[Home]DefendAgainstParanoia

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Black helicopters, the US government allied with aliens, the secret service keeping track of you, listening to your phone calls, watching your spending patterns, the press covering everything up, big business collecting data on you. Is the world disintegrating?

AssumingGoodFaith defends against paranoia on a social scale. It helps to see Society as our common context, where we all can FosterEachOther.

Defense against paranoia depends on the following points:

The number one problem with paranoid world views is the lack of proof on either side. Nobody can disprove once and for all any of these rumors. If you believe but one of them, step by step you will have to distrust your politicians, your government, the press.

Usually, people rely on trust to assess news: Trust in the journal, the reviewers, the journalists. When there is no basis for this trust, news is just another a PhonyFlood of information. Maybe it is true, maybe it is not. Therefore, in order to defend against paranoia, people tend to discard such news. As a side effect, this causes society to react slowly to shocking truths.

You cannot have one without the other: The gullible create RedScare?. The skeptics deny actual events.

Checking the sources of news is tiresome and often left as an exercise to the reader (see GreatEskimoVocabularyHoax). This makes defense against paranoia more difficult: trust is reduced, more news gets discarded, and eventually the discarding process is questioned. People become more susceptible due to PeerPressure.

Defense against paranoia is further hampered by a natural tendency towards exaggeration. Newspapers sell better when the headlines read "3 people shot" rather than "270 million have uneventful day" (from SecretsAndLies). Of course there is corruption in politics. Of course police is entangled with organized crime. Of course the press is covering things up.

AssumingGoodFaith creates a sound base of cultivating positive relations with politicians, policemen and newspapers. So we better assume integrity and don't assume corruptness as the default.

As people have difficulties assessing risks, newspaper tend to reflect an exaggerated view of reality.

The more layers there are to organization the harder it is to discern reality, and therefore the more paranoia the prevails. When there are no clear gains in markets of scale diffuse is better, although the chronically paranoid may never give up. Mercantilism and monopolies of exclusion as a solution to paranoia (xenophobia) should be feared.

See also ViceAndVirtue.


I guess in the end we all rely on personal acquaintances. Not even that is good evidence, however... --AlexSchroeder

Goverments sometimes are proud of their intrusiveness relying on public apathy, see http://cryptome.org/no-hiding.htm the UK RIP act is touted as a way to end crime, yet should by all rights induce paranoia. Many legal and gov sites will show what powers are available; it is only in countries that do not have these laws that such monitoring is an abuse rather than the norm. --AndrewMcMeikan

Before computers, individuals like me used to rely on the postal service. Here in Switzerland it requires a court order to read my mail or to search my apartment. And worse, the owner of my appartment can probably just search my apartment whenever he wants. Therefore, all that protected my privacy is the law. If the law is considered bad, it will be changed sooner or later.

Public key cryptography just promised us that there might be a way to actually have perfect privacy in the digital realm: my home can still be searched with a court order but my hard disk cannot. The government is trying to prevent this. They want privacy protected by the law, because the law can make exceptions: if you are a suspected drug dealer, they want the ability to tap your phone, read your mail and search your home.

if you live in the united states your house cannot be searched without a court order, and any law that says otherwise will be overturned by the courts when challenged. However this doesn't mean people wont break this law/jurisprudence: practical safeguards are always better than legal safeguards if done with appropriate scope. Laws are always compromises and subject to change. Even if the government says they have a right (and/or they do without a right or presumed right) to look at your communications and wire-tap your phone, cryptography can make this impossible.

I don't see anything wrong with that. The situation remains essentially the same as it has been for 7000 years: there is no privacy except as granted by the law.

To complain about the government preventing perfect privacy is wasted time. The only interesting discussion is whether the laws protecting you are good or not. And that discussion is not limited to public key cryptography.

Here is an example for the importance of laws [1]: There was a scandal in the 1990s here in Switzerland about the "fichen affaire". Use your favorite search engine to find out about it. The secret service kept files on a large percentage of the population. When it was discovered, it was all handled more or less carefully. The only correct thing is to change the laws, enforce the laws, and provide people with the ability to sue.

you should be weary of overbroad EU laws, even if they proclaim good things. There is an attempt to sweepingly increase EU jurisdiction over everything and preempt local laws, and local jurisdictions are always much easier to mobilize to fight transgressions against local persons rights than entities of enormous magnitude.

In all of this, there is no need for paranoia. I am defending against paranoia, here. Some friends had parents with such files because they had visited East Germany at the time. They didn't disappear. They weren't tortured.

What I see here is some people fear the government and spread paranoia based on recent legal activities surrounding cryptography at the end of the 1990s: the Clipper chip in the US, cryptography forbidden in France, German funding for GPG, the Netherlands talking about Echelon. And what I claim is this: It has nothing to with cryptography but with legislation. How the courts rule. Just because it is possible to build total surveillance doesn't mean it is abused. It doesn't even mean that this is new. People have had to defend against this since ancient times.

There is no need for paranoia. -- AlexSchroeder

The analogue to the above for the USA would probably be Nixon's Enemies List. My teacher in high school said that some people were on the list simply for donating five dollars to certain organizations, and that he found himself on the list when he visited the Nixon Library. -- Wiki:NickBensema

While I find most of your comments agreeable I find some key assumptions opposite to mine and thus will always RecommendParanoia?, not ExtremeParanoia? but an awareness and an attempt to KeepSecretsSecret?, laws come and go, goverments come and go. But once a secret is breached it is gone forever, I choose to do some things in private and dislike the surveillance. To keep some actions private does RequireParanoia?, not my whole life, just the bits that I want to have as my own and no-one elses. --AndrewMcMeikan


Is this another example of a FalseDichotomy? That in rejecting paranoia, one must embrace VulnerabilityToCommunity, AssumeGoodFaith, or even more extreme forms of ProNoia?[hostgator coupon] [kata mutiara] [Jasa SEO]

Can there not be a middle ground in which one takes an agnostic view towards the world and it's intentions towards oneself? In which one recognizes that, though the world may not be out to get you, neither is it necessarily your friend--that it may be, largely, indifferent to any given individual, and that precautions against that indifference might not be paranoical?

For example, I don't need to believe the Fed is out to get me in order to believe that, in its concern for the nation's (the world's?) macroeconomic health that it might make money supply decisions that hurt some of my financial interests.

Further, that there are people who harbor me no ill will is not a proof against the possibility that there are people who do (or to whom any ill that befalls me is coincidental--think the robber who might, if he could, steal my car and hope that my insurance makes up for the loss, therefore stealing only a little from me [higher premiums] and a lot from the insurance company).

--JoeAnderson

It seems to be a misunderstanding. Perhaps this page should be reworked. What I often see is that certain notions are accepted easily just because people cannot disprove them. What I tried to explain on this page is that the use of common sense should distinguish between plausible and implausible threats. I think to argue that in order to DefendAgainstParanoia "one must embrace VulnerabilityToCommunity" is a [Non Sequitur]. -- AlexSchroeder

Common sense says, "Trust all men, but cut the cards." AssumeGoodFaith, but don't leave your front door hanging open and the family silver on the table when you go out of town. Assume that government (or at least democratic government) acts in what it perceives as the best interests of the citizens, but speak up about what you think your best interests are. Assume that government will not abuse its power, but be wary of unwarranted expansions of that power and punish abuses when they do occur. Trust the press, but read widely and remember JaysonBlair?. -- KatherineDerbyshire

But that's what the page says:

   Defending against paranoia is to AssumeGoodFaith on a social scale.

I took some liberty (or was sloppy, take your pick) in substituting "embrace VulnerabilityToCommunity" in place of "AssumeGoodFaith" to be sure.

So, since there does seem to be an unwarranted leap going from "defend against paranoia" to its opposite, pronoia, then perhaps the argument does need to be re-worked, or dismantled.


Much paranoid behavior has roots in self-aggrandizement.

The government does not tap my phone or read my e-mail because they do not care what I say or think. For the most part, this is true of the e-mails and phone calls that I make to the government, too.

I read the news but ignore most of it because there are no sources and because there is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing I can do about wars half a world away, the presidential election, or the latest round of gutting of the environmental regulations. Most of my news interest is on the weather, which I can do something about insofar as I can plan my week around it, and things that might affect the price of corn, beans, and beef, which I can do something about by timing the market.


DavidBrin's TransparentSociety is a good idea: We can DefendAgainstParanoia by demanding accountability and openness from our leaders. Society may not be out to get us, but the people acting secretly in our name should be accountable to society. -- DavidForrest
Some time ago in my blog in wrote an article on conspiracies which is related heavily to paranoia. Pulling out the key issues with defending against it were;

Now that it is reproduced and cleaned it up it sounds more about recognising paranoia. However, diagnosis is the first step in treating a problem or mounting a defence.

One last point. Some conspiracies are real. I cited the Holocaust, not to be controversial but because it's well documented and accepted (except by some other conspiracists). German society at the time was really out to get them at a fully governmental, authoritarian level. -- AaronPoeze


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