Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Do Two Wrongs Make a Right??

I've read several people telling me that this campaign is pointless, and more recently I've read several people telling me that my proposal is immoral because it essentially is adding another wrong to the wrong already being committed. If we truly respect the 4th Amendment, people say, we can't in good conscience propose that we break the 4th Amendment, even if targeted against our political "enemies", in this case, the bankers and financiers committing illegal acts that threaten our entire nation.

Obviously, I disagree with this reasoning, so this is my soapbox to explain why.

In brief: The government is already promulgating the abuse, and my argument revolves around the fact that this abuse is one-sided. Proposing to share the abuse against those in power is, I believe, rectifying the abuse, not adding further abuse.

Recall, the government is already collecting, monitoring, and analyzing the financial data in question. I am not proposing to further the abuse by collecting new data -- nobody is -- that would not be possible, because the government is collecting all existing data. What we are talking about is a different abuse or crime: that of selective law enforcement.

If you acquiesce to selective law enforcement without any protest, you are laying the foundation for the establishment of tyranny. The NSA can get dirt on us, but _we_ can't get dirt on the powerful. In that situation, we are establishing a protected, privileged class who is not accountable. As the Founding Fathers knew, that is a recipe for tyranny of a few connected, privileged elites.

When commenters put forward the argument as to why this proposal is satire and this is unthinkable, they are saying: "We can't do that, it's illegal search and seizure. Unlike the government, we respect the 4th Amendment."

Okay, who's "we" kimosabe? The 4th Amendment says the _GOVERNMENT_ shall not obtain evidence by unreasonable search and seizure. The 4th Amendment doesn't govern the behavior of the citizens, only the government. "We" citizens can't violate the 4th Amendment. (Which is not to say I can walk into your house and search your dresser; but that's a civil crime, not a Constitutional one. The 4th Amendment deals with the way that the Authorities obtain evidence during criminal trials; not with what the citizens do.) The government, in this case, is the party that's charged with implementing the 4th Amendment, and is the party that is apparently not respecting it, with the indiscriminate surveillance.

One of the primary reasons this sort of spying is against the intent of the Constitution is because of the inequality involved. _THEY_ can get dirt on _you_ and thereby control you, but _YOU_ can't get dirt on _them_. Restore the equality aspect, and it will teach the supporters of this system a lesson about the Constitutional principles.

If the 4th Amendment is going to be thrown out the window with this PRISM surveillance apparatus, and nobody says we can do anything about it, then throwing the _EQUALITY_ aspect of it out the window too is an _additional_ crime, and a worse one. This is the crime of selective law enforcement. Proposing that this abuse be applied equally is righting a wrong, not adding to it. Remember, this information is being collected about the banks and the government monetary agencies, about rich and poor people alike, ALREADY. This proposal is not proposing any significant ADDITIONAL COLLECTION EFFORT; only, using what is already being collected.

The only way this wiretapping system is going to change, is if it inconveniences the powerful. Implement it on an equal basis, not a one-sided basis, and just watch how quickly the PRISM system gets an overhaul and constitutional review. If the PRISM supporters, like the President, are serious when they say it doesn't infringe rights or privacy, I say they should _PROVE IT_, turn the PRISM upon themselves. If they _don't_ mean what they say about privacy, then they are lying to the nation about a crucially important Constitutional question, and they should be removed to a man (or woman). Let's find out which it is.

"But the politicians and the financial players have the system already rigged. It won't ever happen, so why should I care."

This is one of the things I find frustrating about American politics, and I suspect it's the root of the reason why it appears (and people inside and outside America often remark) that Americans are politically passive and don't protest. It's because we all want to think we're "plugged in" and "ahead of the game", but often we second-guess ourselves right out of the game and fail to make a move.

I get the reasoning. I get it.
1) We know that our politicians and government apparatus are corrupt, and their financial backers think they're above the law.
2) We know the financial backers won't want such a proposal implemented.
So this proposal will either never see the Congress floor, or even if it does, it will be implemented so lackadaisically that none of the financial players will ever get seriously punished from the resulting effort. Just like how a rich white businessman caught with some blow will do only a few months in a resort-style minimum security prison specifically for his social class, whereas a non-white ghetto youth caught with cocaine will be shoved into a hellhole for years if not life (if it's his third infraction).

3) Therefore, since nothing is going to come of this, why should I spend my energy talking about this.

I'll tell you why, it's because leaping to Step #3 without making any fuss is exactly the same thing as approving of the system. At least _PROPOSING_ that the tool of surveillance be turned back upon the powerful would be a sign that the American public has a pulse. Since these revelations have been dropped, and NO ONE is immune from the surveillance, that means there is NO DIFFERENCE except inside your skull, between being cynical about this, versus actively aproving it. This is a test of our limits by the government, and if we don't react to it, we are sending a clear message that the line they cannot cross is located somewhere else, further up. This is territory that we really shouldn't be giving up without a fight.

In the drug example, you at least have the excuse, that "if I don't do drugs I won't get caught up in the unjust system". That excuse is morally deficient, but that doesn't matter because the excuse doesn't apply anymore. As we know, the government is archiving EVERYONE's communications, INCLUDING YOURS. And as we know, nobody can live their life without ever doing anything that a paranoid government would find objectionable someday in the future.

You may think that real serious dirt, real blackmail material, doesn't exist on you, so it's not worth the anyone's bother to try and get ahold of the evidence of your minor foibles and use them against you. You wouldn't be alone, you'd be one among hundreds of millions, so you may think you're playing safe odds.

Well, that was before PRISM. With this new system, NO detail of your life, however trivial, need ever be discarded. (This is one of the reasons why, contrary what many of its supporters say, the PRISM system is fundamentally different from the 1990s "ECHELON" system, or previous government wiretapping; back then, the technology to collect and store _everything_ just didn't exist. You could at least have had a reasonable gamble that your own personal dirt wasn't being stored. Today, YOUR DIRT IS BEING STORED UP FOR LATER USE. Yes, YOU, reading this.)

As was pointed out in the Wired article, you, yes YOU reading this, you don't even know what the eavesdroppers are NOW looking for, and you certainly don't know what will be criminalized in the future. And nobody can live their life without ever doing anything that some moralistic politician in the future won't want to criminalize. A huge plurality of Americans cheat on their spouses, have you ever read "The Scarlet Letter"?. Maybe some future environmentalist President is going to collect everybody's electricity use for the past decades, and demand reparations for those who burned the most coal-produced electricity. The list is endless.

We think of J. Edgar Hoover as a villain because he collected files of blackmail material on his political enemies. Today, EACH AND EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN now has a dossier at the NSA which contains so much detailed material that Hoover would have creamed in his jeans. If you don't register your disapproval of this in some tangible way, how can that not be construed as approval? What _else_ are you going to do if you don't support this petition, or one like it? I have yet to hear or see any other focused resopnse, besides grumbling about it on Facebook...

It's become such a cliché to say that "Americans are politically passive" that lately I have heard people expounding on alternative theories, just because we get tired of repeating "passive" over and over. For example, I've read a couple of articles lately which laid out the history of the Great Depression, and claimed that the Unions and the Communists won such concessions afterwards, that the moneyed classes fought back and destroyed them. So Americans aren't fundamentally passive, the latest theories go; they just have no avenue to express their disapproval of the system.

Well, if nobody proposes anything to counteract this universal surveillance, that will be the best evidence yet that Americans are simply more passive than other countries. Are we really by nature passive? This issue is certainly among our last chances to prove one way or the other.

No comments:

Post a Comment