[tor-teachers] Politics

Shadow Dragu-Mihai shadowmihai at gmail.com
Wed Oct 21 19:41:54 UTC 2015

Hello, I recently joined the group and have already found it valuable in
designing how I will educate about Tor and related technologies to
individuals who should know about it. I am planning a number of seminars
in the LA area, as well as some video presentations, detailing the why's
and how's of these tools. I am not a coder, but an advocate of privacy
rights and human rights.

The earlier commentary on knowing the point-of-view of your audience is
valuable in spreading the use of tools such as Tor, Tails and strong
encryption. It is a matter of good salesmanship on the one hand and
effective education on the other.

Communications among human rights advocates, whistle blowing, working
for change in totalitarian regimes, money laundering, smuggling,
investigative journalism -- in fact any avoidance of surveillance for
any reason whatsoever: these are the instant uses of Tor and strong
encryption. But if this technology were only about that, it would simply
be the latest development in the cat-and-mouse game between the watchers
and the watched. The technology would be neither interesting nor
important to people at large.

A certain discussion of politics is, in my view, vital on this list, but
not in the manner of "partisan politics" or electoral politics, which
miss the point and are counter-productive. But we miss the boat if we do
not recognize that these are fundamentally political tools which go to
the very core of how human society is currently ordered. These are
systemic tools and permit individuals and groups acting together to
circumvent and supersede a political structure entirely. That is true

The import of Tor and strong encryption is that they are tools that
empower the individual and cannot be reasonably controlled by the state
(any state). Once we recognize that this is the heart of the matter, we
can understand that human experience can undergo a complete restructuring.

As Jacob said earlier (sorry if I mistype anything): "We are not working
against any system directly. Our efforts are not mere pushback. Sure we
hope to stop surveillance and censorship systems... Rather we've built
an alternative and we're teaching people how to utilize it in their

He goes on to assert that "we have a right to form and hold ideas
without interference, we have a right to free speech and a right to
read, we have anonymity of various kinds... as an intentional outcome of
strong cryptography... it is about iterating and changing the current

This, again, gets to the heart of the matter. The rights Jacob lists are
in fact "natural rights" of human beings - things which we can all do
naturally. They happen to be rights that EVERY state of EVERY stripe
seeks to limit or regulate by positive law, in service (ultimately) only
to itself. These new tools permit human beings to throw off such
repression partly or entirely.

State mass surveillance - again, an act of service ONLY to itself - has
been called "the defining issue of the digital age." There is absolutely
no legitimate reason for any state to surveil, collect and store en mass
the private, personally identifiable information of its citizens. None.
The "legality" (or lack thereof) of state surveillance is irrelevant.
What is relevant is that it is immoral and unethical. The only possible
intention for such data is to construct a case against you, or against a
class of people which includes you, at some later date, for political
purposes which probably have not been sketched out yet (or maybe already
have). There is no other possible use, and there has never been a
rationalization for such activity which does not boil down to that, once
you get past state doubletalk and clear propaganda.

Someone else used the phrase (or similar) "rights granted to people by
government." Governments have only a metaphysical existence. They are
not real, physical things. Along with their demon-child the corporation,
they are what we lawyers call "legal fictions." Is it not offensive that
something which is in fact a mere legal structure has power to "grant
rights" to real human beings, or to take them away? Or to kill human
beings with impunity?

Despite millennia of political theory, there exists no state in the
world where in truth (as opposed to theory), rights are not "granted" to
people instead of the people actually lending power to the state.
Constitutional theory in the so-called western democracies is used to
legitimize a political structure by asserting that state power is
derived from people. This bare rationalization in fact permits the state
to exercise power to the point of actual ownership over its "citizens."
And while I *might* agree that a republic or a parliamentary system or
other "representative democracy" is better than no democracy at all, I
observe that more pertinently they are good attempts to enfranchise
certain dominant groups in a society over others. I absolutely disagree
they are democracies. Representative democracy is by definition a limit
on democracy, pure and simple. It has historically been and remains a
top-down power structure.

Tor, strong encryption and similar tools permit the reversal of that
top-down structure. Human beings no longer need to subject themselves,
willingly or not, to political structures for privileges and rights over
which they have no direct control. That is why it is important to
promote Tor, Tails, cryptography, cryptocurrency and other tools to
every individual on the planet. The more people who use these tools, the
more people there are who will assert their personal autonomy, and the
less ability any state will have to assert its dominance. And that is a
good thing for human beings. We can create actual revolutionary,
structural change, without the necessity for violence.

This is of vital interest to me and a small group of people I work with.
In January 2015, we founded what we think is the first "legal" and
sovereign "distributed polity" as a direct democracy (it is an
independent microstate at this time with a presence within the United
States Insular Zone, among others). We are intent on developing an
actual, direct, democratic and transparent political structure, extant
across state borders and political systems, with an economy controlled
by individuals and not easily interfered with by states or corporations.
It is obviously a long term project, but consider the ramifications that
tools like Tor, encryption, etherium, cryptocurrency and others can
have. Without those tools, such an enterprise is impossible. On the
other hand, embryonic as it is, with those tools it is here now and we
are by far not the only people playing with the concepts. With these
tools, what we are working toward may be inevitable.

One final note: in regards to the discussion about teaching police...
why not? The revolutionary aspect of cryptography, etc. is that the
individual benefits. When I speak to police I think it is important to
address their concerns, as much as possible as individuals. Most police
agencies are paranoid about privacy in their communications (even if
they are not always good at it), and often even try to avoid legal
public surveillance. Depending on the context and forum you speak in, it
might be of use to note how often police have been targets of purges,
arrests, suspicion etc. in various states. They are always a potential
rival target in political struggles, where their personal viewpoints can
become a matter of life and death. In some places, political struggles
might be only budgetary, in others, they might be over more important
issues. Whether these kinds of topics are possible will of course depend
on the context in which you are speaking. As far as legal versus moral I
have had made points by discussing that fact that police often have to
enforce policies and laws which they themselves do not agree with.
Sometimes their personal feelings, when known, are cause for concern
within the agency. Tor is a useful tool for such people to communicate
while keeping off the radar of their superiors.

The more people who use these tools, regardless of their vocation, the
more a culture of individual rights will emerge across communities
because their use will become accepted and expected.

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