Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Day After the Day We Fought Back

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world took to the streets, the Internet, and the monitored phone lines yesterday to protest the Surveillance State. I am sorry to say that I was so busy fighting back against the atrocious Farm Bill and neoliberal doublespeak that I'd totally missed the international "Day We Fight Back."

But here's the good news. We can still fight back. Today, tomorrow, next month and next year. A website (here) set up for you to call or email your legislators is still operational. I know, because I clicked on the right buttons a day late this morning, and my message was sent to my congress critters. Not that it will do much good, but it still felt good. It's something.

Tens of thousands might seem like a lot of protesters, but their outrage is a mere whisper amidst the submissive roar of the 7 billion other complicit global souls for whom privacy is not only a lost right, but a state of being which is no longer even desirable.

As Henry A. Giroux puts it in his latest Truthout essay, Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State, we have more to fear from public apathy than we do from the evil machinations of the NSA:
Surveillance has become a growing feature of daily life. In fact, it is more appropriate to analyze the culture of surveillance, rather than address exclusively the violations committed by the corporate-surveillance state. In this instance, the surveillance and security state is one that not only listens, watches and gathers massive amounts of information through data mining necessary for identifying consumer populations but also acculturates the public into accepting the intrusion of surveillance technologies and privatized commodified values into all aspects of their lives. Personal information is willingly given over to social media and other corporate-based websites and gathered daily as people move from one targeted web site to the next across multiple screens and digital apparatuses. As Ariel Dorfman points out, “social media users gladly give up their liberty and privacy, invariably for the most benevolent of platitudes and reasons,” all the while endlessly shopping online and texting.7A This collecting of information might be most evident in the video cameras that inhabit every public space from the streets, commercial establishments and workplaces to the schools our children attend as well as in the myriad scanners placed at the entry points of airports, stores, sporting events and the like. 
Yet the most important transgression may not only be happening through the unwarranted watching, listening and collecting of information but also in a culture that normalizes surveillance by upping the pleasure quotient and enticements for consumers who use the new digital technologies and social networks to simulate false notions of community and to socialize young people into a culture of security and commodification in which their identities, values and desires are inextricably tied to a culture of private addictions, self-help and commodification.
Surveillance feeds on the related notions of fear and delusion. Authoritarianism in its contemporary manifestations, as evidenced so grippingly in Orwell's text, no longer depends on the raw displays of power but instead has become omniscient in a culture of control in which the most cherished notions of agency collapse into unabashed narcissistic exhibitions and confessions of the self, serving as willing fodder for the spying state. The self has become not simply the subject of surveillance but a willing participant and object. Operating off the assumption that some individuals will not willingly turn their private lives over to the spying state and corporations, the NSA and other intelligence agencies work hard to create a turnkey authoritarian state in which the "electronic self" becomes public property. Every space is now enclosed within the purview of an authoritarian society that attempts to govern the entirety of social life.
This is a chilling, insightful piece of writing. Read the whole thing. Then, fight back for the rest of your life.


annenigma said...

Anyone seen this yet?

Jay - Ottawa said...

Does 24/7/365 surveillance by itself serve to immobilize the resistance? Are we stuck in one place by nothing, just like the dinner guests in Luis Buñuel's "The Exterminating Angel"?

Well, Moral Mondays (see Karen's heads-up in the previous post) seems (so far) to be getting people unstuck from their fear and apathy, surveillance or no surveillance.

Until now, I would have thought MM was merely a sly reference to Hedges’ Monday Morning seethings over gross injustice of one kind or another.

First impressions of MM:
OWS was composed of a core of mostly young of idealists, variously under the influence of Gandhi on one end and violent anarchism on the other, and around whom the rest of us tried to cling supportively until we discovered we were holding on to nothing much at the core. Moral Mondays, by contrast, is centered on a not so evangelical Christianity around whom the rest of us might also think to cling whether believers or not –– in hope or desperation –– just as many of us old timers did when MLK was on the march.

With MLK the issue was mainly freedom won through nonviolence, but then he was gone just as he turned from civil rights to focus on labor and money issues. With MM, first attention is to economic justice with principles derived from the New Testament as a guide to economics (see Dives vs Lazarus parable). Krugman the Tepid, move over.

The surface news reports MM is expanding from North Carolina to Georgia. What do big opinion outlets say so far? The American Spectator mocks MM and its leader, which may be a good sign. Couldn’t locate that critical article against MM in Black Agenda. Huffpost Religion has a strange article (with comments even more curious) about MM’s move into Albany, NY, for sharp criticism of Cuomo’s budget.

One thing for sure in its favor: MM, more than any other organization (since OWS went flat), has gotten people into the streets again in noticeable numbers and on a recurring basis to challenge TPTB. MM’s leader, William Barber, really is a “Reverend Doctor” (echoes of MLK) whose credentials were not bought over the internet.

MM might also consider picketing the pulpits of the mainline churches and temples to wake them up to their own scripture. Why? Places of worship are from coast to coast a potent deep-rooted infrastructure for reform –– but too long lying idle. Can MM reignite their pulpits and then their congregations?

As I consider upstart efforts like OWS and MM, I remember the lessons of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” Your own stupid mistakes can do you in, especially when you violate the cardinal rule of NEVER embarking on such a trip ALONE. Partners who are too choosy end up alone.

Back to all those cameras that immobilize us and the networks that compromise us. Could part of the True Left's message be to boycott them, to return to alternate routes of communication? Boycotts for us who are not in jail are akin to fasts by people who are in jail. They work much better than nothing. And about those cameras, would it be nonviolent to blind surveillance cameras everywhere we spot them? Is there a cool way of doing that to keep the Stassi scrambling?

On a related topic, is Greenwald & Co’s rollout on "The Intercept" up your expectations?

annenigma said...

In regard to 'The Intercept', I was expecting it to be more of a national security/privacy rights central, a gathering of news about these issues. So far it seems to be for original investigative reporting only. That's ok but it sure would be nice to get all the relevant news in one place so we wouldn't have to glean bits and pieces from all over the web. I think I'll send Glenn a suggestion to that effect. I do know they are going to make a lot more changes. He admits they wanted to hurry up and get something up and running fast, perhaps for legal reasons unbeknownst to us.

There's some cool stuff going on at the states level that is encouraging, and it is bipartisan or should I say tripartisan (libertarian too).

For instance, Utah and Maryland state legislatures are working on laws to cut off the water supply (hundreds of millions of gallons/day) to the NSA facilities in those states. Also, several other states (Washington and New Hampshire I think) are working on legislation to prohibit anyone associated with the state or having contracts with the state from assisting with illegal/unconstitutional activities authorized by the NDAA of 2012 such as indefinite detention.

I just read at the Guardian that a judge in Oregon has ruled against the DEA accessing the state prescription drug database without a warrant. Score a win for privacy rights, at least preliminarily. I'm sure the regime will appeal that all the way to SCOTUS.

There is encouraging news everywhere, but you have to look outside the US news to find it. I could add more items but it would take too long.

Pearl said...

And now, news from Sochi:

I was watching the finals among free skating pairs and getting tired of seeing the female skaters being tossed all over the place at their peril. It seems they were all copying this new (?) form of acrobatic skating which caused the audience to hold their collective breaths. In between, the skating was dull and unimaginative saving their energy for holding the
female half high up in the air seemingly on one finger and then casually tossing her over the ice to hopefully land on her feet.
The final pair (Russian which has nothing to do with it as all the couples were the same) who were evidently expected to win silver or gold started out and at a pivotal point he lost his balance and fell awkwardly on the ice
full length, and then toward the end of the set, he grandly tossed her a fairly long distance from him on the ice expecting her to land on her feet but she fell flat on her butt. I felt it appropriate as they all seem to have lost the purpose of the original concept of the beauty and attention to
real skating instead of creating a circus atmosphere. They managed to earn a bronze medal which is beside the point.

My crazed political mind (aided by all the deep, thought provoking columns and articles in Sardonicky) immediately saw a lesson in all this.
When you lose track of your original purpose and fill it with distracting baubles copying everyone else, you will eventually fall on your ass. Enough said.

P.S. The next item from Sochi was an interview with some athletes who were comparing all the injuries and broken bones they have and are sustaining as a result of falls on the slopes and crashes on their heads. The Olympic excitement is dimming for me.

Zee said...


“When the federal government gets too big and gets out of control, the states have to step up, and that’s what we’re doing now: join[ing] together to push back,” [Marc Roberts, first-term Republican lawmaker in Utah] said.”

Funny, but when the states—prodded by Libertarians and Conservatives—“rebel” against a too-large and too-powerful federal government, said states and their supporting groups are usually denounced by Progressives as racist, antediluvian throwbacks who hate children, the poor, the infirm, and maybe even cute little puppies and kittens.

But this time, even The Guardian seems to find at least “neutral” words for the Tenth Amendment Center—which has been linked by the Southern Policy Law Center “with the 'Patriot movement' and far-right extremists...,”—because, I presume, this time they are involved in a “just” cause.

Well, politics do make for strange bedfellows.

Be that as it may, I find the efforts in Utah and Maryland to cut the NSA off from water utility service to be both laudable and ingenious, as are the efforts of Washington and New Hampshire to deny contract-making ability to their NSA facilities. However, unless the states create a united front on this issue, such efforts will die aborning.

First, the Feds will move to deny federal funding to these states for a host of programs and projects unless and until they capitulate.

Should that fail, Uncle Sugar will simply take his jobs and contracts elsewhere, to more malleable states.

So unless all of the states stand together, the NSA will always have somewhere else to go.

Who knows? Maybe they'll even contract the NSA programs abroad to some Indian “call center” company as a real act of spite.

What a “too big...and out of control” government can give out as largesse, it can equally well withhold as punishment. And for whatever purpose(s) it so chooses.

Zee said...

This is off-topic, but perhaps this thread has already run its course.

It's embarrassingly indicative of my ignorance of things financial and economic, but I had not fully understood the threat that the integration of banks with commodities trading and ownership of industries poses by opening the possibility for vast market manipulation and equally vast profits for those same bank. Indeed, it is not just a theoretical possibility; it has been happening since 1999 with the passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

This article is too long and detailed to effectively “abstract” for the readers of Sardonicky, but I highly recommend it for any of you who need your eyes opened—or merely opened wider—as I do.

Pearl said...

Once again we have a column from Krugman, 'Inequality, Dignity and Freedom' again tiredly criticizing the wealthy right
wingers of Republican extraction with nary a word about those similar wealthy Democrats doing the same. And again and again throwing his support for an excuse of proper health care coverage via Obamare instead of single
payer complete coverage which he kept off the table from the beginning.
Karen your reply will hopefully be at the top of the recommendations once more and please put it in our website. How do we educate our fellow democrats with Krugman trumpeting the same old refrains
which excuse the lack of direct corrective action of the democratic wimps holding office? Your reminder of the giraffe being thrown to the lions is an
excellent example of what we humans are doing to each other. Other comments to Krugman's column will be interesting to compare.

Karen Garcia said...


I'll be repurposing/expanding my Krugman comment for posting later on today. Krugman is increasingly getting on my nerves, both for getting embroiled in the increasingly nit-picky O-care fight, and also for insisting that the "deficit hawks"are broke and have surrendered. They're just in retreat, because they've gotten what they want for now: pain for us, gain for them. More later.