The Right Word

Snowden Mask

I received a message from Dark Mail last November 14th and decided to tweet it in full then, since it could not yet be found in their website (though by now the statement is available in different corners of the web); it bragged, among other things, of some sort of moral purity—a rather spooky standard. On that, the series of comments that glossed said tweet, crowned with this almost obvious conclusion:

Everybody should have reasons to suspect immoral the NSA affair unveiled by whistleblower Edward Snowden back in June 2013, in which Silent Circle and Lavabit got caught unexpectedly, the same way everybody should as well be able to appreciate the candidness with which Dark Mail argues that theirs is “not a business venture, but a moral and technological journey.” But all of that, just at a first glance. Morality might seem rigid in principle, but it is wildly capricious and eventually blind. A better word to describe the putrid state of affairs to which I’m referring would be unconstitutional; inarguably, the “intelligence” practices on which Snowden blew the whistle violate the 4th Amendment of he US constitution. But that only applies to the US and refers to something concrete. In the abstract realm of theory, what has been violated is the ethics that should constrain all government practices by the rule of law. It was not morality what pushed Snowden into selflessly handing the NSA documents to the media, but ethics, the same way the NSA—et al.—does not violate the law for lacking a moral standard—it has simply its own. This is the reason for which it seems relevant—for a blogpost, no more—to point at the phrase “moral journey” as an ill beginning for an adventure like Dark Mail, which should stick to ethical, not moral standards—which also must be explained in public. Morality is led by subjectivity; ethics, by—an attempt of—objectivity. The way Black Mail crafted its message makes me more uneasy than a mere for-profit model would—because at least then one would know what to expect. What is the morality sustaining Black Mail’s journey? Time will tell.

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