Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Dan and Paul take an in-depth look at the worlds portrayed Young Adult dystopian fiction.
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Paul
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Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby Paul » 03 Aug 2015, 09:42

This time Dan and Paul and guest Dustin cover our world, as depicted in Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, with all the government surveillance and anti-terrorism hysteria we've got. The difference: there's been an attack on San Francisco, and teenage crypto-geeks are on the front lines against an authoritarian crackdown.

Excerpt read by Cory Doctorow / CC BY-NC-SA
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DaMage
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby DaMage » 03 Aug 2015, 19:52

It's funny, but 30 years ago people would have had huge protests if a government made a policy that they would record all phone calls, but now it seems every country records internet use by it's citizens.

Here in Australia policy was pushed through that all 'metadata' was to be stored by providers for two years. There was a big media uproar until the media companies were added to the short list of groups that aren't recorded...then it just went through without further fuss. All done in the name of counter-terrorism and supported by both side of politics.

What a scary world we live in. It really seems that most people don't understand even the basics of this technology, and that the ones making policy in the Government don't understand either. This YA novel really did get this topic so well, and quite frankly more people should read book about this topic.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby Clypheous » 04 Aug 2015, 08:04

OK, there seems to have been some confusion on the podcast about a few things related to the U.S. system that I want to try to clarify here, both for those outside the United States who don't have a good reason to know, as well as the people inside the United States who should know, but probably do not.

First, some alphabet soup:

DHS - Department of Homeland Security. It's a cabinet level department, which basically means it's pretty important. It's tasked with defending the U.S. from terrorist attacks, accidents and disasters as well as responding to those issues.

FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's basically the federal police in charge of investigating and enforcing federal law. They also do domestic intelligence as the CIA and NSA technically aren't supposed to be doing that.

CIA - Central Intelligence Agency. Spies. They are authorized to conduct operations internationally both covert and overt. They have no domestic authority to enforce any law or arrest anyone.

NSA - National Security Agency. In contrast to the CIA that uses spies, the NSA uses data. Basically they collect everything they can on foreign communication and try to figure out what to do with it to help U.S. counter-terrorism and such. They can do sabotage and bugging electronic systems, but only internationally.

Relevant to the plot of the book, in the event of a terrorist attack both DHS and the FBI would likely respond to such an event. Theoretically, the FBI would have jurisdiction unless a foreign power was involved. DHS does not primarily have authority on any of this, except that since nothing has ever happened like the events in the book, there's really no good way to tell how that would go down in actuality.

Also, regarding other events of the book, state policing agencies can come and arrest federal employees who are breaking state laws without authorization to do so by specific federal statute. Federal laws trump state laws, so if there was a federal law that said "DHS can waterboard and torture" the State cannot come in and stop that. If there is a federal law that says "torture is illegal" (side note, torture is, in fact, illegal in the United States), anyone found doing that could be arrested by any agency having detention authority under any federal or state grant of power.

TLDR; Clypheous is super picky about these issues and goes on and on about them, blah, blah, blah.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby AdmiralMemo » 04 Aug 2015, 09:00

First, I find it kind of weird to have a 32-year-old person saying "Don't trust anyone over 25!" since if you abided by that message, you wouldn't trust them, which means that maybe you should trust people over 25, which then... yeah, the "All Cretans are liars" paradox there. :-D

Second, for the 3 Canadians, US states do, for the most part, act more like separate countries than states. An analogy is more like the EU, and the countries beneath it. However, the federal government has been taking more and more power in the past few years, leading to the current "States' Rights" and "Second Civil War brewing" grumblings.

Finally, I'd like to ask people if they see any difference between the government gathering personal data and companies doing it. Personally, while I'm not too keen on either, at least you know what the companies' motivations are: selling you crap so they can make money. What are the government's motivations on collecting data? Who knows? It could easily change swiftly. I trust Google more than the US government.
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Eric the Orange
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby Eric the Orange » 05 Aug 2015, 23:57

Never read the book, but from the way you explain it it sounds like a case of what I call "South Parking". In that the story has a side of an argument it's trying to get across and to do so it paints the other side as evil, morally corrupt people. Cartoon characters as you called them.

The problem with this is using a fallacy known as the straw man fallacy. In that you create a world in which your idea is correct. But that does not mean your idea is correct in the real world.

That's not to say the message is automatically wrong, only that creating a world in which your Ideas are the right ones doesn't really prove anything. All you have proven is that in your fictional world it is correct.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby mutant_pie » 08 Aug 2015, 12:27

One theme that was apparently in the book, echoed by the hosts of the podcast, and is somewhat mirrored in these and other discussions of related topics of government surveillance are some assumptions about ideas of privacy that aren't reflected in the law of the USA.

In the USA you have no legal expectation of privacy for things that you do in public. You have a right against unreasonable search and seizure. So you can walk down the street, but don't expect that information of when, where, and how, or any other details to be private. Also you do not have the right to conceal your identity in public and it is against the law. (Yes that means that many Halloween costumes are technically illegal, however this is not widely enforced). For example in the podcast the idea of wearing a hoodie casting suspicion on a person was raised. You can extrapolate other scenarios when the above two legal concepts would apply.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby Clypheous » 11 Aug 2015, 04:53

mutant_pie wrote:Also you do not have the right to conceal your identity in public and it is against the law.


You absolutely have the right to conceal your identity in public, you just aren't allowed to lie about your identity to law enforcement acting in their official capacity, but you can always refuse to talk to law enforcement and refuse to provide your identity and there's no crime involved there.

What you don't have the right to do is conceal your identity while committing a crime. It's the same thing about gun ownership to a certain degree, you can own a gun in the United States legally, but if you commit a crime, even if the gun isn't involved, if you have a gun with you, it's now a more serious crime. Similarly if you commit a crime, but wear a disguise or lie about your identity, it makes the crime more serious.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby mutant_pie » 14 Aug 2015, 15:37

Clypheous wrote:
mutant_pie wrote:Also you do not have the right to conceal your identity in public and it is against the law.


You absolutely have the right to conceal your identity in public...


Apparently we were both partially correct and incorrect. The correct answer in the USA is; It depends on which state you are in. But the book takes place in California where it IS illegal.

Their are a few states where it is illegal. New York, California, Washington DC., Florida, NC, West Virginia. If you live in any of the other 44 states it's 100% LEGAL.
Last edited by mutant_pie on 25 Aug 2015, 20:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Daniel
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby Daniel » 18 Aug 2015, 15:25

Thanks you guys for all the perspective on American law and culture! We were aware that we were well over our heads - given that instead of learning about history or politics, I, for example, spent my teenage years watching Gamera vs Guiron, Mystery Science Theatre 3000. So we're glad you're filling in the gaps.
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Re: Fight the Future 10 - Little Brother

Postby SixFootTurkey » 02 Sep 2015, 05:55

"The correct answer in the USA is; It depends on which state you are in."

This is frequently the case. While the theory is good in general, there are certain things you want pushed through to the federal level so you don't have to wait for states. (Anti-discrimination laws for example.)

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