The Surveillance State: Look at Outcomes, Rather Than Causes.

So now that Obama has proposed what is being reported as “modest reforms” that are actually gestures enshrining and burnishing a permanent surveillance state, it is wise to look at the chess game, but working backward.

After the NSA revelations — which remain an impressive and brave piece of reporting by Glenn Greenwald and a Nobel-worthy act of editorial courage by the Guardian’s editors — we saw the following: disclosure of and acknowledgement of spying on citizens by Britain, France, and Scandinavian countries; disclosure and defense of US telecoms spying on rival overseas telecoms, and Obama’s defense of commercial spying of this kind; the revelation by Putin — even as he is hosting Snowden — of a turnkey, 360-degree surveillance program exactly like PRISM, and aimed at his own people; and the uniform rollout by the US and the UK using identical soundbites, of this situation being the new normal, and what we get now is “transparency’ about it.

There is a word for this kind of consistent habituation of an audience to a new reality, with uniform soundbites used, in politics. It is called starting with a trial balloon, and when it is strategized more completely, it is called a message rollout. Snowden may well be simply and minimally a patriot and a whistleblower, or turn out to be something more complex; it does not really matter. That is not where our focus should be. What does matter is watching the outcome of the revelations as mediated by gatekeepers from NSA spokespeople to President Obama to British intelligence counterparts using identical soundbites to those in the US (‘needle in the haystack’…) — to me this set of reactions still doesn’t feel like crisis management; it still, I hate to say it, feels like a marketing campaign — to habituate the whole world, but especially the West, with its habit and inheritance of constitutional freedoms and past cultural guarantees of privacy, to being China.

As I have noted many times, the transnational forces (global telecoms, Global War Inc., global surveillance technologies inc., global corporatocracy in general) that are now more powerful than nation-states, benefit immensely from a world in which everyone, but especially in the West, is under surveillance — a world in in which Western political leaders are under surveillance (as Congress learned it was a week or so ago) — in which there is thus little dissent or protest — in which everyone who could pass a law restricting what global capital wants to do, can be blackmailed.

Look at outcomes, rather than causes. We are vastly deeper now into that world.

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6 Responses to “The Surveillance State: Look at Outcomes, Rather Than Causes.”

  1. avatar Mark Graham says:

    Now more than ever it is important for Americans everywhere to resist!

  2. avatar Paula says:

    It’s worth considering that greenwald, the guardian, wapo, and everyone else involved with the actual leaks are the first-level gatekeepers. A wikileaks-style data dump would have been far preferable.

  3. avatar IgNobles says:

    Putin’s PRISM is something Ed Snowden was surely aware of. Likewise he was aware of their handling of Manning’s disclosures and their tendency to prosecute as per Mike Rogers’ “endangering military forces”, Fred Kaplan of WaPo ..

    Let’s discuss another “leaker” from the past: Philip Agee, a contemporary of Daniel Ellsberg.
    Has written a book called “On the Run”.

  4. avatar IgNobles says:

    One of the takeaway points from Agee’s earlier books is that third world countries torture, and it’s common to be done in concert with 1st world agents directing it. And that those embeddeds, on the street, look like entirely normal people.

    Now we have security “gatekeepers” “torturing” word definitions, changing those definitions to suit their moments, and as per Rogers and Kaplan, doing it in service to “military forces”.

    “Look at outcomes”, or, their intentions are predictable.

    “the chess game” and “message rollout” looks to be that the contact chaining is the message and the chess is intent to prosecute and marginalize with gutter-types like .. Maher.

  5. avatar AngloMad says:

    I’m reading End of America after being recommended by a friend. The crazy thing is that its 7 years old and things have only accelerated, despite our new president. Where will we be in 2020?

    My question to Naomi – what is your opinion on the second amendment as a deterrent to tyranny?

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