Free Advice on the Brewing Cyber Wars

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in the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on
Mastercard et al., the first full-scale cyber war (or "Internet
") had begun. I have already expressed my concern (here
and here)
that the boycotters of Amazon hadn't provided a compelling justification
for their strategy. In the present article, I'll offer some general
observations that I hope will help libertarians and antiwar activists
to organize their thoughts as the conflict escalates.

  • Amazon,
    MasterCard, et al. have not been torturing prisoners or bombing
    civilians; the U.S. government has. At best, these companies capitulated
    to very real threats from the government, and at worst they cut
    a deal to remove an earlier threat
    that had been hanging over
    them. I personally cannot judge them too harshly, since I may
    very well have done the same (though I would have needed to be
    waterboarded before issuing the press
    release that Amazon gave
    ). Now I understand that some very
    committed antiwar activists would have gone to jail under similar
    circumstances, but they are in the minority. It is one thing to
    say you will stand up to the government; it's something else entirely
    when an actual senator is on the phone.

  • A silly
    Star Wars analogy may help: The boycotters presumably liken
    Amazon to Lando Calrissian, who sold out his friend Han Solo in
    a deal with the Empire. But this isn't at all accurate. Amazon
    didn't deliver Assange over to the authorities; his jilted
    lovers did
    . Amazon's "betrayal" merely meant that
    the WikiLeaks site was down for a few hours, and all Amazon did
    was end its business relationship with the pariah organization.
    It would be as if the Millennium Falcon needed to refuel, and
    the first planet they stopped at told them to keep moving because
    they were on Vader's blacklist. Now if that had happened
    in the movie, and then after hitting the next depot (three hours
    away) the rebels circled back and starting firing on the first
    place for not selling them fuel, the audience would have been
    quite perplexed. That's not what the good guys do. The good guys
    study the schematics of the Death Star; they don't figure out
    which groups of non-combatants they should punish next for not
    joining the rebellion.
  • If you allow
    yourself to become outraged when someone fails to martyr himself,
    you have condemned yourself to a life of constant bitterness and
    disappointment. You will be much healthier — and much more able
    to further the causes you cherish — if you simply acknowledge
    that most people will not stick their necks out if it will put
    their careers or families in immediate jeopardy. Better to accept
    that basic fact, and build your plans around it.
  • It is better
    to herald heroism than condemn cowardice. Positive reinforcement
    is more productive — and more likely to recruit others — than
  • If your
    proposed strategy requires the statement, "We're at war!"
    to justify it, it is probably a very bad idea.

  • If you want
    peace, then you should renounce threats, property destruction,
    and of course violence. Those are the techniques of the government.
  • The world
    is very complex, with billions of people reacting to each other.
    It is impossible to predict all of the ramifications of our actions.
    That's why moral rules are so important. If we set out
    to do things "for the greater good," believing that
    the ends justify the means, we may realize to our horror that
    we have ushered in great evils.
  • The American
    empire of military occupation and surveillance ultimately rests
    on American public opinion. I am ashamed to say that I once was,
    what we would now call, a "neo-con" (though the term
    was not in usage at the time). But as I delved deeper into the
    works of Austrian economists and Old Right conservatives, I realized
    my intellectual confusion. It made no sense to oppose the welfare
    state and government meddling in the domestic economy, while supporting
    the trillions the U.S. government spent on foreign adventures.
    Since I personally was convinced of the poverty of militarism,
    I know that others can be likewise converted.
  • Disrupting
    commercial operations, let alone engaging in physical property
    destruction, will not recruit more Americans to our point of view.
    Someone who gets his news about Assange from Sean Hannity will
    not be goaded into reading Glenn Greenwald when he can't buy his
    Christmas presents after Amazon's site crashes. On the contrary,
    he will despise the "America-hating commies" behind
    the attacks even more, and will applaud the government's crackdown
    on the Internet to "keep him safe" from further acts
    of cyber-terrorism.
  • The truth
    is on our side. That is why WikiLeaks poses such a threat to the
    ruling class; they scurry like cockroaches from the light. Those
    who desire peace need not resort to hostility and aggression.
    They simply need to bravely speak the truth.
  • In the long
    run, the truth will out. Good will eventually triumph over evil.

13, 2010

Murphy [send him mail],
adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute,
is the author of The
Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism
Human Action Study Guide
and The
Man, Economy, and State Study Guide
His latest book is The
Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New

Best of Bob Murphy

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