Thursday, 6 June 2013

I’m innocent, so why worry?

That is probably the response of most people to the revelations of massive snooping on our private communications by the Obama Administration. The corollary to our collective abandonment of our civil protections in the name of Protect Us At All Costs (Unless It Entails Gun Restrictions), this dangerous reaction is perfect for creating a full-fledged police state—led by phony constitutionalist Barack Obama who turns out to be a creepy authoritarian.

It’s a mistake to think that ‘police state’ can only mean Nazi Germany or Saddam’s Iraq where people disappear from their beds, swing from lampposts, or are boiled in oil in secret dungeons. East Germany was also one, and I’m sure for most citizens who minded their own business and did exactly what they were told, it felt fairly benign with guaranteed employment, cheap (albeit depressing) living, and an austere but secure old age. But as we now know, pretty much everyone was spying on pretty much everyone else, the state knew what time of day you cut a fart and how loudly, and dissent was crushed before the dissenter half knew that he was ready to object (sort of like the NYPD’s approach to Muslims).

Technology now has made possible far vaster state control of our lives, and the idea that one can escape its claws through obedience is dangerously naïve. As Juan Cole outlines today, giving the government such Stati-like access to our private affairs means that the powerful become essentially untouchable as anyone who dares to challenge them can be exposed and crushed. It’s not just private citizens who need to be protected from state agents but also (and especially) other powerful players through whom our social and political conflicts can be manifest.

Look at how the Chinese ruling elite operates within a system of ostensible party unanimity: the inevitable conflicts that arise over policy and group interests play out in a cutthroat world of intrigue and are resolved through ‘anti-corruption’ campaigns, to which all are subject because all are and must be corrupt as a condition of their power and influence. It’s a great system for maintaining the benefits of the Chinese model within a miniscule group of the privileged class, but we like to think our country has somewhat nobler goals.

Obama’s cynical arrogance in defending this outrage is truly breathtaking (although his defenders seem immune to any suggestion that he is as big a bully as the loathsome W). He dared to claim that there is a ‘robust legal regime’ governing this activity. ‘All three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection . . . Congress is regularly and fully briefed. . .’ Where to begin with this pack of lies? All three branches of government are now beholden to the security apparatus that now operates independently of any of them, with the White House’s open connivance. It remains temporarily true that popular opposition might crimp their movements a little, but how is that to be generated when reporters are being charged with co-conspiracy in espionage as just happened under Eric ‘Rule-of-Law’ Holder?

It is probably too late to reverse the systematic destruction of the Fourth Amendment, especially since we’ve already signed off on the even more basic burying of habeas corpus and the resuscitation of the Star Chamber via Guantánamo. We now can only prepare not to be surprised when this powerful apparatus of repression blossoms fully into our daily lives.

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