Julian Assange, Wikileaks and the Tactics of Mistake

guy fawkesby Matt Cunnelly

Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” | 
[Via zunguzungu]

“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”

Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”


If anyone wants to get a better understanding of what is happening because of Wikileaks, Manning, Snowden etc., read this nice three year old post. I could not help but be reminded of one of my favorite science fiction books, Gordon R. Dickson’s The Tactics of Mistake.

Here, a famous military instructor decides to test out his hypothesis about war. He uses an approach he calls the ‘tactics of mistake’ . He makes a series of movements and thrusts all acting to subtly move his opponent into a weak position without realizing it. He can then strike right to the heart of the other side’s forces.

Over the course of this book, the protagonist provokes responses from the authoritarian regimes. The very actions the regimes take also cause greater and greater failures, eventually resulting in their utter defeat.

Assange seems to have a similar hypothesis – that the very actions taken by totalitarian regimes to constrict information flow for state secrets necessarily creates a conspiracy to maintain that secrecy. But in a digital, connected world, that conspiracy requires that the conspirators also restrict information flow amongst themselves. 

A hallmark of such a conspiracy is that  internal information actually HAS to flow very inefficiently. It must be compartmentalized in order to protect the conspiracy’s secrets. He thinks this bug can be turned into a feature, working to inhibit the conspiracy’s ability to ‘think’.

Leaks cause the conspiracy to respond by harsher controls on information flow, especially internally.

More control means fewer links between the conspirators. It means more barriers for them to move timely information around. It becomes more likely that the right information does not get to the right person when needed. They make stupid errors because they cannot get the best information to their own co-conspirators.

So they might state a falsehood to Congress without really lying because they really did not know what was going on. Their very conspiracy results in mistakes.

More leaks means more attempts to control the leaks by the conspirators which makes the conspiracy ‘dumber’ because it has less effective information to use itself because so much more of it is secret.

At some point, more secrecy hurtts the ability of the conspiracy to function. The more it tries to control information flow, the stupider it becomes, making more and more mistakes that upset the members of liberal democracies.

And as more leaks appear the authoritarians try to enact stronger controls on information flow. This only makes them dumber and more likely to make mistakes. A nasty feedback loop.

A feedback loop where the very actions the conspirators take also cause greater and greater failures, eventually resulting in their utter defeat.

That is Assange’s hypothesis. I am not convinced it is correct – I can think of several different scenarios to this. It may well be too complex to have such a simple answer..

But it does provide an interesting insight into what he thinks he is doing. If he is correct, he will be remembered for utilizing a remarkable defense against the authoritarian, security state.

If he is wrong, things could get bad.

An interesting view to watch current events from. I guess we will find sometime soon whether this is a viable hypothesis or not.