Saturday, September 7, 2013

Are We Creating An Orwellian Society?

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America was not intended to be this way
One of my biggest concerns about the NSA spying on Americans centered on how much was being spent because if we are spending a lot of money on this consider it a big red flag. It recently came out thanks to information leaked by  Edward Snowden that the "black budget" last year was a massive 52 billion dollars. This is the money used in "secret" spy operations, and it is enough to send shivers down the back of those that have read about the totalitarian society of Oceania described in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In Orwell's novel, all citizens of Oceania are monitored by cameras and are fed fabricated news stories by the government. George Orwell paints a nightmarish vision coining several terms such as doublethink, thoughtcrime, and memory hole, these have become part of our vernacular.

Have we opened Pandora’s Box and started down the path to a totalitarian society akin to something out of a novel by George Orwell? Not only is big-brother watching he is leaning on us big time. Oliver Stone the American film director, screenwriter, and producer seems to think so. Stone rose to public prominence between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s for writing and directing a series of films about the Vietnam War, born in 1946 he participated as an infantry soldier in the war. Many of Stone's films focus on contemporary and controversial American political and cultural issues, such as JFK, Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon. Stone is one of the few committed men of the left working in mainstream American cinema and has received three Academy Awards for his work.

Stone recently co-authored an opinion piece that appeared in the Financial Times in July. It was titled "Obama is laying the foundations of a dystopian future". What makes this piece interesting is that it reveals some of the reasoning behind the concerns from those on the far left, libertarians, and even some very conservative republicans that freedom, liberty, and privacy is being sacrificed by big government. This being said if we continue in this direction an Orwellian society complete with big brother and drones hovering overhead could be in our not too distant future. Already many people complain that too many hard to interpret laws exist and that the police and those in positions of authority often apply them unfairly.

Stone points out that on the Presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama lambasted the policies of George W. Bush that had made the US an international pariah, with his wars and contempt for human rights. For us, part of Obama’s attraction as a candidate was that he promised transparency, opposed the Iraq war and repudiated militarism. So it is hard not to feel disappointed. Now it appears to many of his supporters that he now embraces some of the ideas he attacked. This is not just the way that critics on the left see things. Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush’s former press secretary, said: “It’s like George Bush is having his fourth term ... [Mr. Obama] is a hypocrite.”

Stone's article points out that while this administration has, more or less, halted torture, removed troops from Iraq, set a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, paid lip service to nuclear abolition and refused to invade Iran. The president has been more skeptical than most in Washington about intervening in Syria and his efforts to close Guantánamo, have thus far been feeble.  We have learned from the recent revelations made by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden that more than one million Americans with security clearances have been deployed to monitor domestic and foreign populations on a scale hitherto unimaginable. So while he is not Mr. Bush there is a case to be made that Obama is, in many crucial respects, actually worse than his predecessor.

He writes that even as Mr. Obama insists there are safeguards in place to ensure the streams of data and warehouses full of stored records will not be abused; the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appears to be nothing more than a rubber stamp. It approved every request made of it last year. It rejected only two of the 8,591 requests submitted between 2008 and 2012. Let us take the White House’s word that this great power will not be abused. Let us assume the best of Mr. Obama. Even if his administration does not want to trawl through the trillions of emails, photos and phone conversations passing through the NSA there is someone who will. Once such data are collected, it will be eventually accessed. It is a temptation too great.

J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1935 to 1972, demonstrated the power of spying on Americans over his long and ignominious career. He placed Martin Luther King Jr. and many other people under surveillance to gain the ability to discredit and embarrass them. This proved to be a powerful tool. Future leaders will not need to resort to water cannon and tear gas to stop protesters. Nor will they even need to plant bugs. The NSA now has an interception machine that Orwellian governments could only have imagined. Big Brother technology that has gotten so advanced and so cheap, that the watchful eyes of surveillance cameras are mass produced, almost as if they were disposable.

Stone is concerned that if subtle coercion fails and force is required, Mr. Obama and his successors will have the wherewithal to target anyone, anywhere, with the utmost precision and the deadliest means. The US is establishing absolute mastery over land, sea, air, space and cyberspace, this would mean full-spectrum dominance. We have seen this starting to take form: Mr. Obama pores over weekly “kill lists”. He chooses who to target with drones, new, more sophisticated versions of which are being rapidly developed, and not only by the US. But Mr. Obama and his advisers pay little heed to the fact that these programs create more terrorists than they eliminate. Nowhere is the US more hated than in Pakistan, where drones have killed thousands.

Going further Stone urges caution to anyone who thinks American technological superiority will protect the US. In the 1940s, President Harry Truman believed the Soviet Union was a long way from producing nuclear weapons and that the US would have a long nuclear monopoly. It lasted only until 1949. Stone says the US will be making a similar miscalculation if it deploys drones across the world, sends weapons to space or normalizes cyber warfare. Mr. Obama has become a more amiable and efficient manager of the American empire. And, in the name of national security, he is laying the foundation for a frighteningly dystopian future by combining full-spectrum surveillance with full-spectrum military dominance.

Stone writes that Mr. Obama’s dogged global pursuit of the courageous Mr. Snowden is only the latest shameful case in point. It was almost exactly 60 years ago that Jean-Paul Sartre warned Americans: “Your country is sick with fear ... do not be astonished if we cry out from one end of Europe to the other: Watch out! America has the rabies! Cut all ties which bind us to her, otherwise, we will, in turn, be bitten and run mad!” Mr. Obama, under whom hunger strikers are force-fed and whistleblowers prosecuted with unparalleled ferocity needs to recalibrate before he drives the final nails into the coffin of a once-proud American republic. In my opinion, freedom-loving people everywhere should be concerned, these thoughts on the matter should give Americans something to ponder.

The article by Stone can be viewed at; 
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/de81a466-e40d-11e2-91a3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2cVawoSVC


 Footnote; As always comments are welcome and I urge you to glance at the blog archives for other post you might find interesting. The following post is related to the NSA and current trends,

                http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2013/06/governments-spying-on-their-citizens.html
           

1 comment:

  1. Actually the only people under Big Brother's thumb were government employees, the "prols" were left to themselves.

    ReplyDelete