A PRISM of Uncertainty: My Story And I’m Sticking To It.

From Modern Mythology

As anyone that hasn’t been under a rock for the past week knows, this “PRISM thing” has blown up all over the internet. Which is a good thing — privacy is something that people should be concerned about, and discuss.

Take a look at some of the other information that came to light in the past few days:

The fictional journalistic “this may or may not be true”:

The following article should be treated as strictly hypothetical. It has been editorialized to simplify the content in certain areas, while maintaining as much technical detail as we can offer. Companies named in this article have been publicly disclosed, or used in example only. This piece should not be taken necessarily as fact but as a working theory that portrays only one possible implementation of the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM program as it may exist today. Several ZDNet writers contributed to this report. –Zdnet article.

The deniers: 

Slides obtained by the two newspapers say that the program was established in 2007 and that seven of the largest Internet communication companies “participate knowingly” in providing NSA direct access to their central servers.
If true, this would mean that NSA had full access to many messages sent using applications run by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, and Apple. (The documents also separately list YouTube and Skype, subsidiaries of Google and Microsoft, respectively.) The unprecedented access would give the government audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs for potentially billions of users.
But could the revelations be a carefully constructed hoax? There are several indicators that the PRISM reports may not be entirely accurate… 
Business Insiders.

More deniers: 

Two different versions of the PRISM scandal were emerging on Thursday with Silicon Valley executives denying all knowledge of the top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the internet giants’ servers.
The eavesdropping program is detailed in the form of PowerPoint slides in a leaked NSA document, seen and authenticated by the Guardian, which states that it is based on “legally-compelled collection” but operates with the “assistance of communications providers in the US.”
Each of the 41 slides in the document displays prominently the corporate logos of the tech companies claimed to be taking part in PRISM.
However, senior executives from the internet companies expressed surprise and shock and insisted that no direct access to servers had been offered to any government agencyGuardian Article.

The middle ground:

PRISM’S SCOPE MAY BE SMALLER THAN FEARED
Over the last day, tech executives including Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg outlined that they did not give bulk or blanket access to user data. However, they may not have been able to discuss the exact volume of the legal demands for data they’ve received. That left the exact scope of how many people had data pulled by NSA open for wide interpretation, and many including myself, in some cases assumed the worst — that while not at the volume of the massive request for data on all Verizon users that’s been reported, huge numbers of people may have been spied on.
However, in the last year, there were only 1,865 FISA requests for data. Some believe those requests could include data pulls as broad as anyone who searched a specific term. Legal experts I’ve consulted, though, believe the requests must be more narrow than that for the tech companies to have not pushed back. That means the the number of people monitored by PRISM may have been in the thousands or tens of thousands, rather than in the tens or even hundreds of millions.Techcrunch Article.

And, of course, the conspiracy theorists:

PRISM the new Nazi party. Just confirmed!!! BE CAREFUL! They know what you’re doing!Godlike Productions thread.

Of course, hundreds of other examples could be found. The point isn’t the particular articles but rather the incredible spread of contradictory information, misinformation, and disinformation. Pretty hard to make an entirely coherent story out of all these divergent pieces, right?

Yet, far before anyone could possibly have an absolutely iron-tight, certain conviction of what the hell is going on here, most people have already made up their minds. They’ve made up their minds with such certainty that anyone that sees it otherwise must be insane! There is a reason for this, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Narrative is everywhere. Or rather, we see it everywhere. Of course, we hope to have those expectations confounded. It is in the melody to a catchy blues riff — playing an assortment of notes enough times for you to expect it a fourth time, and then going down rather than up. Confound them, yes, but only within a certain framework. When artists such as Schoenberg or Cage tried to show our mythic impulse back to us, or even do away with that impulse altogether, many listeners rebelled. The same is what we look for in our fiction — different, but not too different — and it is also what we look for when we try to attempt to interpret the real world.

You see, when we test reality, we simultaneously build stories around that testing. We collect little pieces of information and piece them together. In a sense the metaphor of a puzzle and puzzle pieces would be altogether too apt, if somehow a puzzle could be freeform and shift around on the fly.

This is not idle speculation. As we discussed in the introductory article for Modern Mythology, this mythic impulse — or narrative impulse, if you prefer — is built into our brains. It is a big part of how we come to understand the world. This is also the reason why the best way to teach children is often through stories. Our minds are designed to work with them, and to fill in the missing pieces.

As we’ve discussed before, this is how optical “illusions” work. More accurately, the visual world we build in our heads is itself entirely illusory — flipped around, taken apart and pieced back together. Yet again we see this same tendency, now in the visual rather than auditory modality. This is not idle philosophical speculation. It is as close to fact as we can come, and therein lies the problem.

There is simply too much contradictory information out there, and too much chaos that needs to be filtered out as unimportant to our aim. For these systems to work on the fly, we have to graft in a schema ahead of time.

In other words, to go back to the puzzle metaphor, we need to imagine what the completed puzzle is going to look like so that we can understand how the pieces might fit together.  If your reality tunnel is based around distrust of authority, then you have one puzzle to cram the pieces into. If your reality tunnel is based around the opposite, or something in between — you get the point.

This is well and good for many purposes, but it is wreaking a lot of ideological havoc in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Everyone else seems insane because they aren’t trying to build the same puzzle that you are.

This isn’t to say that everything is an opinion, or that if I think a baseball is a cloud that you can’t wing it into my skull. The issue being discussed is how we make sense of the puzzle pieces (mythic fragments) that we’re given. It is not a question of the “ultimate reality” of the myth, nor what it represents.

As Robert Anton Wilson once famously said, “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves.” Still later, he used the metaphor of reality tunnels:

“When we begin to realize that we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels we find it is much easier to understand where other people are coming from or the ones who don’t have the same reality tunnel as us do not seem ignorant or deliberately perverse or lying or hypnotized by some mad ideology. They just have a different reality tunnel and every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world if we’re willing to listen.”

Whatever your natural bias, his advice in this case remains as poignant today.

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  • Guest

    given Uncle Homeland’s well documented dabbling in duplicity
    and general propensity to out right lying for the good of the sheeple
    add to that
    the fact that every corporation involved pays little in taxes and
    publicly evades taxes in ways that would get you put in jail
    top that with the fact
    they are bound by law to obey Uncle Homey, do his biding and
    keep his nefarious snooping activities secret
    given all that
    do they really deserve the benefit of the doubt?

    • BuzzCoastin

      when I went to edit this
      I accidentally pushed the delete button
      and there’s no getting it back

      given Uncle Homeland’s well documented dabbling in duplicity
      and general propensity to out right lying for the good of the sheeple
      add to that
      the fact that every corporation involved pays little in taxes and
      publicly evades taxes in ways that would get you put in jail
      top that with the fact
      they are bound by law to obey Uncle Homey, do his biding and
      keep his nefarious snooping activities secret
      given all that
      do they really deserve the benefit of the doubt?

      • Jamie Lee

        The benefit of our doubt? Yes. The benefit of our certainty? Hell no.

        • BuzzCoastin

          you’d have to be totally asleep
          to give those chumps the benefit of the doubt
          but to do it here
          you’d have to be a troll

          • Jamie Lee

            I kind of feel like you missed the point of this article.

            That’s OK. It’s bound to happen.

          • BuzzCoastin

            well, I got the point
            but I don’t agree

            after all their proven duplicity about things like
            Gulf of Tonkin, JFK, Iraq WMDs, CIA drug smuggling
            the Bankster Bailout, drone strikes on aMerkins,
            the imprisonment & firing of whistle-blowers
            or all their unproven duplicities
            hence, there is no basis whatsofuckingever
            to giving them the benefit of the doubt

            something that they never extend to citizens
            even though it is a constitutional right

          • Jamie Lee

            You’re proving the point exactly, anyway.

            We build models based on past experience. That can often work for us, but it can also mislead us about what is going on at the present moment.

            Of course government isn’t historically trustworthy. That’s exactly why this particular case was used as an example for the point, because invariably people’s emotions will get engaged and block off any hope of rational detachment.

          • BuzzCoastin

            this is not the time for rational detachment
            the history of Nazi Germany has proved that
            but even if it was, at this point
            you would have to be irrational to trust anything they say
            in every one of these types of situations
            Uncle Homeland always comes out a liar
            (liar liar house on fire)

            and that’s not irrational, emotional or even hyperbolic

          • Jamie Lee

            Here we go with the Nazi comparisons.

            It’s like there’s an invisible playbook or something :)

          • BuzzCoastin

            if I was Uncle Homey
            I’d try to obfuscate the Nazi connection as much as possible
            I do everything I could to discredit that analogy
            because it’s spot on
            I’d do the same for the 1984 stuff
            you know, use it commercials and
            debase that analogy as much as possible
            butt
            if it looks like a skunk
            and it acts like a skunk
            and it smells like a skunk
            it’s a skunk
            even if you pretend it’s not

          • Jamie Lee

            I said it deserves the benefit of our doubt. Everything worth thinking about deserves the benefit of our doubt. That doesn’t mean that we believe it. ;)

          • BuzzCoastin

            in all cases
            Uncle Homeland is guilty till proven innocent
            it’s the aMerkin way

          • Jamie Lee
          • BuzzCoastin

            paaa lease,
            I don’t think for a minute the sheeple are going to awake
            nor do I think any of the drivel I spew
            will have any effect whatsofuckingever
            except maybe get me on Uncle Homey’s shit list
            (depending on how the NSA reads this)

            this is my morning coffee break, break some balls time
            in month when I’m relocated
            I won’t have time for this shit

          • Jamie Lee

            Mm. Exactly my point!

            I don’t think you think the “sheeple are going to awake.” It’s hyperbole, for the laugh. I;)

          • BuzzCoastin

            yeah, right
            sleeping sheeple is hyperbole
            and Uncle Homeland deserves the benefit of the doubt
            Santa lives at the North Pole
            the Easter Bunny brings candy

            well Jamie, you’re not the only one laughing

          • Jamie Lee

            Good. Laughter may be all we have. in the end.

          • BuzzCoastin

            looks like the whistle-blower who leaked this stuff
            has revealed his identity as a former CIA snoop
            and present NSA contractor
            still think they need the benefit of the doubt?

          • Jamie Lee

            I know, I’ve been following that story since it came out. That guy seems to be some kinda brave, though more info needs to come out before it’s clear what the full picture is.

  • David Duke-Astin

    tidbit: it is illegal for these corporations to say that they are sharing your information. You read that right. The law says that they must lie when asked. Therefore, they will all deny it and they are obligated to deny it.

    I can tell you that there’s another law from the same era: The Bank Secrecy Act. The law is not a secret, but banks are required (criminal penalties if they don’t) to report anything “suspicious” (definition wild and loose but focused on money laundering). It is illegal for a bank to admit that they provided any information to the government. It is illegal to be confronted by the witness against you.

    How’s that constitution…er…ten commandments…er bill of rights….thingy workin’ out for ya?

    The rights of the people to be secured in their persons, their
    houses, their papers, and their other property from all unreasonable
    searches and seizures, shall not be violated by warrants issued without
    probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, or not particularly
    describing the places to be searched, or the persons or things to be
    seized.

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a
    speedy and public trial, to be informed of the cause and nature of the
    accusation, to be confronted with his accusers, and the witnesses
    against him; to have a compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his
    favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

    • Simon Valentine

      it seems after all that the secret is that all monetary doings are money laundering and that banks figured they had to money launder on the money launderers to stay ahead and help the money-printers make it look legit.

      extreme truth of pseudo treasonous measure aside:

      Pascal’s law ‘conservation(s) of pressure’
      Newton’s law ‘conservation(s) of motion’
      Einstein’s law ‘conservation(s) of stuff(s)’
      Thermodynamics ‘you’re all wrong i’m big brother shut up and keep working your conservations while giving me tax in heat and firstborns’

      if someone says “the universe doesn’t differentiate between money laundering and non money laundering”, i wonder, will “a new particle” or “a new subatomic proof system” suddenly come out of no where? or is this just me being too far advanced? i suppose that which is the future of current law (as it is being hierarchyheirarchy with blamecherry on top – always melting – in a cone) … is already begun. if contradiction is bad, how does one not have bad while having ultimatum? it is that evil and good cannot either be. not so much that they are both, like quantum says, though hypothesizing they are both may yield ideas like female yields offspring … i digress.

      “both” are the workers.
      “neither” are the rest.

    • Jamie Lee

      That’s definitely pretty “special,” yes.

  • echar

    About a year or so ago the NSA said they couldn’t say yay or nay if they were spying on us, because that would risk homeland security. They pretty much admitted back then, without admitting.

    https://www.torproject.org/

    • David Duke-Astin

      as i said above, it’s actually illegal for them to tell you if they are

  • echar

    It looks like a man has stepped forward and taken credit for the leak

    “Spy Whistleblower Comes Forward, Says “NSA Routinely Lies””
    http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/09/spy-whistleblower-comes-forward-says-nsa-routinely-lies/

    Is this the Red Tape being cut that Gerry Spence talks about it in his book?
    From Freedom To Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America
    http://tinyurl.com/o5ms9mz

  • Archie Dux

    I have no doubt that NSA et al are collecting wholesale data. What I doubt is that they or any group of humans have the ability to look at all of it. I suspect they are using some kind of artificial intelligence programs to sift through it.

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