Sunday, June 23, 2013

First They Ignore You...

Well at least the meme is spreading! Even if it's spreading as satire. I am reminded of the apocryphal saying attributed to Ghandi: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

A piece just appeared in "Reader Supported News" which was labeled several times as "SATIRE". Problem is, I don't think most of this is satire. I thought this was important enough to devote an entire post to this article individually.

RSN: Make Big Brother Our Friend

At the risk of going satirical, let me suggest a way forward. If President Barack Obama can embrace Big Brother as his enduring legacy, if he can describe the super-secret workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as "transparent," ...Why not put Big Brother to better use?

1. Let Big Brother end Washington's gridlock. Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who knew something of these matters, used to keep dossiers on everyone from yours truly to Martin Luther King Jr. ... I wonder how many Tea-Party Republicans in Congress have long trails of telephone calls and emails to their lovers, male or female, or credit card purchases for expensive gifts. Just a mention of this information would go a long way to getting difficult legislation passed.

2. Use Big Brother against Big Money. Much of Wall Street's wealth and power comes from their access to inside information that the rest of us do not have, cannot get, and cannot act upon in a timely way. Prosecutors do not find most of this inside information illegal and rarely bring cases to court. They say they find it too hard to secure evidence that would convince a jury. Well, not anymore. With all those NSA records, the odds are overwhelming that prosecutors could find discussions between major Wall Street players and corporate leaders, along with the time-coded computerized buying and selling based on those communications.

3. Have Big Brother eat Monsanto. ... Just write a simple algorithm to trace every one of NSA's saved phone call and email from people at Monsanto to influential people in government. Big Brother will completely eliminate any need for conspiracy theories.

4. Let Big Brother solve climate change. ... The debate then took a dramatic turn when the ubiquitous Wikileaks published thousands of files and emails that one or more computer hackers had surreptitiously copied from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Britain. ... NSA records might well help us discover who stole that data, how major players like Exxon Mobil and Charles and David Koch were able to make such good use of it, and how the climate deniers continue to operate.

5. Use the massive surveillance and data mining to weaken the American Empire. If the United States has a major advantage in dealing with our European allies, it is our dominance of the new digital economy. If we have a major disadvantage, it is how our digital dominance threatens personal privacy, which Europeans value far more than we do. Snowden's revelations make this conflict all the more pressing, and are already complicating incipient negotiations for a trans-Atlantic free trade pact.

These five suggestions are 100% satire, which I offer to dramatize how loosely-wired and out-of-control our surveillance and data mining system continue to be. I can't wait to see your suggestions for how we could put Big Brother to use.

I, obviously, have a lot of objections to labeling this piece as "Satire". You can read some of my objections on the article's comment section, and I'm going to re-iterate them today in a post above this one.

Up-front, yes, I see why this person is calling this a Satire. Other commenters on the article expressed it well: we can't just advocate the use of this eavesdropping information for purposes we happen to like, because "we respect the 4th Amendment". If we don't like this particular abuse of power, we can't just turn around and advocate its use against our political enemies.

I think this misses the point: this abuse of power is _already_ being used, in a one-sided manner, against us. To sit back and say "there's nothing we can do about this" is the same thing as actively approving the abuse against ourselves. This is how tyrannies begin.

We the citizens are not the ones promulgating the abuse. The government is already promulgating the abuse. Proposing to share the abuse against those in power is, I believe, rectifying the abuse, not adding further abuse.

Do two wrongs really make a right? I will discuss that in a blog post just above this one.

Quite frankly, I do not see a reason why the majority of this article is satire. Is Mr. Weissman trying to trivialize these issues by making fun of them? I don't think it's Constitutional for the government to do this surveillance, but everyone I talk to just shrugs and says they'll do it no matter what we tell them. So the only way to salvage anything positive from this debacle is to use the surveillance in cases like Weissman describes. In particular, the financial stuff. Just like terrorism, high-tech financial fraud uses a diffuse pattern of seemingly innocuous transactions, so the analysis capability of the PRISM system would be a good fit. This stuff is illegal, and robs pretty much everybody in the First World to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year. The "satirical" reasons Weissman gives for monitoring the big banks and brokers are all true. What is satire about this? What is funny about this? If all 300 million of us have to put up with 24/7 recording and monitoring of our personal family communications, there is ZERO reason we have to put up with fraud and collusion practiced over electronic communications systems for one minute longer. The President and the NSA keep telling us that nobody's rights or privacy is violated.

Let them put their money where their mouth is -- monitor and archive ALL financial communications!

Tell the banks they have nothing to fear if they've nothing to hide. I believe this maxim is false, which is why I object to the surveillance in general. But if the powerful, the financiers and polticians, are confronted with this false maxim, they will find little comfort in it, and they will work to change the system that's now in place.

The only way this wiretapping system is going to change, is if it inconveniences the powerful. Implement the first three or four of these suggestions 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.

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