Let us start this piece with a quick mental exercise. I want you all to imagine yourself living in the country I am about to describe. Imagine a country where the government collects phone records of Associated Press outlets. Imagine a government that has the ability to collect mass amounts of data on their private citizens. Imagine a government that has the ability to imprison, and sometimes assassinate their own citizens without the ruling of a court on the innocence or guilt of the person in question. Imagine a government that uses small, remote-controlled aircrafts with the ability to survey and collect images virtually anywhere in the world, to spy on their own citizens. Imagine a government that designates people as enemies who attempt to expose any of the aforementioned abilities of the government. One would imagine such a government is nothing but a dystopian fantasy that might be read in a George Orwell novel. The government I have described is the US government, a government which has gone from a steady progression into tyranny into a more accelerated one.
This kind of mental exercise is one that a group of journalists at the Global Post recently undertook. It is actually a brilliant exercise designed to show how a biased media can twist facts, spin words and specific phrases to make a situation seem either unimportant or highly exaggerated. The US mainstream media (as is most media outlets in general) are very biased towards the state, and it shows based upon how they report the facts. This is a problem because most of the American people have their ethics and logic spoonfed to them and do not know the difference between a media figure’s opinion and a fact. It is even more scary to consider that most of the mainstream media are sock puppets for the state, and that a small group of moguls with political interests are at the helm of these institutions that deliver the news to the American Public. This sort of biased brainwashing has been no more prevalent recently than in the case of Edward Snowden, the individual who leaked the NSA surveillance projects currently undertaken by the NSA against the American public as well as the rest of the world.
In a perfect world, Edward Snowden would be considered a hero, but we are far from living in a perfect world. In reality, Edward Snowden is being essentially crucified by the government, which today filed charges against Snowden for espionage . Snowden has also been attacked by many in the media, as well as citizens of the United States who blindly follow anything the state tells them. What was Edward Snowden’s crime? Let me fill you in…
Edward Snowden revealed criminal and thuggish activity undertaken by the US government, not only against the people of the United States, but against other people around the world. It is ironic that one of the revelations was the hacking of databases in Hong Kong and China, an issue in cyber politics that has recently defined Sino-US relations, with the US accusing the Chinese government of hacking into US databases and stealing Intellectual Property.
Some of the concocted arguments coming from Washington sock puppets as well as the equally controlled mainstream media are almost silly when you consider the ease in which they gathered support in such a short period of time. Those who are taking the legality argument say that Edward Snowden broke the law, and should be prosecuted for that distinct purpose. Fair enough, I cannot argue that what Edward Snowden did was legal. I can argue though, that legality should never be the ultimate panacea of a civil society. Walter E. Williams, a professor of Economics at George Mason University and an outspoken advocate of Liberty, could not have put the argument better when he said “How does something immoral, when done privately, become moral when it is done collectively? Furthermore, does legality establish morality? Slavery was legal; Apartheid was legal; Stalinist, Nazi, and Maoist purges were legal. Clearly, the fact of legality does not justify these crimes. Legality alone, cannot be the talisman of a moral people”.
Let us remember that this is the same United States that imprisoned Dr. Martin Luther King for acts of civil disobedience, for standing up for his rights as a human being living at the time in a system which said that it was legal to segregate people based on the color of their skin. It was legality that imprisoned the members of White Rose, a group of whistleblowers in Nazi Germany who were executed for distributing pamphlets describing the wrongdoings of their government. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for acts of civil disobedience and at the time of his imprisonment was called a terrorist by figures such as Margaret Thatcher. History again will be on the side of those who exposed the wrongdoing of criminals and their acts.
Another argument from the state is the same one that was used against Bradley Manning, which is the argument that Edward Snowden aided the enemy, revealing the ins and outs of an operation that is designed to protect us. This argument was silly when applied to the Manning case and even sillier when applied here. Even Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton said the notion was silly when he said “The argument that this sweeping search must be kept secret from the terrorists is laughable. Terrorists already assume this sort of thing is being done. Only law-abiding American citizens were blissfully ignorant of what their government was doing.”
There is also this dangerous idea that the logic of the state cannot be turned against the state. At least I have not seen such a thing happen. For example, an argument that is often heralded by supporters of the state often goes “if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about”. This assertion is remarkably asinine, especially after you flip it on it’s head and use the same logic against the state. If the state is conducting benevolent surveillance of us, they should have no problem with the people keeping surveillance of their activities as they should have nothing to hide. Their remarkable defensive posture should indicate to people that their benevolence is nothing but false. Also, as indicated in a recent piece by Glenn Greenwald, the US government has not utilized the process of going through the FISA courts to conduct these operations.
Why has it been so easy for the state to trample all over our privacy? The answer lies not in some giant conspiracy coming from the state, but the complacency of the citizens! It is physical, but more importantly mental complacency that will eventually contribute to our demise and the rise of a dystopia that only the biggest statesmen could dream of overseeing. This complacency ultimately derives from how we view governance and governments as well as our morals and ethics, which have ultimately been shaped and molded by the government. We need to remember that governments are made up of people, a minuscule segment of the population which is expected to represent the will of “the people”. The people in this sense, are a homogenized concept formulated by the state, despite the diversity in race, gender, religion, ideology, etc. We as a people can no longer allow our morals, ideals, and dogmas to be shaped by outside forces. We must recognize that whistleblowers are not villains, because they are on our side, and are protecting us against the biggest thugs in the world, government officials.
In conclusion, I would like to call out “American Exceptionalists” on their hypocrisy. I would like to change the wording and call these people “State Exceptionalists”, because blind faith towards the ability of politicians is not relegated just to the United States of America. I would like to specifically address the issue of American Exceptionalism because I am an American, or someone who was born on this landmass titled the United States. These Exceptionalists are the ones who constantly talk about how America is the beacon for democracy and civility, yet support programs that enforce and support ignorance! Ignorance is the antithesis of democracy, as an effective democracy is absolutely dependent upon an informed voting populace. If anything, we should be looking at these leaks as an opportunity to have a much needed debate on the ethics of government surveillance and secrecy, which would be the democratic thing to do. Instead, we have a state that has all the power to do what it wants, because the majority of the voting populace is caught up in a bickering political battle of partisanship, which has each side blindly supporting their people and never calling them out for policies in which they did not support while the opposition was in power.
We need to stop with this “it cannot happen here” attitude and realize that it can. One would have been crazy to suggest that President Obama would be more hawkish when it came to government privacy than his predecessor George W. Bush, but when you consider the fact that the tools that were created under the Bush administration were enhanced under the next administration, one should realize that it is no longer about Democrats and Republicans, but the natural inclinations of states to use the power available to them, as well as increase that power in order to make their job easier.
Is the United States heading towards a dystopian reality? Only time will tell, but for now all we can do is support those who are trying not to allow that reality to transpire. Now, more than ever, we need to support people like Edward Snowden, which we can start doing by signing a whitehouse.gov petition to pardon him. We can no longer settle for the brave acts of people to be in vain. We do not want to end up on the wrong side of history. Please show your support!