Archives for category: privacy
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BruceS on Snowden as Solzhenitsyn

the mind reels. This turns the conventional wisdom on its head and inside out. We can all be Snowden, or Assange, or Manning, if we choose to. All three of those men are far braver than I.

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We are useful idiots

This is one of the things that has been bothering me about this whole episode, that it isn’t JUST the NSA/CIA/FBI doing all this spying.It is the collusion between them and corporate America, and the lapdog media, that is truly undermining our country and depriving us of our rights. Rights that now, they are trying to convince us, we never really had in the first place – that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are just a useful illusion. From their point of view, the only rights we truly have are the ones they choose, in their eminent wisdom, to allow us to have.

And so what do we do? Nothing. We take to Twitter, and Facebook, find amusing pictures of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, or whatever, post snarky, witty little slogans on them and let it go at that. Then we go on to be distracted by our devices and look for the latest celebrity news, or funny and/or shocking story, to divert us until we are momentarily provoked by another outrage. Then the moment passes.

Meanwhile, the people of Syria, of Brazil, of Turkey, of Egypt, put us to shame with the seriousness with which they express their outrage. They take up arms, or take to the streets, in (sometimes misguided, admittedly) efforts to express their discontent, and make it something tangible, something real that their governments can’t help but notice. In the case of Egypt, they may want to be careful what they pray for, so to speak. The choice between ruled by a radical Islamist government and being ruled by a military cabal is not much of a choice at all. But, the point is, they are DOING something. Putting their very lives on the line, in some cases for years now, to take to the streets, squares and parks and give voice to their views.

Can we draw from their example? I have my doubts. We have forgotten that the streets, parks, and squares belong to US. That we have ceded control of these things, or in some cases had them taken away from us, but we can always take them back. One of the most interesting photos I have seen from the past couple of weeks in Brazil was one of a factory producing HUNDREDS of masks resembling the one worn by V in V for Vendetta. That movie was just OK, but its effects have been astonishing. Maybe at first we’ll have to wear the masks, to avoid being singled out, separated and individually crushed. But in time, if enough of us take to the streets, wearing masks or not, we can realize and take action on the fact that the true power resides in US. That whatever power we think we don’t have is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we have ceded it, for good reasons, to a larger force which has our best interests at heart. This is a LIE, and maybe, hopefully, enough of us are beginning to become aware that we are constantly being lied to that we can begin to leave that way of thinking behind and move toward a way of living together that allows all of us to realize our full potential. Maybe.

Are we ready to hoist the black flag?

And start slitting metaphorical throats yet? If this story is true, and if it gets any traction, we should be. What is it going to take for we complacent, complicit children of privilege to take to the streets? Our brothers and sisters in Taksim Square and Tahrir Square have shown us how to do it. Are we ready to stop admiring and applauding them from a distance, and follow them into the streets? I’m ready if you are. If you aren’t outraged, at least a little bit, you simply aren’t paying attention.
http://m.cnet.com/news/nsa-admits-listening-to-us-phone-calls-without-warrants/57589495

Mr. Simon et al –

I have been reading the posts here over the past week, the comments (at least a lot of them – enough to be aware of the general lines of argument), and consider the debate you have been facilitating here to be valuable. I appreciate the fact that you have been thoughtfully considering the various points of view expressed here and being dismissive, though respectfully, when necessary, and engaging and informative when warranted.

However, I am in fundamental disagreement with some of your lines of defense. James Bamford was just on the Charlie Rose show, and something he said resonated with me and hopefully helped to coalesce some of my thoughts on the subject. We’ll see. Bamford mentioned that the NSA uses a lot of contractors to do some of the footwork, if you will, to analyze the data they collect, including listening to the calls which are recorded. What came to mind for me when I heard this was Eisenhower’s old chestnut warning us of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Today, though, that phrase needs to be amended to be the military-industrial-technological complex. Back in the ancient days of UNIVAC, the capabilities we have today were simply unimaginable. Moore hadn’t even come up with his law yet, and the fact that the room-sized computers of those days could be compressed to something which fits in your hand couldn’t even be conceived of, even by the most prescient. In sci-fi maybe, but not in reality. I’m going to try not to veer too far into the paranoid here, but the dangers of which Eisenhower attempted to warn us have only increased as the collusion between government, military and industry has deepened over the ensuing years. I guess you would have to add the media in there too. Along with the other three, their reach and capabilities have dramatically increased over the decades. It is such an obvious point to make, but I’ll make it anyway, that as the availability of methods of media delivery that encourage more thoughtful consideration (i.e. newspapers) has decreased, the proliferation of methods which more insidiously play to our emotions (i.e. today’s teevee and the internet) have increased, and continue to increase seemingly ad infinitum. This collusion and cooperation has led us into a situation, these days, where individual liberty and freedom are more threatened than ever before.

So, on to my main points of contention. We are all complicit in our own co-optation. We have gradually sacrificed our privacy on the altar of convenience. Convinced by the powers that be that they have our best interests at heart, and seduced by the enticements they offer, we have collectively said “ehhhhhh, OK” as our rights have gradually been eroded. We do not live in a democracy in any sense of the word – Jeffersonian, Grecian or otherwise. We live in some weird, oppressive combination of a plutocracy, an oligarchy, and the kind of corporate capitalist state of which Marx tried to warn us. I am not a Marxist, or any other kind of -ist really (though I do believe at times that we are in the late stages of capitalism as foretold by Marx, and elucidated on by Frédéric Jameson among others). At least, I don’t see myself that way. A few years ago, I explored the back alleys and thoroughfares of anarchism, never completely buying into that point of view but learning along the way. One of the main things I brought away from those explorations is to trust no institution, regardless of how convincing they are that they have my best interests at heart. The bigger the organization or institution, the less they can be trusted. This, to me, is axiomatic.

In the time since I started this piece this morning, the news has broken that yes, all along, the NSA has been not just collecting that supposedly innocuous metadata, but the actual calls themselves. The whole facade of legitimacy is crumbling, and the justifications that it is for our own good, necessary in these troubled times, ring hollow. I never believed them anyway, Is THIS revelation, if true, the piece of information that will provoke Ma & Pa America to get genuinely, justifiably fucking OUTRAGED? We’ll see. I have my doubts. But in a way I consider myself fortunate to live in such interesting times.

Necessary links:

http://m.cnet.com/news/nsa-admits-listening-to-us-phone-calls-without-warrants/57589495

http://davidsimon.com/to-and-fro-and-real-respect-to-mr-shirky-for-checking-in-regardless/comment-page-1/#comment-9178

http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/12/check-agree-government-snooping