According to George Washington, nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. Depending on your favourite mythology, George Washington, despite the wooden teeth, could never tell a lie, or, was secretly murdered by Adam Weishaupt, the first Illuminatus, who then served in his place as president, establishing Illuminati control over America. Considering the somewhat surreal time-lag colloquially known as editorial deadlines, I’m actually writing this column in September, nearly two months before the presidential elections... which are just about to happen. So, despite my above average discordian tendencies, I will refrain from commenting on the results and the ongoing fall-out that they’ve engendered.

However, as author Robert Anton Wilson has observed, contrary to Marx, not all of history is the simple story of class warfare. That, as we can observe, is merely a minor theme that heats up only at occasional critical points. Most of history, despite the twisted machinations, is really a war between competing groups of ruling elites – all of whom escalate politics into conspiracy when they feel threatened. As with the election in the US, the number of real and imaginary conspiracies increases exponentially during periods whey an old elite is fighting a new elite and more players are entering the game. Fear is a terrific tool in these situations, particularly if you can make the general public fear a phantom enemy and willingly abrogate most of their basic rights and freedoms in return for an even more nebulous notion of ‘safety’.

Real information is not a favourite tool in these situations because it tends to stimulate real thought. No, the more disinformation in circulation, the better. And it goes without saying that it’s always handy to provide a scapegoat, particularly one you can’t readily see, to distract the populous from whatever it is you’re really doing. But hey, conspiracy is contagious – and so is worrying about it.

They say that conspiracy is entropic behaviour since it blocks the flow of information. However as a potential antidote, your Mac, the Internet, and the ability to make friends with chaos can help to facilitate the rapid exchange of information – and none of the power elites really like that. It runs counter to their permanent interests and helps expose all those nasty things they hide out in the open, hoping none of us will notice. So, perhaps the only semblance of resistance left these days is an attempt to accelerate the flow of information, despite the raft of draconian efforts to impose censorship, blockage and police state legal restrictions on nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Obtaining real information can be difficult enough. Keeping it secure can be even more problematic. Broadband and wireless technologies, coupled with crap Microsoft security, can potentially make our hard-drives as transparent as a fish tank – and a lot more accessible when it comes to stealing our fish. According to a relatively recent survey of 350 UK organizations conducted by FT Research, the vast majority of computers that are disposed of are left unknowingly with confidential data on the hard drive. These days, loads of organizations try to take an ethical approach to the disposal of old machines by donating them to schools or charities. Others sell them on, and still others simply put them in landfills. The problem here is, according to the survey, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of all computers that are disposed of by organizations had been put through processes to ensure that data on their drives was unrecoverable. This means that somewhere, a massive three-in-four machines are being dumped with confidential data just waiting to be discovered.

There’s a common misunderstanding that reformatting a drive removes data: it doesn’t. Over 38 per cent of those users surveyed had reformatted the drive. But all they had succeeded in was a rather slipshod removal of the indexing of their files. And, if anyone’s interested, it’s relatively easy to get hold of tools these days to search for these files and retrieve them. Furthermore, overwriting data can be partially ineffective and only by overwriting data multiple times can any organization or user be sure that it’s unrecoverable. One sure way to ensure that data on your old computer is unrecoverable is by taking a hammer to the hard disk. Unfortunately, this does not comply with new EU directives and can’t be described as environmentally friendly.

Like most issues of technology, this phenomenon is a double-edged sword. On one hand, secret weirdie government types who root round in skips and landfills could potentially access confidential information held on your Mac. They could also get hold of business files, medical records and financial transactions – not to mention copyrighted material. On the other hand, if you have a suitably discordian nature, retrieving dumped computers from banks, government agencies or the media could provide ammo for keeping the resistance a step ahead of the warring elites. Which of these scenarios appeals to you depends on the nature of your reality tunnel and just how different you choose to think. As Dylan said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

According to musician and social pundit Carl Oglesby, conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means. That’s why politicians and their secret weirdie cohorts rely on the assumption that when it comes to deciding between what they say is so and what is actually so, the public will prefer to believe the former. It simply goes back to the point I made last month about ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoking hostility. Normal people lose sleep over non-linear dynamics.

Permanent interests are, by nature, permanent. However, the astonishing message of chaos is that deterministic models tend to produce what looks like random behaviour. All behaviour has an exquisitely fine structure – yet any piece of it seems indistinguishable from noise. By the time you read this, we’ll be close to knowing the results of the US election. Or, in some non-linear way, perhaps I already know it now. The interesting bit, as with all real information, is what are we going to do with it now? MW