I don’t have much time for WikiLeaks or its narcissist-in-chief. Anyone surprised by their revelations (consider, you know, the history of the US government domestically and internationally since, oh, 1776) or his conduct (q.v. Julian Assange v. Swedish Prosecution Authority) is naive in the extreme.

It is touchingly romantic, if predictable, that cybertarian true believers anoint the narcissist-in-chief as ‘the modern figurehead for a new world order defined by openness, transparency and Internet freedom.’ For WikiLeaks echoes the very pomposity and secrecy of the states it seeks to expose. Furthermore, it is comfortably bounded within old-fashioned Western liberal norms and foci.

This despite its avowed position: WikiLeakers dedicate vast amounts of time and energy to decrying the state and the middle-aged media. But these are the two entities whose attention they most desire.

Although avowedly a critic of government, Assange seeks its protection to control the use of his name in what he calls ‘public speaking’ and ‘entertainment.’ He first sought this service through the splendidly Dickensian law firm, Finers Stephens Innocent—an aptly 19th-century name for a very traditional business, working on behalf of a very traditional person, depending on very traditional state aid.1)Later renamed, prosaically, HowardKennedyFSI.com.

Then he sought governmental sanctuary from Sweden due to the charge of sexual assault. He tried to do this by electoral means in Victoria but wasn’t credible as a Senate candidate, obtaining fewer votes than the Australian Sex Party, and the Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party. So he remains in Ecuador’s London embassy. In other words, without the state, he’d be defenceless. Some libertarian he.

And the bourgeois media? WikiLeaks craves coverage and knowledge from journalists, because it lacks people who know what to make of the material it collects. WikiLeakers generally need the texts they have obtained to be scrutinized, authenticated, redacted, legitimized, promoted, and released by the middle-aged media, who do much more than add second-order meaning—though they offer a great deal of that.

So what of the latest tranche, which appeared Monday? ‘The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions.’

I have to admit that, despite my attitude, I love the new documents. Why? Because of their disclosures about television.

The revelations show poor old Samsung accused of making TVs that provide the CIA with ‘covert microphones.’ As if the company hadn’t endured enough: dangerous technical incompetence in the operation of its phones; recalls of its washing machines; and heroic levels of corruption (over decades).

WikiLeaks asserts that the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch and Britain’s MI5/BTSS developed a technology called “Weeping Angel” to transform Samsung F8000s, such that when seemingly turned off, they are in fact recording noises and dispatching them to CIA servers. This involves the wonderful syntagm ‘Fake-Off mode.’

‘Weeping angels’ calls up both a Nigerian film and the revived Dr Who, whose eponymous hero confronts Weeping Angels that ‘can’t ever die.’ Described as ‘the deadliest beings ever created,’ these are entirely malevolent creatures. The key to survival is not blinking in their presence…

So let’s understand what is happening. As computers and televisions converge, even the least fancy sets often boast software of the kind we use in tablets or telephones. One way we interact with these services is via microphones, the device infiltrated by MI5 and the Agency.

It looks from the documents released that this had to be set up physically, by using a universal serial bus port. The splendid ‘Things You Might Do’ page endeavors to explain why any of this might matter.

Samsung’s privacy policy states: ‘Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.’ It passes on viewers’ commands to Nuance Communications, which transliterates sound to text as a guide to firms about consumers’ preferences and guarantees to corporations that it can ‘keep your documents secure.’

But this doesn’t matter to our great libertarian saviors. Why? Because, as ever, the anti-governmental romantics of WikiLeaks and their trusting fans are focused on the state. As ever, they couldn’t give a shit about corporations spying on viewers and profiting from the sale of their desires.

And sorry, but there’s nothing new here about TVs being used to spy on viewers. With specific regard to Samsung, WikiLeaks is behind the times: it’s been two years since concerns were voiced by the public about the specific risk of corporate surveillance through the company’s TVs.

What of the F8000, the product of Samsung’s motto: ‘committed to quality?’ At 55 to 75 inches, the 2013 release retailed for over AUD$4,000 or UK3,000 pounds. Samsung is currently promoting its QLED as the ‘next innovation in TV…smarter than ever.’ Shipping starts this month. Be there or be square.

And the narcissist-in-chief? As ever, Assange is relying on state sanctuary. And he remains, like his brother-from-another-planet ally Mr Trump, frightened of Sweden.

 

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1. Later renamed, prosaically, HowardKennedyFSI.com.