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A Google executive once said: "If you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet." But how does one liberate a society that already has the Internet? Publicly, modern government adheres to the twin ideals of institutional transparency and personal privacy. In reality, while citizens are subjected to mass surveillance, government practice goes unchecked. A new generation has taken to the Internet to defend the right to governance without secrets. From Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks to LulzSec and Anonymous, from the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative to the revelations of Edward Snowden, a coalition is breaking through the secrecy that lies at the core of the modern state. The story gets more complex when open government is contrasted with black transparency, and when a geopolitical rift between the West and Russia becomes the dividing line for whistleblowers and transparency activists seeking refuge. What is transparency for one may be propaganda for the other.
Why do recent depictions of government secrecy and surveillance so often use images suggesting massive size and scale: gigantic warehouses, remote black sites, numberless security cameras? Drawing on post-War American art, film, television, and fiction, Matthew Potolsky argues that the aesthetic of the sublime provides a privileged window into the nature of modern intelligence, a way of describing the curiously open secret of covert operations. The book tracks the development of the national security sublime from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and places it in a long history of efforts by artists and writers to represent political secrecy.

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