When the news broke over the weekend that the government has been enlisting the help of Google, Facebook, Apple, and other members of the Internet Justice League (or rather, Legion of Doom) to monitor the online activities of every American citizen, I felt like a child inadvertently catching his parents putting the presents under the Christmas tree. It was a sick and shocking confirmation of something that we had always been subconsciously aware of and feared. And now here is the truth, kicking us directly in the face while wearing jackboots. Santa Claus isn’t real and the government really has been watching our every move. Shocking, but not surprising.
I can only hope that the NSA doesn’t think less of me for all the porn. High school was hard.
For those paying attention, the omnipresent surveillance certainly clarifies a few things. For example, it now makes total sense how we were not only able to identify the two bombers of the Boston Marathon out of a crowd of thousands, release all of their personal information to the media, and apprehend them, but to do all of this in less than TWENTY HOURS after the initial bombing. I have full faith that the Boston police force is perfectly competent at their jobs, but you don’t get those kind of results from “good police work”.
It also solves the mystery of how Facebook has an almost absurdly accurate system of knowing what ads to put on our page when we log on. And here I was thinking that we were just good friends, Facebook.
Which leads me to the justification for this kind of privacy infringement. It is allegedly done in the name of our national security. Proponents of the NSA like to say that tracking citizens is fundamental to prevent domestic terrorism. Which totally makes sense, except…domestic terrorism still happens. If the true purpose is to protect its citizens, then how come a national event like the Boston Marathon is blown up by two guys who clearly had no idea what they were doing? How come we can’t figure out who’s sending ricin-laced letters to politicians? How come we can’t go two weeks in America without some random wacko picking up a gun and randomly murdering a group of people? How come Robb Stark, his wife, and his mother can be brutally murdered at the Red Wedding and Walder Frey is still alive?
Sorry. I’m still bitter.
The answer, of course, is that the purpose of the surveillance is not to PREVENT tragedy and terrorism. The purpose is to assure that if anyone errs on the wrong side of our government, then that person will quickly find his or her way into a police car, a black van, or an early grave. Right, Bradley Manning? With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before reading a news report that Edward Snowden, the original source of the NSA leak, has died of a high-velocity bullet accidentally lodging itself into his brain and his body spontaneously bursting into flames.
The worst part of this whole revelation (and American culture in general) is the sickening realization that there is literally nothing that can be done about it. The most that can be done has already been done. Someone has torn off the hood of deception and screamed “LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENING!” to the perpetually deaf ears of the unwashed masses. Any mainstream source of information has either downplayed the NSA leak or called for the arrest of the “traitor” who “compromised our national security”. The only treason that Edward Snowden has committed has been against the people who are truly in charge of our country: the politicians, the media, and the corporations. Why else would the modern Republican party, which has slandered Obama for an ever-increasing list of ludicrous charges, remained mostly silent about this issue? Because they’re just as complicit in it as anyone else at the top. There’s nobody in charge that’s there to truly fight for the basic privacy of our normal non-corporate citizens.
My only hope is that enough people, after seeing the government putting the presents under the tree, will call into question the other Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies that have been told to us over the year. But I fear it’s a vain hope. After all, nobody cares. American history has proven, time and time again, that we citizens are willing to sacrifice each and every freedom that we have just to sleep a little sounder at night. Say what you will about living in fear, but at least it’s living. So go back to bed, America. In the words of George Carlin: “They call it the American Dream because you need to be asleep to believe it.”