthy is using the words loosely, and I think that refusing to read or listen because you don’t like a word is rather foolish. I think refusing to face the possibility that a “not-nice”, overused word may well apply to a modern situation correctly is extremely foolish.


Fascism does not, and never really has had, a precise meaning.

This definitional problem was exacerbated after the end of WW II when “fascism” became an open-ended insult. As Orwell put it, the term quickly became a meaningless pejorative.

Mussolini and other fascists were not deep political thinkers carving out a new theory of government, but rank opportunists who radically changed their own definition of fascism wildly in a short span of time to accommodate their political ambitions.

Fascism in Italy, for example, went from being explicitly anticlerical to seeking the Roman Catholic Church’s blessing in a span of less than two years.

There’s nothing wrong with using fascism as a generic term for any right wing nationalist authoritarianism, but trying to line up correspondences between one country and Italy or Nazi Germany and saying “aha, see, they’re both fascist” is absurd as in your attempt to compare the judicial system in the United States to that of Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany.

There are a lot of features to dislike about the American judicial system, but to compare it to Nazi Germany’s is to stretch that attempt past the breaking point.

I believe Smári McCarthy meant “what is the effect of ubiquitous surveillance to the meaning on human existence and our ability to make sense of it”.

His mistake is that he figured that his audience would understand academic language. His bad, I suppose.

It’s always a shame to see something like this where probably a lot of work went into a recording that is unwatchable.

I’ve gone even cheaper than that and just used a portable digital recorder like the Zoom H1 for cases like this where the speaker doesn’t leave the podium much.

Unfortunately, a lot of university lecture halls are difficult to capture audio well without more expensive solutions or a lot of cooperation from the speaker.

O snap! I guess I’m not intellectual and academic enough. When I was a college sophomore I could sure throw those words around, but I guess I’ve regressed. My teenage son confirms this.

Kind of what I was trying to say. On the one hand, Hannah Arendt, but on the other, Godwin is lots more fun.

Almost! Aaaallllllmost!

That ‘O snap!’ should have been in the last paragraph.

gah, i know! it’s gross and distracting enough that i cannot listen to the talk. :frowning:

Fuck Godwin.

Fascism is anything but dead. Why not just think of it as democracy multiplied by -1.

ETA: I thoroughly endorse the recommendation of Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians.

PS. Memo to camera guy: THERE WILL BE NO SLIDES

PPS. Oh hey, look - we even have neoblackshirts on the scene.

[quote=“jetfx, post:12, topic:33150”]
Silicon Valley libertarianism is sliding towards authoritarianism[/quote]

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