I was thinking about something today. Over three-quarters of the American people go to Church at least every few years. Nearly half describe themselves as regular church-goers. Given these facts, why would people object to having a state religion? Why would people demand separation of church and state? Clearly, they don’t have any problem with religion. So why is it suddenly bad when government does it?
If the answer to that is obvious to you, well it seems to be not so obvious to a large section of the commentariat. Robert Samuelson is the latest idiot to dust off the tired idiotic argument of “Why you no like NSA when you like Facebook?”
There is more than a little hypocrisy to the outcry that the government, through the National Security Agency (NSA), is systematically destroying Americans’ right to privacy. Edward Snowden’s revelations have been stripped of their social, technological and historical context. Unless you’ve camped in the Alaskan wilderness for two decades, you know — or should — that millions upon millions of Americans have consciously and, probably in most cases, eagerly surrendered much of their privacy by embracing the Internet and social media.
The Pew Research Center’s surveys confirm that these behaviors are now entirely mainstream. In 2013, 85 percent of Americans used the Internet. Of these, almost three-quarters (73 percent) belonged to social media sites (the biggest: Facebook). Almost one-fifth of adult Internet users have posted personal videos, many hoping, says Pew, that “their creations go viral.” Among people “single and looking” for mates, nearly two-fifths (38 percent) used online dating.
This is the argument made by a boot-licking piece of crap. I’ve made this point before: can these people seriously not see a difference between information shared voluntarily and information shared involuntarily? Can they not see the difference between sharing your information with a corporation and sharing it with a government? Here’s what I had to say when Cesca was making this boot-licking argument:
There is simply no moral equivalence between corporations putting cookies on our computers and the NSA engaging in mass surveillance with extra sugary promises that they’ll be nice. To draw such an equivalence is to demonstrate that you failed high school civics. We should be suspicious of corporations. But we should be more suspicious of government because they wield a far larger and more pervasive power.
Again, how many people has Facebook executed? How many people has Twitter jailed? Did General Motors inter thousands of innocent Japanese people? Did Proctor and Gamble pretend to cure black men of syphilis just to see what would happen? If they did do these things, would they not be held accountable?
The worst thing that Facebook will do to me is market something at me. The worst thing the NSA will do is tip off the DEA that I might be doing drugs so that my door is bashed down by gun-wielding agents in the middle of the night. These are not even remotely comparable things.
Many of the NSA defenders understand this on some level. That was the point of my opening thought. When it comes to religion or abortion or sex, they immediately grasp the difference between a private actor (e.g., your parents telling you not to have pre-marital sex) and a public one (e.g, the government telling you not to have pre-martial sex). But when it comes to surveillance, they really don’t see a moral difference between Twitter knowing where I went on vacation and the government knowing every single person I called.
Partially, that’s reflexive anti-corporatism. Partly, it’s pure partisanship — they’d be a lot more suspicious if a McCain Administration were doing this. But I also think part of is that some section of the commentariat doesn’t really value privacy at all. Or they are in such a state of mind-blowing fear over terrorism, privacy concerns are dwarfed by the need to feel safe. How else can you explain this paragraph:
If Americans think their privacy is dangerously diminished, there are remedies. They can turn off their PCs, toss their smartphones and smash their tablets. Somehow, this seems unlikely, even though another Pew survey finds that “86 percent of adult Internet users have taken steps . . . to avoid surveillance by other people or organizations.”
I pointed this out on Twitter, but it’s worth saying again: in the book Nineteen Eighty Four Winston and Julia are unable to use normal communication to conduct their affair. Instead, they have to communicate with secret notes and whispers. This was seen as one of the most oppressive aspects of the regime.
We now have American commentators openly stating that we should live in such a society. That if you don’t want the government snooping on you, you should smash your tablet. Communicate with secret notes and whispers if you don’t want to be heard, you Ron Paul disciple.
For people like Samuelson, it is all right, everything is all right, the struggle is finished. They have won the victory over themselves. They love Big Brother.