Since becoming famous, Whitfield Diffie has spent much of his public life promoting privacy rights. He is among a small number of people in America who speak with high visibility about the loosely leftist world-view that might be called hacker ethic or anarchism or anti-authoritarian philosophy.
A stereotype about the American left is that it is rigidly egalitarian. It seems to me that that this chestnut overlooks the petulant elitism of the hacker
movement in its most general sense. In an interview, Diffie once said,
The things talked about in conversation at MIT, the people who were talking about them took themselves seriously. If they had good ideas on them they would recognise them and work on these things. That seems to me an immensely important attitude. That really is one of the things that separates good intellects from mediocre intellects, is the understanding that the intellect matters, that you matter. If you have ambition, you might not achieve anything, but without ambition, you are almost certain not to achieve anything, if you don't believe you can achieve something.
Diffie is quite a rebel to say that, because eliltism is viewed harshly in American society. It may actually be the gravest faux pas a person can commit in America. The Jargon File concurs with Diffie, however:
Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. (under
Quotation is taken from the
Interview with Whitfield Diffie on the Development of Public Key Cryptography, Conducted by Franco Furger in Palo Alto, 1992. Posted at http://www.itas.fzk.de/mahp/weber/diffie.htm