This is Issue 68.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world.
Today’s news, fermented:
***content warning: discussion of settler colonial violence
On my list of news-reading priorities, security and surveillance admittedly isn’t high. It feels, I think, further away than other crises. Certainly people—and organizers—are impacted tremendously by the surveillance state, and the governments and corporations behind it. Perhaps my inattention is a testament to the industry’s stealth.
Before I jump into the surveillance-related news item that caught my eye, here are a couple other relevant entities:
MediaJustice’s campaign #EyesOnAmazon, which targets the corporation’s harmful facial recognition software, too often used to police Black and brown people
An article from last year about a released trove of emails documenting surveillance of labor and student organizers
LittleSis (the opposite of Big Brother), a free-to-use database that maps people in power and their connections to each other
Ok, onto the news.
The dataset includes “more than 50,000 phone numbers that, since 2016, are believed to have been selected as those of people of interest by government clients of NSO Group.”
Essentially, NSO Group makes it easy for governments to surveil opponents, either in government or amongst civilians (think organizers, journalists, revolutionaries, etc). Its flagship product is:
“Pegasus, spying software – or spyware – that targets iPhones and Android devices. Once a phone is infected, a Pegasus operator can secretly extract chats, photos, emails and location data, or activate microphones and cameras without a user knowing.”
The Guardian, which has a history of breaking news and confirming whistleblowing like Snowden’s, has released an investigative series on the details of the leak. It’s good that this horrifying stuff is out in the open.
But! A sentence at the beginning of the latest article in the series gave me pause. It goes without saying (I hope) that any news about what the government of “Israel” is doing must be taken in stride—this is a settler colonial government that has made its name by displacing and murdering Palestinians. And so:
“The reports come as diplomatic pressure mounts on Israel over concerns the government has enabled abuses by repressive states around the world by granting NSO export licences for the spyware.”
I’m sorry, is there no irony here? The way this sentence is framed, it separates “Israel” and “repressive states,” as though “Israel” is not following the repressive state playbook more or less to the letter.
At best, we cannot take the ‘task force’ to manage the Pegasus/NSO situation, which is the subject of the article where the above appears, seriously. At worst—one repressive government is taking the reins (yes, that is an intentional Pegasus joke, please laugh) in order to protect other repressive governments.
Switching gears a little, another example of repressive governments trying to distance themselves from other, similar governments: John Kerry is sounding the alarm that time is running out to address the climate crisis.
I’ll give the US’s storied history of sabotaging climate action more space another time soon, but for now: it’s nice that someone in the US government is publicly freaking out about the ever-increasing catastrophe on our hands. That said, given this country’s history and present of doing the fossil fuel industry’s bidding, is there any reason we can value a press statement from a US higher-up as anything more than that?
These two issues may be disparate (although you can be sure the fossil fuel industry does its fair share of surveillance), but the conclusion in looking at each is the same.
We can’t trust governments with track records of oppression and corporate deference—we have to dismantle the empire.
Below, a raccoon, potentially embarrassed by the actions of settler states.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
If I really think about it, nothing's been the same since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to step back from being full-time, officially working royals.
The great Sussexit of 2020 happened in January 2020 and weeks later, the entire world came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. Coincidence? I think not. Everybody's been theorizing about the COVID-19 being manufactured in some lab in Wuhan, China when really it was Prince Harry behind it so he could put his grand plan of launching the entire British Royal Family into disarray and dismantling it before paying out reparations to us former colonies and living a quiet life in Montecito, California with his hot wife, two children, and multiple animals into motion. He wanted to make sure he had an audience for all of this and what better, more efficient way of ensuring that than a global pandemic? Anyway, now that Phase 1 of the plan -- the Oprah interview -- is complete, it's on to Phase 2: the release of an official memoir written by the ginger himself. OOP!
According to Vanity Fair, Prince Harry is and has been writing a memoir about his life, covering topics such as his childhood, military service, and marriage to Meghan. The memoir is slated for release in late 2022 and Prince Harry describes it as "a firsthand account of my life that's accurate and wholly truthful." You know the fam in London are already tightly clenching their bootyholes in anticipation of being raked over the coals again as they were in the Oprah interview. The royal rota have also started melting down on Twitter over it, demanding that the Sussexes be stripped of their titles and naturally blaming Meghan for the Very Adult Prince's choices in life so that definitely confirms this to be true.
Right now, it seems like everybody expects this memoir to be "hugely damaging" to the royal family. According to reports, Prince Harry didn't tell anybody, including his dad, about writing this memoir and it's been chaotic ever since the news broke. Of course they have been considering they have everything to lose when this comes out. Having watched the Oprah interview, Harry doesn't strike me as someone who is looking to completely raze the palaces to the ground. Since marrying Meghan, Harry seems to have found a new sense of agency that he hadn't enjoyed previously and being part of the institution of monarchy aside, I think he's trying to work through the complexities of his toxic family and is doing so very publicly. He stressed many times to Oprah that he enjoys a good relationship still with his grandparents and would be open to reconciliation with his father and brother, given certain conditions. But no one seems to want to extend that olive branch to the Sussexes. And as we've seen since the interview, the royal family -- and the bureaucracy of the royal family -- have only doubled down on their response and treatment of Meghan and Harry. Given the reactions that we've seen from royal commentators so far, I'd say that we can expect similar behavior for the entire year in the lead up to this memoir's release. Joy!