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SOCNET  May 2006

SOCNET May 2006

Subject:

Re: Threat to Democracy

From:

Andrew Cleary <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Andrew Cleary <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 19 May 2006 09:58:29 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (161 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On
> Behalf Of John Taylor
> Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:39 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Threat to Democracy
> 
> *****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****
> 
> 
> I beg to differ with Andy's hypothesis that terrorists "pose no threat
to
> the entire American country or population, to the way that the country
> operates."  History has consistently proven that any country,
> civilization or
> population is within the reach of a dedicated  enemy willing to
sacrifice
> their life
> for their cause.
> 
> The attacks of 9/11 have already dramatically impacted the way our
country
> operates in terms of new legislation, government spending priorities,
> military
> call-ups, airline bankruptcies, increased gas prices, tightening of
civil
> liberties, increased government centralization, a pinched  economy and
the
> War
> on Terrorism.

All of which were done *by Americans* (and mostly via government
action), not by terrorists. The "threat to (American) democracy" is not
a handful of zealots; the threat is Americans (and mostly via government
action) themselves. 

> 
> It is hard to think of one person or industry that has not somehow
felt
> the
> touch of that day in their personal, professional or economic lives.
For
> most this impact was negative.

Absolutely: so we should stop doing this to ourselves. Instead, our
"leaders" are making the problem worse via warrantless wiretaps and a
host of other violations of democratic principles.

> 
> Dramatic, but entirely possible, doomsday scenarios are detailed in
> America's emergency management and civil support plans, including:
> biological  attack, economic attack, Internet war, attacks on critical
infrastructure and
> political decapitation.

John, if I am correct in inferring from your company's title that you
have a fair amount of training in Homeland Security, than you know
better than this. I worked at Livermore National Labs and was supported
by Homeland Defense research moneys, which showed among other things the
incredible difficulty in designing and developing effective biological
weapons and that a force of perhaps thousands is never going to be able
to overwhelm our economy (what are they going to do, start boycotting
McDonald's?), nor can they support the research efforts necessary to win
an internet move/countermove battle, etc. All of these things are
attacks to be defended from and prepared for, absolutely: we want to
minimize the probability of them happening and minimize the damage done
if and when they do happen. But to claim that they are a threat to our
entire nation is fear-mongering done in the name of transferring even
more power into the hands of the governing few. As you've argued above
for me, the *real* changes to the American way of life have been made by
that government, not by terrorists. Terrorists are no more threat to
"American Democracy" than any other particularly violent criminal: we
must defend from them, yes, but it follows from your logic that you
would advocate throwing away all civil liberties, the things that
*define democracy*, even in the pursuit of *any* lawbreaker. 

There is a difference between "threat to our democracy" and "poses a
non-zero risk", or else *every* tiny thing that poses any risk to anyone
becomes vaulted to "threat to our democracy" and the concept no longer
means anything.

> 
> Free democracies are fragile endeavors.  They are easily and
frequently
> corrupted by the influence of outside interests, agitators, enemies
> and/or
> terrorists.

They are most frequently corrupted from the inside; outside threats are
usually the excuse given.

  American civilization is certainly subject to the same
> political,
> religious and civic vulnerabilities as other great  civilizations have
> been
> throughout history, including the Greeks,  Romans, Aztecs, Incans,
etc...
> We do not
> have some magic immunity to these  forces of men, thought, religion
and
> history.

Absolutely, and that's why I, and others, are attempting to stand
vigilant against the slow corruption from the inside of the principles
of democracy. America is historically *safest* right now: the cold war
has ended, we have no superpowers pointing thousands of nuclear warheads
at us with the finger on the trigger. The threat posed by a relative
handful of zealots is orders of magnitude less than that posed by a
hugely powerful sovereign nation; and yet, fearmongers have managed to
propagate that meme that we are somehow *less* secure now than we used
to be and must thusly give up *more* of our democratic principles.
*That* is the threat to democracy.

> While I certainly agree that SNA is not the threat or the enemy,

I agree with earlier posters that have said that SNA is not the
"threat"; but the way in which the data that is fed into the SNA is
gathered might be, if it represents undemocratic violations of privacy.

 it would
> be
> equally foolish to pretend that this enemy does not exist 

That is a strawman of your creation; I never said they didn't exist.

and that the
> threat is not legitimate.  In fact, there should be no doubt

Your stating that there should be no doubt does not make it so.

 that a
> powerful and
> cunning enemy stalks the United States and that the complete
destruction
> of
> her democracy is the very goal of their focused efforts.

Wow, that's a nice speech. But, ahem, no, this enemy is *not* powerful;
it is a tiny little annoying enemy hiding in the cracks that
occasionally reaches out and pricks the giants that it is angry at, no
different than street gangs, the mafia, the occasional rogue militia
group, etc.: something to be watched and combated yes, but something to
cede our democratic principles to, no. If this enemy is so powerful, why
can they not operate in the open? They are so weak that they cannot even
reveal their location or they would be annihilated. And I am hardly
impressed with the *goal* of their efforts; indeed, were I to cower and
give away my democracy for every pyschotic with a threatening *goal*,
I'd never leave the house. Many psychotics have had dangerous *goals*;
they are only dangerous to our democracy when they have the power to
begin to approach that goal. Mao, Hitler, Stalin: *they* were threats to
our country. And now, so are those who advocate the revocation of the
principles of democracy in the service of the state of fear.

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