Journalists Are Terrorists. Let’s Start Acting Like It.
Journalism as a Form of Asymmetrical Warfare
The security apparatus views journalists as truth bombers engaged in terrorism. It is time we started thinking of ourselves as terrorists. Not violent terrorists, of course — our weapons are our pens, our laptops, our cameras. Our conscience.
Journalists are freedom fighters engaged in a life-or-death struggle against a vastly superior enemy. The security apparatus would gladly kill us all if they thought they could get away with it. But while the Internet remains free, their actions must remain in the shadows, and this is our only advantage.
Let me repeat that: Our ability to act openly is our only advantage.
The First Amendment is on our side, and our enemy must pay lip service to this ideal. If that hypocrisy were to ever go away — if we should ever move into blatant, self-aware tyranny that does not pretend to be anything but — our advantage disappears. This moment may not be far off. Therefore we must strike and strike now, while we can. Because ten years from now may be too late.
So how do we strike? Who do we truth bomb? And what is our goal? To expose hypocrisy. Yes. But to what end?
The goal here is not to convince lawmakers to change the law. Even if this were to happen, it would make no difference, as the security apparatus would continue its illegal abuse of power.
The goal here is not to shame James Clapper or Keith Alexander. These men are sociopaths. They have no shame. They know power, and care about nothing else.
The goal here is not, as Glenn Greenwald has suggested, to inspire hackers to develop new tools to combat this menace on the technological battlefield. The NSA can outspend and outhack any community effort.
The goal here is not even to change public opinion, at least not as such. The public has no power, and can do nothing. Not even street protests are likely to make any difference. Our democracy has long since turned into a puppet show run by spies.
No. Our goal is to target, damage and destroy morale at the NSA and in the military. To cause the millions of people with security clearances to doubt the rightness of what they are doing. It is no coincidence that the NSA has spent the last six months moaning about bad morale. It is no coincidence that the military forbids servicemen from looking at the Wikileaks and Snowden documents.
Remember 1991? When Yeltsin stood on a tank in Red Square? The orders from above were to shoot. But the mid-level officers in charge of those tanks — the colonels, majors and captains — disobeyed and refused to fire.
Empires are built on faith. On a fervent belief in the rightness of the whole project. Truth bombing destroys this faith. When you hold up a mirror and show Americans the evilness of what the Empire has become — when the husbands and wives and lovers of NSA employees start whispering in bed, "Baby, I know you can't talk about what you do, but don't you think you'd be better off working in insurance?" — and when these employees (who engage in our day-to-day oppression) start doubting the legitimacy of their actions — then, and only then, will real change come about.
So when we're covering national security issues, we need to remember our audience. Our goal is to smash employee morale at the NSA, at the CIA, at the DoD, at all the other known and unknown acronymns of the secret apparatus that claim the right to rule us.
Make them doubt. Make them question the rightness of their actions. The sociopaths who run the show will be unaffected, but they are powerless without the unwavering faith of the mid-level officers below them.
Some will retire early. Some will move into other careers. Others will drag their feet, make "mistakes." Some will even leak.
Remember: We're journalists. We are terrorists. Start acting like one. Our goal is not "balanced, objective reporting." Our goal is the utter destruction of the security apparatus.
Because if we don't destroy them first, they will surely destroy us.