Billion Dollar Brain

So, we learn that the US is hoovering up phone and internet information on the world, the UK is trying harder to do the same whilst also bugging the G20, and France has it’s own system ( English ).

Meanwhile, Mr Snowden hides out, Google gets into trouble, and people finally learn why their email is free :


So to recap.

POTUS goes to China to complain about their despicable industrial-scale electronic surveillance, and that doesn’t end so well.

UK turns out to be in a game of Top Trumps with the US for how much of the world’s internet data they can intercept illegally, how many “friends” they can snoop on, but most of all, who is the worst at Powerpoint.

François Hollande complains loudly about all this, and quelle suprise, they’re at it too.

Merkel had a huge moan earlier, so watch this space for the big revelation shortly that the all-round winner in the latest game of “the Internet is our free pass to spy on everyone, all the time” is in fact Germany.


It’s an Olympics for megalomaniacal government, with current (p)odium contenders the US, UK and France leading the way in a dismal diplomacy smackdown of name-calling and suspiciously well-timed information leaking.

Observed with almost no interest whatsoever by a supine populace who are seemingly more worried about this week’s Celebrity Big Brother antics than their own elected governments’ Actual Big Brother with the biggest ever reveal of worldwide, global, untargeted data snooping and privacy invasion.


The deal seems to be :

a.) If you are a government, act like the people who elected you are not there. Pretend that you don’t work for them. Forget that they pay for you. Don’t remember that they elected you to serve them, not to spy on them. When you are caught with your pants down, find some dirt on other governments, and pull their pants down too. Make out that everyone is at it. But tell everyone that you are not doing it, and anyone who suggests otherwise is very naughty. Then admit that you are doing it. But explain that you had to lie to protect us. From Bad People. Really scary Bad People. Make sure the really scary bit is there. People with beards. People from abroad.

Once you’ve got everyone scared, the simple existence of Bad People means you can be Bad too. On our behalf, but behind our backs. Declare war on Bad People. Who wouldn’t support that cause ? Because that’s good. You are being Bad, but for Good. Other people are Bad but when they do it, it is not Good.

A proper rant wouldn’t be complete without quoting a Nazi, so an opportune moment to recount this famous bit of wisdom :

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country.

-Goering at the Nuremberg Trials, as quoted by Gustave Gilbert

See ? Now tell the people to go back to their Facebooking, Twittering and emailing. While you watch in case they are in fact a Bad Person, bearded and/or foreign. Or just because you feel like it, you can, and they don’t seem to care anyway.


b.) If you are an individual, tune it out. It’s too hard. It’s not as interesting as American Pop Idol. It’s less relevant to your life than catching up with the Kardashians.

Or may be you get it, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve read The Crucible but it was a long time ago and you’re relaxed about crossing the “if you are innocent you have nothing to fear” line. Everyone is a suspect. War on Bad People is noble and the end justifies the means, as so splendidly evidenced throughout human history.

Obviously you are not a Bad Person, but who knows about everyone else ? You get FREE email and ON-DEMAND HOT PORN. So what if the quid-pro-quo is unfettered illegal access to everything you say, email, or post ?

I mean, if someone offered you free postage stamps and a complimentary subscription to the top shelf magazine of your choice, you’d absolutely let them into your house whenever they damn well pleased to check your phone records and rummage through your family photos, right ? That’s just protecting you from Bad People.

Yes. It’s ALL OKAY


So I’m not quite living in a bunker wearing a tinfoil hat and muttering about how they are all out to get me yet  But this all-pervasive spying on absolutely everyone makes, oh if only there was an apt comparison well known to most, ah, thank you, yes of course, Watergate, look like a tiny indiscretion. Nixon rightly fell on his sword ( eventually ) for that one.

The current mob, all of them, have extended that snooping beyond all comprehension.

They have no excuse.

Worse perhaps, most people seem not to care, or to think it’s acceptable, or that their apathy is a mark of cool urbane cynicism rather than a lazy abandonment of their rights to privacy in return for what, free email ?

I don’t expect much to change but I will minimise my participation. Hence I started to pay for my email. Means the provider doesn’t have to track my every move ( like some ) in order to build up a profile to sell to advertisers. So far, it’s cost me a grand total of a couple of hours to move my email ( including migrating all old gmail ) and use alternate search engines, plus a $20/year subscription to an ad-free email service.

Worth it to me.

Billion Dollar Brain, by the way, was an interesting book ( and later, film ) by Len Deighton in the Harry Palmer series. I remember reading it about 25 years ago. A big computer network feeding a vast independent espionage system.

Seemed far-fetched at the time.


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