Techno-libertarians: a weak link in democracy’s defense against authoritarians

At the same time Apple bowed to China, Russia banned encryption apps and anonymising tools for its people.

But not before Edward Snowden banged the drum for years about the issue of government intrusions into our privacy in cyberspace. High and mighty, indeed.

Here is where it gets really diabolical and 21st Century.

In Russia’s hands Snowden’s cause has, in the West, helped drive a wedge between the tech community and the broader government, between the governments and the publics, and between the US and allies such as Australia.

Unwittingly, the tech community has become a conduit for such division.

As a former East German Stasi colonel explained in how to use information to attack an enemy: “A powerful adversary can only be defeated through […] a sophisticated, methodical, careful, and shrewd effort to exploit even the smallest ‘cracks’ between our enemies […] and within their elites.”

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The Pay Off in the time of information chaos

In the new rules of this era, the White House and its partisan allies can serve up the spectacle and scandals faster than the rules-based society can respond to them.


Citizens of Western democracies need to have a central goal beyond reacting to the daily outrage of certain politicians. Ideally, the civil society needs a positive political goal for the future.

I suggest that the goal for all citizens of Western democracies should be the return to productive, centrist politics for their sovereign nations in the 21st Century.

The goal would be the Pay Off.

The point of having a goal in a time of information chaos is that it creates a way to speak over the partisan divide. Eventually, The Pay Off can create a momentum of its own to rival the constant spectacle. Thanks to the internet, the public now is easily split. It needs an agenda that unites and renders politics productive.

  • The Pay Off provides a broad, non-partisan goal to the public, that is relevant to any participant in the democracy. It counters the runaway emotionalism of online propaganda today by offering a needed focus of hope and unity – for citizens of all walks of life.  The goal of the Pay Off can locate other issues and be applied across a lot of different domestic political debates.
  • Working towards The Pay Off means accepting fewer false choices in political arguments (“only racists voted for Trump”, “only Hillary fans care about Russian meddling” – both untrue). The focus is from this moment forward – rather than this moment and the meaning/blame-game of the recent past. (It is here where so much damage is done from misinformation).
  • The goal of The Pay Off transcends any single issue. It also counters other notions of nostalgia for days gone by. For example, the idea that the US used “to win” in the past is not because of the ethnic make-up of the nation, rather because there was a culture of functional, centrist politics.  In these days, the most pressing priority is chasing out voices in the information sphere that actively court controversy, conspiracy theory, arguments that hinge on false conclusions. The Pay Off offers a rhetoric that can do this by isolating the merchants of outrage and division.
  • Further, it gives a rhetorical rallying point that seeks to galvanize the broad middle. It will move discussion away from predictable/easy to incite left-right gulf and take US/ Western democratic citizens to a place relevant for the 21st economic, social and technological realities – which are in flux.
  • The Pay Off – achieving a productive, fair political outcome – is an open-ended effort that gets away from a person’s relative view on the day’s latest outrage or spectacle. Entire open-ended political discussions can occur independently of the self-selected protagonists of outrage who are daily amplified.
  • Importantly the goal of the Pay Off should be incompatible with those using information to sow confusion in the Western information sphere – because the stated point of the Pay Off is unity, political productivity, economic security and fairness.