Trump and Comstock

Among the experts, the séance seems settled: communication with the dead is still a perilous, one-way business. That is not to say that our efforts to make contact with the departed and dismembered are not sometimes noble and glorious efforts. It's just to say that it's hard work, all that digging, all that taptaptapping, all that listening. It remains what it always was—difficult to pick out a true signal from the other side.

Philosophers know this. Poets know this. Edgar Allan Poe certainly knew this. And now the FBI is again learning this.

It's not easy to get at encrypted information.

The news: Apple is either or both refusing to help FBI agents trying to crack into Syed Farook's iPhone—Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 of Farook's work colleagues at a holiday party on December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino before being killed by police—or saying it is technically impossible, or that it could have been possible had a state official not reset the password remotely in the days after the terrorist attacks, which, effectively, eliminated the chance to do an auto backup at a wifi-friendly location.

Before Trump there was...
The reaction: Donald Trump has simplified the complexities by calling for an Apple boycott (which is kinda how the whole human mess is said to have had its genesis).

But before New Yorker Donald Trump argued against the sanctity of the sealed electronic envelope, New Yorker Anthony Comstock, founder in 1872 of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, argued against the sanctity of the sealed envelope envelope. His target was not the terrorist who plotted death behind firewalls, but the pornographer who could disseminate obscene material behind the privacy of the mails.

...Anthony Comstock
"Secrecy marks these operations. In the darkness of the attic-room, or basement or cellar, is the favorite salesroom," Comstock wrote in Traps for the Young. As John Durham Peters teaches in Speaking into the Air, Comstock welcomed a return to the practice of supervised mails.

"We are almost ready to adopt the practice of the Roman Catholics, who in their schools and colleges require all letters to be opened in the presence of a priest or teacher," Comstock to the New York Times is quoted in Peters.

What was a concern about using images of the body to impair young souls has, in our time, transformed into a concern about using words and images to separate souls from bodies. Comstock wanted mail opened; Trump wants an email account opened. Yes, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The probe into Paris Attacks in November reportedly uncovered a text message on a cell phone of one of the attackers that led police to the terror cell's leader, who was subsequently killed in a firefight.

Indeed, forensic archeology is big these days. It's long been known that getting a dead man to talk is not easy. It wasn't forseen that getting his phone to open up would prove just as difficult.


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