What if Ed Snowden ends up benefiting the state? What if having the NSA’s watchful eye exposed brings a cloud of fear over its captives? What if the captives begin to tremble at having their past Internet activities subject to scrutiny and exposure? What if they began to look at the Internet with suspicion and then break social networking ties and cease expressing opinions—political and otherwise?
“Aren’t you afraid?”
One of the comments I occasionally receive from readers of articles I have written is, “Aren’t you afraid to put your name on those words?” My response has been, “Look, since no one is anonymous on the Internet, I might as well use my real name.”
I used to say that out of a belief the state was watching. I had no evidence it was, but I suspected.
After an article of mine was published, one particular email exchange with an anonymous reader sounded threatening. So I did a simple search on the email address and found the name, address, and phone number of the sender. Turns out he had used that email as a contact for an organization he had joined. I responded with his personal info and never heard from him again.
So, if I could make a connection using simple resources, I assumed the state, with its vast resources and partners could make connections in murkier data. And with the recent revelations, it turns out my assumption was right.
The near future: A time to atone
Because I never created alternate selves in order to post anonymously, I am not concerned about a state-generated profile that links me to Internet comments and emails—my comments already have my name attached to them.
But I’m certain many are concerned that the spindly fingers of the state will connect comments with the commentators. And all of those off-color remarks, now deemed offensive by the state, will be evidence of guilt.
Guilt of what? No one knows. The crimes have not been defined—violations of laws that will never exist. Nevertheless, on some day in the future, the state will take action, with offenders rousted into the public square to be roasted, so to speak, by neighbors and instigators who will demand atonement—a cathartic experience of the Maoist kind.
Neighbors, afraid of their own pasts, will eagerly show allegiance to the state and its minions. Better to extinguish another’s light than have their own snuffed out.
But what about the instigators and associated minions? Certainly they all made similar comments in the past. However, they will claim they made such comments only to expose the philistines in their midst. What horrible things they wrote in the pursuance of their duties, how heavily the task weighed upon their shoulders!1
An unrealistic, dystopian view of the future? I really do not think so, especially given history and our current situation and likely prospects.
While I never lived a dual life on the Internet, I do desire privacy. But now some sleazy NSA employee has access to that which only my wife knows. It is as if, in the name of national security, the man behind me in line at the pharmacy counter takes a few steps closer to note my discussions. And with that knowledge, he builds a profile to hold over me.
Will he use it against me? There is no way to know. Will I act differently knowing he has that information—a tacit blackmail, so to speak? Maybe. Just maybe.
That nosy man has now done the same to all of us—in all aspects of our lives. And folks who would typically throw verbal, as well as likely physical, fits of rage, demanding privacy, remain quiet, saying nothing. Nothing.
Odd, isn’t it?
For some reason, folks still believe in an altruistic state—an entity with good intentions that, on rare occasions, goes bad. But those folks are either short on history or long on the American myth. And as we find more instances of the state using its ill-gotten data to further its singular goal of power over the individual, it becomes ever more apparent the state is an entity unto itself, completely separate from the masses it controls and confines.
The phrase, “of the people, by the people, for the people,” was a lie when it was written—if it was ever true. Any tie the state had to the people has long been broken. Yet, myths tend to live long after proven false because folks would rather believe the myth than acknowledge the reality.
This is not a right-left or a Republican-Democrat issue.
Conservative radio is bewildered: how to deal with the continuing revelations of state subterfuge? And now some of the masses are beginning to question the validity of the spying state. Such discussions could easily weaken, if not destroy, the entity both the right and left worship.
So radio hosts invite the dog-and-pony show of Republican legislators to discuss the issue. Sure, there is the sop to liberty, but the discussion is quickly brought back into line: Spying is not the issue; it is the party in power. Return a Republican to the White House and your data is secure. Trust us.
However, the state is greater than the sum of its two parties. What of the Hegelian dialectic that our two-party system only strengthens the state? Neither party wants to reduce spying, and neither party stands for liberty. They simply want the scraps of power the state provides to the party in office. Both parties serve the state, not their so-called constituents.
A glimmer of hope
Will folks ignore, what is for many, their first glimpse of the all-powerful state—an entity seeking to invade all aspects of their lives? Will they live under a cloud of fear, trembling and changing their routines? For a while? Yes. But in the long run? No.
Where is that tipping point—the point when the state is deemed illegitimate by the man on the street? It is hard to tell. But the time is coming. So we must continue to keep the abhorrent activities of the state in full view. And we must continue to remind folks that their pasts and futures can be outlawed by the stroke of a pen.
We all owe Ed Snowden thanks. His revelations exposed some vile truths. But he can only take things so far. The rest of us must continue educating others—we must continue shouting that liberty is an option—if only we all withdraw our support from the state.
What if that happened? The advent of liberty would follow.
Jim Fedako (send him email) is a business analyst and homeschooling father of seven who lives in Lewis Center, OH.
1“The trick used by Himmler…was very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!” Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Bonus Link 2 52% support Obama using executive orders to bypass Congress on his legislative goals. Hey, if people are for it, why not a dictatorship?
Bonus Link 3 Stopping the NSA.