One of the more interesting parts of the rejuvenated Anarchist movement has been the adoption of Guy Fawkes as a hero. Who would have thought that a 17th century counterrevolutionary would inspire tens of thousands of masks around the world? Of course, the movie “V for Vendetta” helped. And no doubt its message of revolt against oppression and Natalie Portman did not hurt either.
Well, Guy Fawkes has made some strong statements lately taking on a 19th century symbol – Uncle Sam. The Internet movements like Anonymous and a number of other Lulzs have been doing their level Guy Fawkes’ best to flex their muscles against the man. And so Uncle Sam, in the guise of the U.S. Government, is finding out the wild frontier of cyber space is not about to be intimidated by Washington laws or declarations. We focus on nation states. In the new frontier, all the Guy Fawkes are the same.
Watching the 20th century institutions of American government coming to grips with the 21st century realities of cyber space has been more than a little painful. We play by an old set of rules that are hard adapting to the new world. Clearly, laws must be reviewed and passed. Presidential orders must be issued. And bureaucratic arguments must be engaged. In the meantime, we are getting skunked.
The best example is our military, which has created a Cyber Command. This multi-agency bureaucracy is designed to protect the U.S. government’s Internet assets. It wants to attack those who attack it. But, the net is a complex place, and it cannot tell where to shoot back. A senior military officer who spoke on “putting one down the smokestack” of a cyber opponent expressed its dilemma best. I, for one, did not realize that a smoke stack was an option for my Mac Book. Clearly, I need to go to the Apple website.
As for private industry and the rest of us outside government – you know, the other 80 percent of the American economy – we seem to be left to our own devices. And the Lulzs of the world are having a field day. Not a news cycle goes by without some word of a denial of service attack or extraction of large amounts of information from Bank of America to Sega to your favorite retailer.
Oddly enough, the American business community also seems stuck. They want government protection but do not want rules imposed on them. Some fear they will be required to spend more money on cybersecurity than they want and will be held to stockholder blame and lawsuits. In short, they want someone else to pick up the tab and responsibility.
We of the Uncle Sam Club need to get real and fast. The Guy Fawkes’ of the world are spreading and gaining strength because we have chosen an old thought path. The sooner we move beyond the old rules of internecine government warfare, nation state thinking, and government-business hostility and separation, the better off we will be. What this country needs is a Department of Homeland Security that has some real juice to get all the various interests of Uncle Sam together to protect the American people. Too bad, we have yet to see fit to do just that.
In the meantime, get used to Guy Fawkes and his antics. His face is everywhere and multiplying rapidly.