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The Digital World, The Opiate of The People

Politics / Intelligence Agencies Nov 27, 2014 - 12:18 PM GMT

By: Michael_T_Bucci


What leads me to think again about state surveillance and its devastating effects on privacy, freedom and liberty is a recent article posted at Asia Times, "Tomgram: Shamsi and Harwood, An Electronic Archipelago of Domestic Surveillance", (1) which presented just another reminder to Americans and the world of what the U.S.A. is threatening to become: a veritable police state, a totalitarianism and a military/intel controlled nation. In addition to allegations of illegal wars, occupations and assassinations, drone strikes, provocations of Russia, China and the global South; in addition to proposed federal and state neoliberal and neocon policies that promise to further shred the already torn social and welfare fabrics; in addition to its chronic addictions to materialism and consumerism that destroy the environment and deplete the soul; in addition to its racism (officially denied); in addition to reports about legalized forms of mobsterism in financial houses, hedge funds, vulture funds; in addition to its de facto command over nations fearful of its military prowess and financial sanctions; America is also the world's unabashed spy, espionage agent and unrivaled, unabated master of all data it ingests, scans, records, stores and analyzes! And all is done for one and only one purpose: CONTROL But for whom?

NSA, together with the nation’s domestic-intelligence network "is massive", explained the article authors, "including at least 59 federal agencies, over 300 Defense Department units, and approximately 78 state-based fusion centers." Omniscient is a term applicable to "the program". (2) Omnipotent is another term. Omnipresent is another. Yet, in Catholic grammar school I learned and believed that only God was all these things. (3) I was wrong.

I share the concerns of many about the surveillance state and, in particular, those authors and analysts who correctly include mention of state-corporate partnerships, a collusion being concealed and/or whitewashed by those framing the cyber privacy debate for public consumption. Generally, the overarching role of the Silicon Valley Stasi has been kept to a bare minimum by "liberty"-seeking cyber technophiles, journalists and "owners" of data arguably meant for the public domain.

Although journalist Glenn Greenwald's loyalties lie with libertarianism - a conflation of corporate neoliberalism, individualism, and independent wealth - I am not altogether certain of Mr. Edward Snowden's loyalties. He stated he voted for Ron Paul in 2012 and to the best of my knowledge has not adequately addressed the privatization and "lock-down" of his documents by libertarian billionaire Mr. Pierre Omidyar. Snowden had inferred they are for the American people. Did he think the American people are best served by private wardens and censors or by for-profit enterprises that now control his documents? Did he approve? Nor am I convinced that Mr. Snowden is a lone "rogue" actor purged of cross-loyalties to intel and/or to a sector of the privatization movement now sweeping the country. My questions are speculative and do not intend to prematurely judge Mr. Snowden, his ethics or his efforts. I once called him a "hero". Barring future revelations, I still do.

Taking things at face value, the fact that capitalism is the system in which these events take place, profit and private property prevail over the presently submerged concept called the "common good". Historically, Government itself has been defined as either friend or foe of profit. This definition is shaped by the private sector not by the Constitution. When it is a friend, "the chief business of the America people is business," Coolidge affirmed. (4) When a foe, "the first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself," warned FDR. "That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." (FDR Message to Congress, April 29, 1938.) (5)

Over decades, voters have been gradually redefined as "consumers" causing democracy itself to be reduced in function to "consumer choice". The revolving doors between public and private spheres make clear that Government today is run by corporate/wealth sectors. If these facts are understood, arguments framed against them are ones that ask: Can America as understood by the Depression-era populace be retrieved at all? The conservative-libertarian domination of political power, combined with mid-term voter absenteeism and widespread apathy, are signs for losing hope. Further, in the total absence of a left-of-center ideology, the nation is virtually an inversion of 1933 America - it is thoroughly right-of-center. Voter absenteeism amongst those under 30 (13%) is particularly alarming because it is a focused inversion - indeed aversion - to political activism that once existed and peaked in the generation of the 1960s. The "ME" generation of future leaders, however influential they should be in policy debates, has, in so many words, abandoned the polling booth for the Tweet. (Tweets aren't counted; votes are counted.)

I once explained to a "Constitutionalist" that his claim that Barack Obama was a socialist was mere puppetry of devious demagoguery he heard on hate-radio and TV. I explained that Barack Obama wasn't a socialist; he was a "statist" - a term he didn't understand. FDR's allusion to "fascism" isn't a word uttered today in America except by some in the right-wing who covet power for the very people, corporations and movements FDR would label fascistic. As words and concepts have become twisted, inverted and redefined to mold perceptions for specific political results, President Obama, a proponent of corporate-state alliance, is labeled both a liberal by liberals and a fascist by fascists, but he will never be labeled a socialist by a socialist. Meanwhile, meaningful change cannot or will not occur if political expression is confined to posts, blogs and tweets left on social media. But, perhaps, this is their purpose.
Sometime in the mid-60s, my economics professor defined ours as a "mixed economy". It was a time equidistant between President Eisenhower's free interstate highway system and Bill Clinton's toll road that he called the "information superhighway".

This infrastructure, the carrier of the digital faux universe I collectively call the Network, is the property of the private sector (from server to backbone to your ISP). Its toll roads can be nationalized or can be regulated (albeit with little success so far). But "revolving door" government regulators are to serve the public interest first, the corporate and private profit interests second. Prioritizing "common good" over "corporate profits" is highly unlikely to occur in our inverted time of "anti-government", libertarian, neoliberal domination. However, a nationalized counter-internet is being proposed by BRICS presently (barring any future made-in-America coups). But Americans have been inculcated with the propaganda that socialism is evil, profit is good and excessive profit can reform itself given sufficient moralizing. The internet was first seen as a liberating force for free speech and democracy. Such idealism also occurred in the developing stages of radio, TV and cable until these infrastructures matured and became "mass media" (where the profits are). In the end, democracy and the "common good" did not prevail; markets and corporate power did. The future trajectory of the internet and Network appear no different.

It is no surprise that public debate in matters concerning dragnet surveillance has been hijacked by central actors; public policy decisions have been delayed or aborted; legislation has been defeated; declining trust in government has mushroomed; generations have been raised to depend on corporate power over their own government. It is not hard to discern what has motivated this "spin" and what purposes are being served: 1) exploit "anti-government" sentiment already instilled in the population (for building the corporate state); 2) discredit and further weaken government (easy prey); 3) elevate the hegemonic private sector (global neoliberal capitalism, and U.S. national libertarianism) over the public sector. If it is an "attack" against government regulation it is with the permission of government itself (co-opted) and hence a ruse. The wrestling matches over keeping the internet open and free become simply moot. Whoever controls the regulators controls the outcome. Whoever owns the infrastructure that everyone now depends upon dictates who regulates.

From the railroad barons of the 19th Century to today's Silicon Valley Stasi, America has consistently rewarded private and concentrated corporate power over the public and its ally called the "common good".

Digital totalitarianism, which became clandestine state policy in 2001 under Messrs. Bush and Cheney, flourished secretly like mushrooms in darkness despite appeals to government officials, members of Congress and the news media by NSA "insiders" driven to protect the Constitution at their own peril. Today, dragnet surveillance is common knowledge. Despite a plethora of on-going revelations in both the mainstream and alternative press, the public (the targets), alas, has not responded to the threat with commensurate alarm, nor do they know what to do about it.

Story after story, book after book appear about Wikileak revelations and Snowden files. Digital Paul Reveres ride in and out shouting alerts about the extent, depth and scope of the creeping totalitarian state. Legislation is passionately proposed but never enacted by Congress or President Obama. Civil libertarians chill our bones about sweeping losses to our privacy, about alliances surreptitiously forged between government and the Silicon Valley Stasi, about psyops, social network mind-control experiments, and on and on and on. But even despite several major earthquakes triggered by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, it is "business as usual" in the nation and the usual business is to make money, spend money, be entertained and count new friends arriving at Facebook.

The defenders of "liberty" - the individuals and groups fighting for a free and open internet - have conflated general liberty with cyber liberty. As less people vote in the tangible physical world (threatening democracy itself), democracy is being heralded, sought and fought for in another world - a totally illusory one created in and by Networks where technophiles pitch "crowd sourcing" and digital devices (with keyloggers, cameras, microphones, backdoors, biometric readers) record our movements and thoughts in real time - all overseen, monitored, analyzed and evaluated by invisible controllers behind one-way glass assembling dossiers and accruing profits.

The Network is the most sophisticated Skinner box ever invented where the mice are fighting to gain rights within its manacles instead of doing the one thing that will free them from the manacles. Walk!

Where to next? Straight into a future world of technological totalitarianism (the scaffolding is built)? Straight into government rule by profits and markets (soon)? Straight into Network imposed conditioning and authoritarianism (it will grow and overtake you)? Today, the world that existed before the current millennium is being burned from the minds of the populace who are becoming extensions less of history, tradition, communities, families and culture, but extensions more of technology.

Technology is most dangerous when in the hands of the most dangerous amongst us.

The ending of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953) comes to mind. (6) Besides the allure of Julie Christie playing twin roles in the film version (1966) with Bernard Herrmann's haunting musical score, the story tells of certain aware individuals who leave their positions, homes, families and communities to escape a despotic world that incorporates mind-control; rigid conforming to authority; book burning; and control of the masses through technology. He projected a future dystopian America while living through the era of McCarthyism. Thinking was dangerous and because books are "thoughtful", all books were burned. People are happiest when there is no debate, said Captain Beatty to Montag. Those who secretly escaped hid a book with them. Each memorized one literary classic then burned the book. One by one they assembled together across a river and called themselves "book people" because having memorized a book they became the book. They believed that the bad world they escaped would someday end and, after its destruction, they could return to restore to civilization the great literary treasures that had been denied the populace. Today is worse. The world before the current millennium is being burned from the minds of the populace through technological processing and conditioning. Humans are becoming extensions, less of living history, tradition, communities and culture, but mere extensions of technology. As interpersonal and social relations increasingly take place through the Network, they are becoming atomized.

The digital network is becoming an opiate of the people. It is the most profound advancement of the totalitarian state. It is, therefore, the most dangerous.


1. "An Electronic Archipelago of Domestic Surveillance", Hina Shamsi and Matthew Harwood.,_an_electronic_archipelago_of_domestic_surveillance/

2. "The program" is a term used to describe post-9/11 NSA surveillance operations in two PBS Frontline documentaries: "The United States of Secrets Part 1" (How did the government come to spy on millions of Americans); and, "The United States of Secrets Part 2" (how Silicon Valley feeds the NSA's global dragnet). These and other documentaries on surveillance are viewable on-line at PBS.

3. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and other terms, are properties attributed to God in Catholic dogma.

4.  "The chief business of the American people is business" is from President Calvin Coolidge's address to the Society of American Newspaper Editors on January 17, 1925.

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Message to Congress on Curbing Monopolies. April 29, 1938.

6. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. Wikipedia summary with links:

By Michael T Bucci


(c) 2014 Michael T Bucci. All Rights reserved.

(Note: responses to emails might be delayed or not met.)

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive from New Jersey presently residing in New England. His essays have appeared at The Market Oracle (UK). He is the author of nine books on practical spirituality including White Book: Cerithous.

© 2014 Copyright Michael T Bucci - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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