• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Futility of Typewriters

Last year, in the wake of the the Snowden disclosures, Russia announced that it was reverting to typewriters for its most sensitive communications. "The most primitive method is preferred: a human hand with a pen or a typewriter,” said a spokesman for the Federal Security Service.

Oh, how the world turns. It sounded all rather like Général Joffre ensconcing himself in the Chateau de Chantilly and communicating with his GHC via carrier pigeon, while the Battle of the Marne raged.

But now Germany is following suit. According to Die Welt,

“... people [in government] are trying to stay away from technology whenever they can. Those concerned talk less on the phone, prefer to meet in person. More coffees are being drunk and lunches eaten together. Even the walk in the park is increasingly enjoying a revival"

Walks-in-the-park brought to mind another memory.

I had a professor who had fled the Nazis shortly after they came to power.  Every year, for incoming Sophomores, he held a two or three session class to explain how and why the Nazis had come to power.

The official line at the time — believe it or not — was that a megalomaniac with a clownish mustache had begun ranting and salivating on a podium and a whole nation murderously followed.  Our professor aimed to provide a more adult account.

I recall someone asking, what was the worst thing about living under the Nazis.  Our professor thought a moment a replied, 

“Probably the fact that you didn’t know whom you could trust or where you were safe.  People met secretly in cars or on walks in the park where they couldn’t be overhead.  You never said anything important over the phone.”
Joffre’s penchant for secrecy has been ridiculed for the French reverses in the early stages of the Great War.  But if there was a problem it was in the “ensconcing” not in the “pigeon.”  After all, pigeons can be used to spy from the sky as well as to deliver secret messages.

It is obvious that the more complex anything is the more weak points it has.  Less, as they say, is more. 

The converse is also true, as I have fruitless tried to explain to people many times.  The more you securitize something the more you slow it down and ultimately “lock it up.”  And engine that gets locked up, doesn’t work.

However, the real issue doesn’t concern mechanical causes but political ones. Just as the problem with Joffre was his self-imposed isolation, the real problem at hand is the NSA’s self-ordained spying.  Both are responses drawn from the same psychosis.  Finding itself at war, Joffre looked with suspicion on anything outside his secure castle even "friendly wires."   Secured in their exceptionalist isolation, the NSA considers the whole world to be hostile territory.

Over ten years ago, when the descent into darkness began, this blog warned  that the "war on terrorism" meant that

“. . . the Government will have to presume is that everyone is at least a potential terrorist. In the most fundamental sense that is a presumption which is entirely antithetical to the concept of civil friendship, i.e., societas." (Woodchip Gazette, 010915)
The United States Government has become inimical not only to freedom but to civil society itself. It has injected fear and distrust into the body politic like a metastizing cancer or an auto-immune virus.

Resorting to typewriters, solitary walks (under surveillance cameras) and carrier pigeons are futile medicines against a mortal disease.

Researchers have isolated the civil deficiency virus.