1. A Changing Narrative: From Hacking to Storytelling
2. What is the Colour of Money? The Myth of Economics
3. How Digital Activism is Changing the World
4. New Work Order: Who is in Charge?
5. Disruptive Powers and the Misfit Economy
6. Blockchain: Rewriting the Global Governance
7. The Brave New Art World
WHAT IS THE KRYPTO ECONOMY?
The term is derived from the idea of cryptography, the practice and technique of hiding digital information to allow a secure exchange. With this book, we extend the meaning, exploring the empowering and destructive forces of a hidden economy, which underlies the reality of the digital era. With Kryptonite— the fictional mineral that both nearly annihilates Superman and gives him incredible powers— acting as a basic narrative, we illustrate the digital age’s radiating danger and also its undeniable force for good.
The technological evolution continues. Constantly an old world is dying, and a new one is born. Future ideas exist as seeds within the social fabric, awaiting expression by thinkers and creators.
Already, new technologies are changing our lives in extreme ways. They affect our human interactions, global understanding, business transactions and environmental exploitation. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Internet of Things, Robotics, Autonomous Cars, Nanotechnology, Genomics, Biotechnology, Virtual Reality, Quantum Computing and 3D-Printing are not only driving new opportunities, but also pressuring our society to take a stand towards a more sustainable future. Perhaps most formidably, these technologies have the capacity to grow exponentially – taking us leaps and bounds toward a more utopian reality, one in which poverty and hunger are wretched memories. With the beauty of speed, we can use these exponentially growing technologies to create resilient cities and communities with responsible consumption in mind.
That said, this same technology has the undisputed power to catapult us into a postmodern surveillance dystopia, akin to novels of Philipp K. Dick 1 or George Orwell 2. At the hands of people in power, these technologies can be the most dangerous facilitators of totalitarianism. What do we do in the face of this potential? We must understand. We must eliminate the risks. We must remain purpose-driven to build a responsible future. We must lead the discourse to discover insights: with the potentials named and dangers stamped and tilted to see all sides. The Krypto Economy serves as an umbrella term on our journey to create this transparency with a sharp and critical eye, to piece through everything and articulate the problems constructively. As we do this, we can foster holistic, impact-driven technical solutions.
The discourse is the vehicle on our quest to observe, investigate, to finally gain in knowledge, and epiphanies. It is an attempt to characterize the truth, thus distinguishing it from falsity and illusions. Through non-institutional discussions, we aim for individual education, which will ultimately create a higher universal level of consciousness. This will empower people to join the conversation, providing them a basic set of questions and answers. The world becomes more informed. Inch-by-inch, person-by-person. We set out for the truth, actively forming our social economics in a digital age. It’s the voice of the many that create the Zeitgeist 3. And that Zeitgeist can decide upon a utopian, rather than dystopian future. Our economy isn’t just an organizational framework for our societal, economical and political daily grind. It’s a mirror on the current state of our consciousness. It’s the perceived narrative of the human nature and its social interconnections. It reflects our values. And it encompasses official corporations, markets, and states, alongside criminal organizations, secret power networks, miracle healers, gangsters, or hackers. Everyone is part of the discourse. Everyone forms this economy.
A great era has begun. We are liberating ourselves. We are growing up and must take a responsible and courageous first step towards a utopian tech world. Heed our warning and listen to our appeal. Our future is up for grabs, but it’s also at stake.
— Andrea Bauer
Over the past few years, we’ve begun to question the liberating and egalitarian vision of a digital era. With the revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013, it became clear that the Information Age would not provide us with a warm and fuzzy future, per se. Instead, we woke up in a surveillance and advertising apparatus. Too quickly, discourse ebbed away, along with the attention span of the public media, with little consequence.
With this in mind, Andrea Bauer and Boris Moshkovits began a think tank and discourse salon called D.DAY 4 to continue a critical, but constructive discourse to reflect on the future of our tech world; one that considered the current, rapidly evolving digital climate.
The first salon took place in 2014 at Soho House Berlin. Its aim was to reflect on the realities and effects of the digital age, opting for the panel discussion format. Each time, they invited two protagonists of diverse special fields, who provided particular insights and were open to finding interconnections and phenomena. There were laughs, friendly bickering, surprising stories, but most importantly, honest discussions between people who comprehend their fields to the bone, and gave tentative solutions for future scenarios.
With the goal to create a holistic understanding of the effects of our digital age, the event brought techies, activists, artists, philosophers, authors, and misfit entrepreneurs together to link their experiences, argue, and laugh. The discussions brought comprehension to those not in the “know” in the tech world: steps to take, moves to make, and simple connections to consider. Over a series of seven events, the conversations touched on topics like mass surveillance, crypto currencies, Blockchain, virtual art world, digital activism and the future of governance.
This book is a compendium of these seven panel discussions, which delved deep into the technical sphere, using laymen’s terms to have an upbeat, informed discourse. With this book, you can fill your knowledge gaps, and join the discourse to become a creature of this vibrant world. And this “new tech order” can help you make decisions for a more responsible future. The future is ours to mold. And we have so much to accomplish.
ANDREA BAUER is an innovation designer, tech philosopher and author. She is the founder of BEAM Studio, an innovation firm that applies novel technologies and methods to create cutting-edge services, products, and business models. Always fascinated by the question of how technology can improve our everyday lives, she is purpose-driven, working to accelerate her efforts towards a more responsible future. She is also partner and co-founder of the business collective katapult:NOW and the event platform D.DAY Network, an international do- and think-tank of creative influencers, who aim for positive impact by reflecting and actively using the effects of a digital era.
BORIS MOSHKOVITS is a cultural entrepreneur, who has served as Head of Digital Media at Ringier Publishing in Germany, working to define the digital strategies for publications such as Cicero and Monopol. Prior to this, he was the founding director of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which won the Award for Best Museum in Russia in 2012 due to its cutting-edge digital and interactive presentations and exhibition. As the founder and publisher of Berliner Magazine in 2002, Boris was part of the first wave of magazines that was instrumental in bringing attention to the “berliner attitude” and lifestyle in other metropolises, like New York, London and Paris. In 2014, he co-founded D.DAY Network with Andrea Bauer.
A Changing Narrative: From Hacking to Storytelling
PANEL DISCUSSION, BERLIN, MARCH 15, 2014
Who owns the future of the Internet? Disclosures of mass surveillance and a fast-growing epidemic of cyber crime have corrupted the “utopia” of a free and equal Internet. Alongside this, in the last 10 years, the Internet has become crucial to everyday life, enabling people to interact in personal and professional ways and build connections and businesses.
But major companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple have created predominant services and communities— whose free use we pay for with our data. And while activists invoke digital civil rights through encryption, hacking and campaigning, governments continue to violate human rights in the name of fighting global terrorism.
We can discuss the ownership of the future structure of the Internet, much like we discuss the organization of established infrastructures such as energy and transportation. Many questions arise: What can we learn from Snowden and Assange? How can we be free in a digital world? What happens to our privacy? Does governmental security inevitably mean total control?
The impact of mass surveillance and the uncontrolled use of big data have inspired cultural producers to change the narrative, working to regain privacy and dignity for everyone. In light of this, D.DAY will host leading minds from digital activists to theatre directors, to learn more about their narratives of the Internet in a post-Snowden world. To transform the use of the Internet from a commercial to a social space, we will focus on the role of transparency and personal dignity.
There are no greater people to alter the narrative of privacy and dignity than Angela Richter and Jacob Appelbaum. Their careers mark the path from hacking to storytelling in this post-Snowden world. Both have had first-hand experience with Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, two of the most-wanted and most-secluded men of our times. And their stories propel incredible, if at-times terrifying, insights.
The collaboration between Jacob and Angela marks a cultural shift in raising awareness for the growing loss of privacy. We work to analyse their brand of storytelling and how this brings awareness to digital mass surveillance. It lends reflected insights and creates immersive experiences. And in the end, it gives their audience a voice.
ANGELA RICHTER is a playwright, theatre director, and activist. In the years leading up to this discussion, she focused her creative and activist strengths on mass surveillance and transparency. Her on-going interviews with the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, led to the play Assassinate Assange, in which she examines various aspects of Julian’s persona and the shift in the public’s perception. In the second part of the series, Assassinate Assange Reloaded, Jacob Appelbaum performed alongside her. Since then, the director not only visited the WikiLeaks founder in London regularly, but has engaged in panel discussions and with various print media, including Der Spiegel, Monopoly, Interview Magazine, Review and Next Society, speaking for Internet activists and hacktivists. In the season 2014/15, Richter scheduled a large-scale project entitled Die Avantgarde der Supernerds in co-production with the German TV WDR, dealing with the life and work of digital dissidents.
JACOB APPELBAUM is an American independent journalist, computer security researcher, artist, and hacker. He has been employed by the University of Washington, and was a core member of the Tor project, a free software network designed to provide online anonymity. Appelbaum is also known for representing WikiLeaks. He has displayed his art in a number of institutions across the world and has collaborated with artists such as Laura Poitras, Trevor Paglen, and Ai Weiwei. His journalistic work has resulted in a number of books, as well as publication in Der Spiegel and elsewhere. Appelbaum has repeatedly been targeted by U.S. law enforcement agencies, which obtained a court order for his Twitter account data, detained him at the U.S. border after trips abroad, and seized his laptop and several mobile phones.
Angela, in your play Assassinate Assange you say: “Die Zukunft gehört den Nerds,” or “The future belongs to the nerds.” Do you really believe that the hackers and the nerds are the new avant-garde?
ANGELA: This is a very provocative sentence, especially in the context of art and theatre, because we have a long tradition of being the avant-garde, an art format that always influenced society. It’s a little bit radical and also meant to be a bit provocative, but I think it is true. Even more than I would have liked it to be.
We see it in personas like Julian Assange 5 or Edward Snowden 6 and the very fast paradigm shift they achieved with their actions. Things changed so fast. I came up with this “the future belongs to the nerds” statement almost two years ago and put it on stage. At that time, I couldn’t foresee what would happen today.
Jacob, you started out as what we call a “hacker” or “hacktivist,” focusing on encryption, but now you work with Angela Richter on plays, with Laura Poitras on videos, and as a journalist for Der Spiegel. Why did you choose these more artistic ways to express yourself?
JACOB: In some cases, there are very serious legal consequences when dealing with topics of secret intelligence, unless you are a special type of person. Being a journalist allows you to talk about topics in the public interest with some privileges you might otherwise not have.
My political voice as a programmer is silenced if I want to talk about some of the issues that we face, like the issues of mass surveillance, unless I am a credentialed journalist. I have worked with Der Spiegel for many years, probably since 2010.
I thought it was very important to continue that work, especially with some of the topics that Edward Snowden has released to the public. It was important to try to change the dialogue a lot. For many years, people thought that myself and other people talking about mass surveillance were just crazy. The joke is on you! Unfortunately, we weren’t crazy enough.
> It’s important to win the culture war. <
I think it’s important to win the culture war, so to speak, or the culture conflicts that are happening right now. To do that, you have to involve the art world. You have to write. You have to take every possible angle to introduce it into people’s lives to make it relevant, so that people can begin to contextualize and understand what is actually happening in a way that is meaningful to them.
Angela, a long time ago, you produced Ödipus at Salzburger Festspiele. I think this was the moment when you realized that you are not very interested in classical plays, but more into realistic plays. What kind of narratives do you prefer in theatre? What is the role of the theatre today?
ANGELA: I became really bored, and then I came to realize: when I’m bored at my own rehearsals, what should I expect from the audience? It is not that I don’t like classical plays. I admire Shakespeare. I love to read it, but I just don’t have the feeling that I should put it on stage, because I always had the feeling that I’m building a museum. It became really boring to me, and I thought, “What else can theatre do?”
When I directed Ödipus in Salzburg, I learned about WikiLeaks 7, and I thought it was a really overwhelming idea to upload documents from secret sources and publish them on a website. It was just fantastic. I thought, “Why didn’t somebody come up with the idea earlier?” It seemed too obvious.
At some point, I decided to only do research-based plays. I had done it once before, with the forbidden novel by Maxim Biller, Esra. With Esra I made a play about the whole legal case and a little bit about the rose war between them. The play Assassinate Assange was just the next logical step, since I was so interested in WikiLeaks.
Jacob, you already mentioned that you worked with Der Spiegel. What is the role of mass media and the press today when it comes to creating transparency and understanding topics like mass surveillance? Did media fail in reporting about mass surveillance? And how does investigative journalism help?
JACOB: Well, I think it depends. There are many different media outlets around the world. Right now, Germany is the freest place that we can publish about the NSA surveillance 8. I cannot work as a journalist in the United States. Like in the United Kingdom, there is a Terrorism Case 9 as well as an Official Secrets Act Case 10. People like Sarah Harrison 11 cannot return to the United Kingdom as a result of those cases, and certainly not to continue to work and publish about these revelations.
So did the mass media fail? No. Actually, society is failing the media and the free press and the promise to a free press. And right now, Germany is one of the better places to work on these issues. It kind of makes sense, because these issues have almost nothing to do with German politics, or, let’s say, Angela Merkel’s mistakes. It is almost always the case that you’re freer to criticize things from another system, when you exist almost entirely in a different framework.
> Did the mass media fail? No. Actually, society is failing the media. <
There are some exceptions. For example, Germany is particularly victimized. I revealed, for example, the Merkel scandal, when the NSA spied on Angela Merkel 12. That was my story. I brought it to Der Spiegel, but it would not have been possible in the United States. That is not a failure of the media. That is a failure of the U.S. government in controlling its spy apparatus. Its protection of the press is just abysmal.
Is the press aware of the U.S. surveillance, if you compare the German and the U.S. press, for instance?
JACOB: The U.S. is, in theory, a very free country. I grew up in the United States, and I’m really proud of a lot of things that I experienced when I was there. But I also think nationalism is a sickness. I think that the U.S. is seriously ill with nationalism.
We have a theoretical freedom of the press, which states the press won’t be regulated. But we are talking about people like Glenn Greenwald 13 in the public sphere, versus the Attorney General being questioned directly whether or not he will be prosecuted for writing about Edward Snowden 14. The Attorney General essentially sidesteps this.
> The U.S. is seriously ill with nationalism. <
It is clear on paper that Glenn Greenwald is not a criminal. He is a journalist telling us things in the public interest. The Attorney General, when directly confronted, could not say that. He even said that people who were advocating for Edward Snowden, who were protected under The First Amendment 15, would be treated differently than legitimate journalists. Who is to say if people like Julian Assange, Laura Poitras 16, Glenn Greenwald, and myself are legitimate journalists?
Obviously, if we dare to advocate that we think Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, then we will be dealt with in a harsher manner. In a sense, and on paper, there is way more free speech in the United States than in Germany. In practice, I’m pretty sure I’d be in prison right now if I published the things I published with Der Spiegel in the United States, but in Germany, I’m free.
On paper, the German free speech is significantly more limited. The reality is that Julian Assange is stuck in this Ecuadorian Embassy as a result of the pressure of the United States government. Edward Snowden is stuck in Russia because of the pressure of the United States government. We’re not really living up to those promises of free press.
Angela, you chose the number one enemy of the United States as a main character of your play and were looking at all the different perceptions of him—as a sexual harasser, as a Robin Hood of the Internet, as a saviour. What was the strongest reaction you got from audiences and media, and do you feel you are caught in the middle of a propaganda war?
ANGELA: It’s been almost two years since we had the opening in Hamburg. Then, we went to Vienna, then to Berlin, and two months ago, we finally played in Cologne. The strongest reaction was actually when we showed the play in Vienna. The discussion around the rape case escalated, and for the first time in my life,
I was really threatened by people. There were radical feminist groups, who wrote an open letter to the theatre to ban the play. I was extremely surprised to receive a reaction to seriously ban art from left people. They didn’t even see the play. The reaction was only based on an interview I gave to Der Freitag. In the interview, they asked me if I think that Julian Assange is a rapist, and I said, “No,” and elaborated on it. But they only picked up the “no” without the elaboration.
> For the first time in my life, I was really threatened by people. <
I was accused to be a supporter of rape culture, which, of course, I’m not. They also attacked the theatre and wrote: “No stage for rapists” on the outside walls. At that time, it was really difficult. We had a lot of discussion after every play with the audience. Most of the time, it was about the sexual things, not about the political aspects. I was attacked a lot. Some people were saying I’m just a groupie. It was ridiculous. Others sent threatening emails to the theatre.
I never experienced anything like this before, but I thought, okay, it’s art. You can watch it. You can be against it. You can criticize it. But this aggressive reaction was intimidating. It would have been ridiculous for a theatre to forbid a play. I mean, we live in different times now, right?
Jacob, the technical and political world has become insanely complex. How would you describe the role of hackers and whistleblowers today?
JACOB: Interestingly, there is not a word for whistleblowing in German, as I understand it, which is kind of strange, since you guys have a word for everything. So, get on that, linguist!
It seems to me like the role of a whistleblower is actually the role of showing us the internal workings, to provide the transparency that is often missing from some of these structures. Julian Assange’s big accomplishment is to recognize it when an agency—whether it’s a government agency or a corporation or even individuals—puts forward one face to the world with a press release that only tells you what they want you to know. But if you have an internal document, you know what they really think.
It tells you the internal processes by which they decide things. A whistleblower can bring out the truth in how they actually act and how they really behave.
So a part of the role of a whistleblower in modern society is to be able to change the dialogue from the press release to the actual internal workings. Like what Daniel Ellsberg did when he was working with McNamara to leak the Pentagon Papers 17. He showed that there is the official narrative, and then, there is the truth. In the truth, they admit to lying, they admit to killing people, they admit to all these things they would never say in a press release because they are not proud of it. That allows us to actual have a functioning democracy, when it comes to the validity of these institutions and the decisions they make. If we wish to understand how some of these organizations actually function, and thus to see if they are valid, we must have leaks. We must have the unvarnished truth.
Of course, there is a moral or social tension to it, because in theory, you should be able to have an organization without worrying about whistleblowers and always being part of the public dialogue. But some organizations just go too far. For example, if an organization supports death squads 18, maybe we should reveal that? That is clearly in the public interest. Or perhaps they have mass surveillance of the entire world. Hey, what about that? Some things are just over the top and blatantly illegal. In these cases, whistleblowing is clearly a way to go. It is not always that obvious, when it’s a minor affair. But in the case of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning 19, it couldn’t possibly be more obvious.
The role of the whistleblower is to act as entropy and to introduce some entropy into the overall discussion. 20 Even if the entropy is unpredictable, in many cases, it is truthful because it is truth written by the hand of the oppressors themselves. That is very powerful, because it means one single person can take an action that will discredit all of the most credible people, and show that, in fact, they are not credible at all. In truth, they just have a structure that supports them and makes them seem more credible.
That is a very important role, but it is also a very controversial one. Imagine if Snowden had been a Chinese citizen, for example. He probably would have gotten asylum in Germany, which tells us something about the way we really value whistleblowers. I think that is a little sad.
In the U.S., it is much the same. If someone from China had done what Snowden had done, he would have gotten asylum in the United States. There is a lot of political stuff wrapped up in that act of whistleblowing and how it is framed. Is it treasonous or being heroic?
There are also some questions on what makes a person a whistleblower and not a spy. I think acting in the public interest is clearly a defining element that makes a person a whistleblower, while selling secrets makes them a spy. That would be espionage. Telling the whole world that there is a criminal activity going on in their organisation is not what spies do. Spies don’t blow their own operation. That doesn’t make any sense to them.
Daniel Ellsberg originally said, “Courage is contagious.” Julian Assange and Sarah Harrison quoted that statement. Is it true? Is courage contagious? Do you think that there are more and more whistleblowers joining to change the dialogue?
JACOB: I totally agree. I think courage is contagious, but courage is not the absence of fear. I think it is important to note that every person that we talked about has a lot of Angst—as is the German term for fear—about a lot of these issues, about making the right decision and really trying to change this dialogue.
> Courage is contagious, but courage is not the absence of fear. <
There is courage, but it isn’t without serious consideration, without serious side effects. Sarah Harrison can probably never set foot in her own country again. So being courageous comes with a lot of other things and should be thought of in a humble way. And I think, when Sarah is quoting that statement, it’s meant in a humble way.
Talking about contagious, Angela, with your play, do you think it’s somehow a call to action? When I watched your play, I feel you are torn between what is legal, what is illegal, what is true, what is not true. You are playing with different aspects, leaving the viewer to make his own mind. Do you want to activate them? If yes, how does activation work nowadays?
ANGELA: Yes. Actually, I want people to stop just thinking about it and feel activated. I don’t feel that my play is taking a stand, so much. I myself, as a person, have developed a stand now, since I learned so much from people like Jacob and others from the scene.
Actually, Jacob and I met when all this was happening in Vienna. He wrote me an email and asked, “Can I help? I could sit on the panel and take on the discussion.” The next time, he did it again at the HAU 21 in Berlin. With the discussions after the play, I wanted to activate the people because the play raised so many questions. And even the play has some provocations in it; it doesn’t gives you a clear answer or takes an extreme stand. There is also humour in it. Sometimes, I even make jokes at Julian’s expense.
As you saw in the play, I don’t choose to have a guy with a white wig coming on stage. I decided to use 13 masked white gorillas, which, at some point, take off the masks and say something. I wanted to avoid putting an actor on stage to represent Julian Assange. That can appear ridiculous, especially if the character you are portraying is not a historical but a living person.
For me, it was an ideal setting, because many of the actors and actresses could have the role of Julian Assange at some point, like everybody could be him. We always had such a strong reaction from the audience in the end. This kind of reaction was something I could have only wished for when I did The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov 22 years ago, which is a really beautiful play. Afterwards, people just went home and thought “my world is okay,” while actually, it is not! That is why I feel obliged as an artist and a theatre person to shout out loud: “No, it’s not okay”.
It’s very hard to activate people. Sometimes you really need to shock them, like with your current play Überleben unter Überwachung or Survival under Surveillance. In his role, Jacob got seriously injured on stage.
ANGELA: I’m not so sure. I don’t receive our actions as shocking. Maybe I have different standards. But Jacob can explain a little bit about the play, because it was very fragile and personal.
JACOB: Originally, the play was supposed to be just a discussion on my experiences on surveillance with my long-time partner.
My long-term partner and I split up long time ago. For various reasons, the theatre communicated with her about the play, and it turned from a panel into a play. Then, we had a four-act play along with a public lecture portion. She had written a huge amount of material for the intermediate points between the talk and the closure. It was emotionally and physically traumatic, as well, because we played the roles in a way that showed the internal mental states of our relationship. I don’t know why we wanted to do this.
Originally, we just wanted to talk about mass surveillance. Then, we were purging the things we had lived through in our relationship as a result of surveillance. It was extremely emotionally draining. We hired some real security guards to re-enact some of the experiences we had, like my disappearances. A number of times when we travelled together, I would go through a checkpoint and some big goons would take me away and tell my exgirlfriend that I don’t exist. She would ask, “Where is my boyfriend?” and they would say, “There is no boyfriend. What are you talking about?” That happened to us a bunch of times.
> She would ask, “Where is my boyfriend?” and they would say, “There is no boyfriend. What are you talking about?” <
On stage, it was a little rougher. They stripped me naked and threw me on the ground a little too hard, slashing my entire foot open. Then, they dragged me bleeding, kicking, and screaming around the stage, so there’s a bloody drag mark.
Then, my ex-girlfriend talked about what it was like to be a woman living under surveillance and what it’s like to meet and date people under surveillance. In a sense, she sort of described Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros. 23 She described the modern female version of the madness of trying to maintain your integrity and your mental state in a surveillance state, where your partner is being targeted. You’re also being targeted because of this notion of “valid targeted surveillance.”
At the end of the play, I’m standing naked on stage without glasses talking about the internal state. It was horrible, for sure. But at the same time, it was really cathartic. I think we were able to make it work really well, showing truly how we felt about living under surveillance, being a so-called “valid target” and the ways in which we were literally taken away or held or questioned. We showed it’s corrosive, how it essentially eats away your soul.
At the end of the play I was grabbed again. This time, I was already naked so they didn’t strip my clothes, but they dragged me again and threw me outside of the theatre. This was very funny for the people standing outside of the theatre because all of a sudden, there was this strange, naked guy.
Then the lights go off, everyone starts to applaud and the lights go back on. Then, for security reasons, everyone who wanted to applaud us and thank us for the play was immediately removed from the theatre.
We wanted to show them the emotional state, how you have an emotional desire that is denied. We wanted to make them feel that arbitrarily and capricious feeling, which made them really angry in the end.
ANGELA: Yes, the audience was angry. They couldn’t believe they had to leave. So many people just said,
“No, we refuse to go.” There was a guy from the theatre fighting with the audience for fifteen minutes because they insisted on the applause, but we wouldn’t give it to them. That might have been the most provocative moment in the play: to break the rules, and say, “No, we will not give you that relief.” It was very intense, and it was also very private.
I think it was a very good example on how private issues can became political. Normally, I do not do this fragile, very personal stuff on stage. But in this case, I thought the volume needed to be turned up to make the experience more intense for people to see what it means: the illusion of total freedom. Because suddenly, things can happen that affect our lives or the lives of our children.
What I found most shocking about this whole surveillance revelation is how the military, the intelligence services, and states are merging into this weird transnational thing. It’s very frightening. I don’t have the feeling that any of our politicians really has control over it. It is dynamic. It is covering nearly the whole world, and I don’t have the feeling it’s really controllable, not even by Obama himself.
JACOB: The whole surveillance situation was also really, intensely personal for my former long-term partner. Once, she woke up in the middle of the night with two men watching her sleep with night vision goggles. She looked up, and it was like some scene out of the movie Silence of the Lambs.
> You would call the police, unless the state itself is doing it to you. <
Naturally, in that case, you would pick up the phone and call the police, unless the state itself is doing it to you, which was exactly the case. So when she did call the police the next day, they laughed at her and refused to take a police report. It took three times and eventually getting the American Civil Liberties Union involved. Only then would the police take it seriously.
Part of this play was to talk about how this is the last outlet for her to deal with these things, because all of the normal channels were either silenced or lacking real purpose. That was very cathartic for her. It was very cathartic for all of us, but it was also very traumatizing to relive these things. I haven’t actually been able to walk correctly since this happened last Saturday, because they actually hurt me so badly onstage. It partially ripped my tendon and my blood was everywhere. It was very “German art world.”
Do you feel that there’s a country out there that is not repressive, not restrictive, and listing you as a person of interest? Is there anywhere you do feel safe?
JACOB: All states have problems. They are states. I tend to think that every place is what you make it, and right now, I feel relatively okay in Germany.
Most countries have intelligence services. Iceland is an example of a country that doesn’t, but it has plenty of other problems. Julian Assange once pointed out that it has 100% literacy because it’s xenophobic and racist. Basically, they’re only letting in white people that are well educated.
I don’t totally agree with him about that. It depends on what you look at, how you see it. I have certain privileges that are afforded to me. If I was a Muslim living on Oranienplatz in Berlin, I would probably not feel so great about Germany, for example. Every place is different.
For the secret service stuff, however, the U.S. is totally off the rails. It’s really unbelievable. And Germany is also, to some extent, because the U.S. secret service has great influence over the BND 24 and the Verfassungsschutz 25. Even some of the great countries that are, in theory, changing us, like Ecuador or Iceland, have problems as well.
No place is perfect. We should really be trying to talk about what we would like to see out of these states and try to make them better. In Germany, there is a parliamentary investigation about spying. And Germany can make a big difference in choosing a different paradigm. Hopefully that will happen. But if it doesn’t happen with Germany, I’m not sure which country will actually start to make those choices soon. It is not the U.S., that’s for sure.
Have you been invited by Parliament or any official institution here in Germany to share your insights and your experiences? They always talk about Edward Snowden, but he is far away. You are here.
JACOB: Yes, the Council of Europe 26 and the European Parliament 27 both invited me to testify about the mass surveillance issues. I’ve done that. I was once invited to a CDU 28 event after the election, where they wanted me to come and talk about all mass surveillance issues. I said, “I really don’t know anything about your politics, but I want to talk to you about the threat that this is to a free society.” They gave me the date; they gave me the time. Then, the day before the event, they apologized and said that normally, they don’t have members from civil society involved in their events. They had to uninvite me.
I think there’s something interesting there. They recognized that I had something to contribute, but thought I wouldn’t tow the line on all their other issues, so they didn’t want me.
But Stroebele’s 29 office was really fantastic. Stroebele asked me to explain some of the technical issues, and I explained what we have written about in Der Spiegel in my really bad, broken German. He was very thankful, and he told me that if I need some help, I should ask him.
But realistically, I have the feeling that in terms of this issue, the German government doesn’t really want to dig in. For example, read the work by the journalist John Goetz, a really fantastic journalist in Germany at NDR and Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He has been working a great deal on drone-related stuff and he has a project that is called Geheimer Krieg. He wrote a book and made a film.
Basically, he discusses Germany’s role in the U.S. drone strikes. How the targeting happens, how the murder happens. These are assassinations that the German government participates in. And the German government is not looking into it.