I think my first exposure to Bruce Sterling was The Hacker Crackdown (1992). Some years later, I read and enjoyed Distraction (“the story of an America on the skids: economy in tatters, dollar collapsed, unemployment spiked, population on the move in great, restless herds bound together with networks and bootleg phones.”)
He has written the best essay I’ve read on WikiLeaks (The Blast Shack). A few excerpts:
(Bradley Manning’s) war made no sense on its face, because it was carried out in a headlong pursuit of imaginary engines of mass destruction.
Bradley’s gonna become a “spy” whose “espionage” consisted of making the activities of a democratic government visible to its voting population
Trying Assange is “the kind of show-trial judo every repressive government fears.”
Everybody wants everybody else’s national government to leak. Every state wants to see the diplomatic cables of every other state. It will bend heaven and earth to get them. It’s just, that sacred activity is not supposed to be privatized, or, worse yet, made into the no-profit, shareable, have-at-it fodder for a network society, as if global diplomacy were so many mp3s. Now the US State Department has walked down the thorny road to hell that was first paved by the music industry. Rock and roll, baby.
(Assange is) a darkside hacker who is a self-appointed, self-anointed, self-educated global dissident. He’s a one-man Polish Solidarity, waiting for the population to accrete around his stirring propaganda of the deed.
(Assange is ) just what he is; he’s something we don’t yet have words for.
If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does
American diplomats are gonna read those stolen cables, though, because they were supposed to read them anyway, even though they didn’t. Now, they’ve got to read them, with great care, because they might get blindsided otherwise by some wisecrack that they typed up years ago
Diplomats are people who speak from nation to nation. They personify nations, and nations are brutal, savage, feral entities. Diplomats used to have something in the way of an international community, until the Americans decided to unilaterally abandon that in pursuit of Bradley Manning’s oil war. Now nations are so badly off that they can’t even get it together to coherently tackle heroin, hydrogen bombs, global warming and financial collapse. Not to mention the Internet.
You don’t have to be a citizen of this wracked and threadbare superpower in order to sense the pervasive melancholy of an empire in decline.
Julian Assange is “the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid.”