by Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the truth-and-fiction dept

Selecting my favorite Techdirt stories of the week has been an interesting challenge, primarily because the site’s coverage is so damn good. In the end, I managed to narrow things down by choosing the stories that best resonated with the themes I find most important and fascinating. Probably this is a narcissistic approach, but what the hell, Techdirt is awesome and I had to use some kind of filter.

I loved the coverage of the NSA’s latest crimes against the English language—Snowden’s leaks were “masked by his job duties” — because propaganda doesn’t work without euphemisms, meaning there’s no such thing as too much coverage of governmental linguistic bullshit. The ur text on government euphemisms, of course, is Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, which should be required reading in every high school throughout the land. For a take on more contemporary such manipulations, I shamelessly recommend my short piece, It’s Just a Leak. Because how did an undersea oil eruption become a “leak,” anyway? Not by accident, I assure you…

On a related note, I loved this fisk of the NSA’s stale talking points. It so elegantly exposes so many elements of government obfuscation: euphemisms, straw men, illogic, etc. Blogs that blow up bullshit (hmm, that sounds like a title for something potentially really fun) do a great public service, and this post is a premier example.

The article on Lavabit’s Ladar Levinson explaining how USG bullying turned him into an activist was encouraging as an example of Edward Snowden’s dictum that courage is contagious.

This post on Verizon whining about why it never even attempted to challenge government Patriot Act bulk collection demands struck me particularly because of the way Verizon’s representative Joe Stratton attempted to justify Verizon’s cowardly collaboration on “national security” grounds. The very notion of “national security” in America has metastasized into a pseudo-religion and we citizens need to be much more critical of anything the government seeks to arrogate to itself based on these quasi-religious grounds. By definition, “national security” should only refer to matters that threaten the security of the nation itself, and if you think about it, there really aren’t many events that can fit such an existential bill. As but one example: we lose something like 30,000 people a year to firearms deaths and another 30,000 a year or so to automobile deaths, and close to half a million from tobacco-related deaths, and somehow the nation manages to take the whole thing in stride. If we can lose hundreds of thousands of people a year to guns and cars and cigarettes with no impact at all on national security, how can it be that something like the Boston Marathon bombing, as tragic as it was, was a national security event? I haven’t seen much discussion of the propagandistic way the government and its proxies have deliberately metastasized “national security” for their own parasitic ends, and would like to see more of it.

Michael Hayden’s prediction that Snowden would become an alcoholic struck me as a nice example of the way establishment figures reflexively (and often successfully) brand their critics as fringe, pathetic losers. Like many techniques of propaganda, though, this one loses most of its power once you recognize it for what it is.

And I liked this piece on how the NSA is more focused on protecting its own sources and methods than it is on protecting against the next terrorist attack because... well, because it relates to the plot of my next novel. But with blockbuster revelation following blockbuster revelation, I’m not sure even the most ambitious thrillers will be able to keep up with what the government really is up to in the dark.

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler’s bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous “Best Of” lists, have been translated into nearly twenty languages, and include the #1 bestseller The Detachment. Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and, when he’s not writing novels, blogs about torture, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Tom Stone, Sep 21st, 2013 @ 12:23pm

    Barry Eisler

    I'd appreciate it if you could manage to increase your output of books! It's a real pleasure when a new one comes out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Barry Eisler (profile), Sep 21st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Barry Eisler

    Thanks Tom, the new novel (a Rain prequel set in Tokyo in 1972) is done; encouraging Amazon to publish it soon because... why not? Will keep you posted...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Lesha ramos, Sep 21st, 2013 @ 1:52pm


    I just love the way you thnk and write Mr.Eisler , greatly amuse me with your opinios" stay happy and blessed !! Patriot brother ofour Republic !!!! Haha"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Sep 21st, 2013 @ 2:21pm

    You just never know...

    My father refused to do any classified research work as a major physics researcher in the 1950's thru the 1980's, yet he was involved with the CIA in extracting scientists from the Soviet Union during that time. Because he had no security clearance, he was able to travel to the Soviet Union in the 1950's during the height of the cold war, making the contacts needed to do this work. Unfortunately, the Agency has lost its way, and in the 1960's and 70's tried to get me to perform some truly horrendous actions because of my personal Latin American contacts. When I refused, it took some serious pressure from some very highly placed people to keep me out of some very real cross-hairs...

    So, anyone who has extracted themselves from involvement with the CIA and/or NSA has my highest regard!

    Anyway, an excellent recap of the week Mr. Eisler.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Atkray (profile), Sep 21st, 2013 @ 7:18pm

    If we can lose hundreds of thousands of people a year to guns and cars and cigarettes with no impact at all on national security, how can it be that something like the Boston Marathon bombing, as tragic as it was, was a national security event?

    Until the people watching dancing with the American idol dynasty start to ask this question I'm afraid nothing will change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    RyanNerd (profile), Sep 22nd, 2013 @ 7:03am

    Be the Monkey

    I just finished reading this and it had me laughing so hard my wife started to worry if I had missed my medication.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2013 @ 11:15pm

    How about this one: a near miss between two QANTAS airliners a couple of days ago in Australia was described by the airline as "a loss of separation" :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 2:12pm

    Barry, Nice writeup. And your completely correct about the government using draconian methods to protect their "sources and methods." Personally I feel if they don't these capabilities disclosed, then they shouldn't employ them domestically. L~

    P.S. It's Ladar Levison... not Levinson. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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