Friday, May 30, 2014

The Effect of Adrenaline on Broca's Area

or How I Became So Angry I Started to Sound Like a Libertarian

The controversy surrounding Snowden, Manning, and whistle-blowers generally is inexplicable to me. Thinking about it makes me so angry I can only speak and write in categorical imperatives. I have noticed this before. A promising field of research awaits somebody.

What set me off this time was Greenwald's latest article on The Intercept.

After reading it, I attempted to post the following. (I was not hoping to win a prize if I was the millionth person to do so. I was just fuming.) As I write, my remarks have not appeared. I suspect some Bayesian filter (triggered, perhaps, by the repetition of the word "objective") decided Ayn Rand's heirs might sue them:
Contra Kinsley, there are objective criteria for what the government may and may not keep secret. It is easiest to start with the negatives: the government may not conceal its own crimes and blundering. This means, for instance, the government may not conceal that it is violating the 4th amendment, nor the means by which it is doing so, nor the names of any programs which do so, nor may it hold secret hearings, tribunals, or write secret memos to itself to secretly legalize its criminal acts. The government may not conceal evidence of war crimes by our own forces, nor can it conceal evidence of war profiteering, nor can it conceal the unpleasant details of war, nor anything else which the people need to know in order to decide whether they continue to approve of any war. In general, the government may only conceal that which, if revealed, would harm the people, the securing of whose rights and liberties is the solitary reason for it's existence.

A whistle-blower, then, is someone who reveals that which the government had no right to conceal, and a journalist is whoever publishes such revelations. Contra Kinsley, any of us can examine such revelations and, erring on the side of sunlight, easily determine whether they ought to be protected. The criteria are plain, simple and objective. We need no authority to decide for us.
Wow. I ought to submit that to Reason magazine, but then I would have to add a paragraph explaining how all of this would come about magically if we starve the poor.