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New US International Cybersecurity Strategy: Using the Language of Open Internet Advocates to Expand Power

12:15 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

WikiLeaks Omitted from the US International Cybersecurity Strategy

The United States officially launched its international cybersecurity strategy in a White House event on Monday, May 16. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined by the following administration officials: John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser; Howard Schmidt, White House cybersecurity coordinator; Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretaries Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security and Gary Locke of Commerce; and Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn.

The presentation of the cyber security presented several principles, outlined the approach the US intends to take in the further development of cyber security protections, and indicated how the US might use the Internet to preserve its status as a superpower in the world.

Featured during the presentation were seven principles, which appear in the framework: economic engagement, protecting networks, law enforcement, military cooperation, multi-stakeholder Internet governance, international development and Internet freedom. Within the presentation, Clinton sought to explain that cyber crime, Internet freedom and network security could no longer be “disparate stovepipe discussions.”

At no time during the launch of the strategy was WikiLeaks mentioned. Not even Clinton bothered to mention it, despite the fact that she heads a State Department that had their department’s classified information leaked and published by media organizations and continue to have new information published each day.

Yochai Benkler, faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has detailed the following:
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The New Republic’s Sean Wilentz Greatly Misunderstands Movement Politics

8:39 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


People from various social movements gather for “One Nation Working Together,” a rally held on Oct. 2nd that demonstrated movements in America are convinced they must depend heavily on the Democratic Party for success. | Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Sean Wilentz, writer for The New Republic, thinks he understands why the Obama Administration has floundered: movement politics has undone and unraveled his presidency. To a point, Wilentz would be right, but the conclusion that Wilentz comes to is to utterly disregard movements and engage in “‘status quo’ politics” to save his presidency and ensure re-election in 2012.

A look at recent columns on “movements” and “activism” in the country would likely reveal that there is nothing all that exceptional about Wilentz’s view. It’s conventional wisdom in professional journalism. All the more reason to dissect his viewpoint.

His article titled, “Live By the Movement, Die by the Movement,” characterizes social movement politics as “Obama’s doomed theory.” The outline of history on how a veteran union organizer and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Marshall Ganz, was “hired as an Obama campaign official and charged with training volunteers” may be interesting to some who are unaware with how Obama developed his campaign.

Peter Dreier, a member of Progressives for Obama and a politics professor at Occidental College, also receives some attention as a publicist who posted articles to The Huffington Post, The American Prospect, and Dissent. Dreier apparently channeled “memories of the civil rights and farmworker union movement, imbued with high moral as well as political purposes,” to help develop a campaign that could “transform the very sum and substance of the political system.”

Readers are reminded that President Obama, as president, would be “organizer-in-chief” tapping into movements that elected him to “reform health care, end global warming, and restore economic prosperity.” The movements would provide President Obama with the opening to bring change the people believed in. But, unfortunately, as progressives or liberals know, things didn’t go as planned.

After the midterm election, Ganz, according to Wilentz, charged that President Obama “lost his organizer’s fire and neglected to deliver the wonderful speeches that would frame the political course for the movement.” He “lamely sought reform”inside the system structured to resist change” and ignored, in fact, scorned “liberal and leftist advocacy groups.” Networks on MyBarackObama.com were demobilized and he became “transactional” instead of “transformational.” (President Obama acknowledged this reality in his post-midterm election press conference saying he had hoped to change processes but in the end his Administration had been in such a hurry to get things done that they didn’t change how it was done.)

Wilentz argues that Ganz does not understand is that bringing movement politics into the presidency “may have been a dead end” and that it may have “helped foster an inevitable disillusionment.” Here is where Wilentz starts to misunderstand and craft a false understanding of movements and politics in America.

If Ganz is right that President Obama and his administration ignored and scorned advocacy groups–which they did—Wilentz is proceeding a premise that doesn’t exist. In order to criticize movement politics in the White House as a failure, movement politics would have had to be employed by its members. Say one entertains the idea that movement politics were tried, what about Wilentz’s concepts on movement politics?

Wilentz’s suggests “fundamental to the social movement model is a conception of American political history in which movements, and not presidents, are the true instigators for change. Presidents are merely reactive. They are not the main protagonists.” He says Obama “endorsed” this idea when he proclaimed, “Real change comes from the bottom up.” He adds an example: people who believe this model claim President Abraham Lincoln would “never have been the Great Emancipator had the abolitionists not pushed him to do so.”

Interwoven in this article is the deep-seated contempt Wilentz had and still has for the late Howard Zinn. He was asked by the Los Angeles Times to provide his opinion on Zinn’s work as a historian. Wilentz told the newspaper, “To a point, he helped correct mainstream popular conceptions of American history that were highly biased. But he ceased writing serious history. He had a very simplified view that everyone who was president was always a stinker and every left-winger was always great.”

Wilentz also told the newspaper, Zinn “saw history primarily as a means to motivate people to political action that he found admirable. That’s what he said he did. It’s fine as a form of agitation — agitprop — but it’s not particularly good history.”

If one knows that Wilentz utterly rejects the notion history has been determined by people at the bottom, it becomes obvious that his essay will likely be one designed to disparage the idea that political leaders allow movement politics to influence their governance.

He argues that “Abraham Lincoln did not have to be awoken to the evils of slavery; he hated slavery all his life” so “the idea of change coming from below, of course, is simplistic.” If one ignores the recent history books published (which are featured in this article from US News & World Report), Wilentz is correct. But, President Lincoln did not believe that the Constitution granted states and territories the freedom to abolish slavery. He thought he had to avoid the issue of slavery as president to preserve the Union. Black abolitionist and “radical” Republicans helped shift the political climate and create the opening that led President Lincoln to propose the idea of emancipation.

After providing his version of history on President Lincoln and the abolition of slavery, Wilentz shoots down Ganz and Dreier’s idea that what had been liberal or Democratic politics had been suffering a “values” problem. There’s reason to criticize Ganz and Dreier, who were likely responding to conventional wisdom promoted by the corporate media in 2004 that “moral values” influenced people’s votes. But, Ganz and Dreier were smart to try and ignite a movement based on “feelings and values.” If the Bush Administration had done anything to citizens, it had made them feel powerless and wary of government. The people desired a leader to campaign and contend they could put this country back on the right course and ensure government returned to upholding the values and principles it should uphold.

Wilentz correctly brings out a paradox: that the movement leader, President Obama, would now push politicians to create change when he was in the White House. Such a paradox compels one to ask, did his position in the White House effectively mean whatever “movement” built up prior to his election was destined to splinter and dissipate completely? Possibly.

What’s missing from this analysis of movement politics is a mentioning of the influence of corporate and special interest money, especially money from Wall Street, which Obama used to fund his campaign. And, what’s missing is an understanding that the people in his “movement” ceased to be “grassroots” when they began to take marching orders and go to “Camp Obamas” run by campaign leaders. This meant the “movement” was now under the control of the Obama campaign and their votes were not up for grabs and they could be counted on to be foot soldiers for the campaign.

Typically in history, movements have run leaders to wage electoral struggles for social justice. The Anti-Slavery Party (which later became the Republican Party) and the Liberty Party were both parties that ran against slavery in the mid-1800s. They made it possible for the issue of slavery to become a mainstream issue and understood they had to have an electoral component as well as a social movement component to their struggle to end slavery.

A better analysis from Wilentz would suggest that because the “movement” didn’t run a leader for president the dynamics of movement politics were different. While Obama appeared to understand bottom-up or grassroots politics, the campaign still expected to exact a level of control over the people who wanted to see him win. The campaign did regulate what issues were important to the campaign and what were not. And, when factions of the campaign took issue with Obama (like when he voted for the FISA Amendments Act and supported the expanded use of wiretapping), those factions were mollified quickly.

In concluding his essay, Wilentz illuminates how Obama’s post-partisan attempts to work with the Republican Party failed and then proceeds to suggest that Obama must engage in “day-to-day political trench warfare” like President Clinton did after 1994 in order to survive politically. Such a conclusion raises the question: Can a historian understand movement history if he or she is not a participant in any movements?

Wilentz’s solution sounds very similar to other commentators’ suggestions that Obama must uphold centrist politics because liberalism or “left-wing politics” lost severely in the midterm election. His prescription for Obama is a liberal intelligentsia answer to solving the current woes the president faces. It does not consider how “day-to-day political trench warfare” would impact citizens and it does not ask why citizens should favor that tactic.

Ultimately, his essay is lazy. He doesn’t address any of the interest groups that have tried to influence Obama since his election. He offers no insight on how groups advocating for healthcare for all or a public option were asked to remain in a proverbial veal pen so the Administration could continue to get away with backroom deals with private insurance and drug companies designed to prevent the companies from killing the health reform legislation. He does not discuss all the organizing unions have engaged in for President Obama and how the Administration has opted to protect Wall Street instead of showing interest in improving the wellbeing of workers in America and what that might mean for movement politics. And, he does not discuss the environmentalist movement or the peace movement and how they have been valiantly trying to organize in a climate where independent activism is becoming more marginalized.

Oddly, the Tea Party doesn’t enter into this analysis at all. He doesn’t address their impact on the public’s conception of movement politics. Are Americans to assume they aren’t really a movement? Or should Americans be informed of how corporations are using fearful Americans to co-opt and revise the history of social movements in this country to fit their capitalist agenda?

The people’s interests aren’t and will never be the same as the interests of political leaders in America. The people are not politicians. They are citizens. They don’t have corporate financiers. They don’t need to worry about getting re-elected or staying on message. They don’t need to craft an identity. Their interests involve fixing communities and upholding values that do not provide cover for the destruction of humanity. Their interests should be survival and, therefore, when the top 1% seek to concentrate all wealth at the top and keep it out of the hands of the lower classes, that should be regarded as an affront to survival.

If, in fact, Obama sought to utilize any “movement” over the past two years, the failure isn’t because he was inept or didn’t know what to do. The reality is history indicates movements have been managed and herded into supporting Democratic presidential candidates for decades. Movement leaders have willingly allowed the Democratic Party to herd their movement and then splinter it in two by proposing reforms that will divide movements (e.g. proposing a public option which splintered those who favored “Medicare for All” lessening the impact of health care activists).