Tuesday, June 11, 2013
This is the Moment
Anyone following the gradual transformation of the United States from an open society into a police-state has probably been mainlining the Greenwald-Snowden-NSA leaks case like a junkie shooting up China White.
For those who missed it, Edward Snowden, a private contractor working for the NSA, leaked several key documents which conclusively proved that the National Security Agency not only spies on all Americans’ electronic communications, but that they have the full-fledged support of the major tech companies, such as Yahoo!, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, among others.
This has been potent stuff, stuff that pretty much confirms what a lot of hard-core civil libertarians such as myself have suspected about the United States over the last few years: America has been drifting towards turnkey totalitarianism, using the War on Terror as the excuse to roll back civil liberties, and taking advantage of technology1 to create (in Snowden’s wonderful phrase) “the architecture of oppression”.
Something Edward Snowden said, in the Glenn Greenwald interview where he revealed himself as the source of the NSA leaks, struck me hard: “The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change.” (Video here, quote at 10:49. Also embedded below.)
He’s right, and it’s my fear too. In fact, it ought to be the fear of anyone who cares about the future of the United States as a representative democracy that stands for basic human rights and against oppression. If the people of the United States do not stand up to their government now, right now, in the face of this blatant violation of all the core principles of the American Constitution, then we’re screwed. If nothing is done now, then the next stop—inevitably, irrevocably—is police-state fascism American-style.
How’s this so? Here’s my argument:
As Lincoln famously put it, the American government is a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The American government is supposed to serve the people, and exist for the people’s benefit—not the other way around. This ideal is what inspires belief in the American experiment. Hell, this ideal is what makes America “exceptional”: A government of the people, by the people, for the people, and answerable to the people, is why America is unique, and “better” than other forms of government.
The goal and prerequisite of every totalitarian nation, on the other hand, is the control of the citizenry, and it’s enslavement for the benefit of the State. In totalitarian regimes, the people very existence is for the benefit of the State, which thus treats them like so much cattle: Efficiently milking them until they are sent to the slaughter. World War II and the Cold War were fought by the United States and the Western Democracies precisely so as to defeat totalitarian regimes bent on enslaving more people under their yoke. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were the epitome of these totalitarian states—and they could not exit without the Totalitarian Two-Step: Control of the citizenry, and enslaved exploitation of the citizenry thereafter.
Now, if knowledge is control, then Snowden’s NSA leaks prove how the American government is gaining more and more control over the lives of U.S. citizens. We have been seeing this transformation ever since 9/11, and the beginning of the Global War on Terror. Civil liberties have been eroded for the sake of “protecting us from the terrorists”—with the result that the government has been gaining more and more knowledge of the citizenry. This knowledge of the citizenry means control of the citizenry by the government. By applying a panopticon model2 to the people—which is what these NSA revelations prove—then every man, woman and child in America is not only controlled by the U.S. government: They are effectively prisoners of the U.S. government.
This is what the Greenwald-Snowden-NSA leaks mean. They are proof positive that the U.S. government has carried out the first step in the Totalitarian Two-Step: Total knowledge (and thus control) of the citizenry.
The next step in this dance is of course enslaved exploitation of the citizenry for the benefit of the State.
If the American people acquiesce to what their government is doing with this panopticon model of total information awareness and control over the people—that is, if the Snowden revelations do not spark mass protests and serious political fallout that makes Watergate and McCarthism look like midgets in a lineup—then the government will have no scruples about exploiting the people for their own benefit.3
Therefore, each American citizen—you who reads this—has a choice to make: You can either fight back against the government’s pursuit of total knowledge and thus control over you. Or you can acquiesce. Because it is up to you—not the political leadership—to change the direction of the American government.
If nothing changes after these revelations, then the people running the American republic—the famed “1%”—will realize that the American people are cattle to be milked for their resources, and then slaughtered in an orderly fashion.
Only resistance now will prevent the government from enslaving and exploiting the population for its own benefit, thus succeeding in turning Lincoln’s adage on its head: A people of the government, by the government, for the government.
The American public’s reaction and response to these revelations will determine which road the United States is taking.
1. The NSA leaks point up something interesting about the communications technology revolution of the last 20 years: Just as these communications breakthroughs—the internet, mobile telephony, video-conferencing (Skype, et al.), and the other digital breakthroughs—had a revolutionary impact on the civilian population, this new tech was bound to have a revolutionary impact on government as well. The mistake was to think that the communications technology would open society and the government. In fact, the communications revolution has paradoxically created atomized social enclaves completely detached from one another, with one over-arching power—the government—enveloping all. The NSA leaks points to how the government, in this over-arching role, is using this power to control the citizenry.
2. The argument that “you shouldn’t be worried about the government violating your privacy if you’re not doing anything wrong” is idiotic. Most bodily functions—sex, defecating, bathing—are innocent activities we have a right to expect to carry out privately. Most legal services are carried out behind a veil of privacy called “attorney-client privilege”—again, innocent activities which nevertheless we’d feel outraged if they were revealed or spied upon. The fact is, the vast majority of actions and words which we demand to be hidden behind a veil of privacy are completely innocent. And they have a right to be private, even if they are innocuous. (And BTW, anyone stupid enough to argue the corollary to this mantra—that the power to monitor by the government does not mean that that power will be abused (such as happened in this case)—ought to seriously consider sterilization, as a service to future generations’ average IQ points.)
3. Some would argue that the U.S. government already exploits and enslaves the American population. Certainly the huge prison population—the largest on the planet, on both an absolute and per capita basis—is evidence of this enslavement. And insofar as exploitation is concerned, you could argue that the debt slavery of students, ex-spouses, health insurance consumers, and others are each a form of exploitation. And what about the Army Reservist who got called up in 2003, then stop-lossed for the next decade and counting? American neo-slavery is something that exists today, and which I’ll be touching on in the near-future.