At first glance, the growth of the super snooper state revealed this weekend — like one of those giant, hidden funguses that spreads for miles under the forests of upper Michigan — is a striking discovery. But I maintain that there is an inverse correlation between the technical abilities of the government to harvest data and their competence to use it for anything. The salient trend in our government is to become more inept, ineffectual, impotent, and feckless, no matter how big the compost heaps of sheer information it manages to pile up.
For spying on your own citizens, the Nazis and the Soviets were way ahead of us using technology no more elegant than phone bugs and filing cabinets. Our immersive techno-narcissism vests too much awe in computer magic itself. What would hurt much more — and work much better — is if Americans become a nation of snitches. That’s a possibility, of course, but I attach a low percentage to it because it requires a respect for authority that is just absent here now, and has been eroding steadily for decades, really ever since Jack Kennedy was gunned down.
Ironically, Barack Obama got where he did because he pretended to be the reincarnation of JFK — a young, dynamic change agent — and it took years to discover that he was a mere bundle of platitudes wrapped in a banana leaf of good intentions, stamped with a sell-by date that, alas, has now passed. His piled-up troubles seem more a matter of inattention than intent — especially his failure to apply the rule of law in banking — and his recent televised attempts to explain himself give off the demoralized vibe of somebody just sadly going through the motions.
Anyway, events are in the driver’s seat, not government officials. We’re in the Koyaanisqatsi zone now — everything is out-of-balance from our financial operations to our geopolitical relations to the state of nature around the planet. Too many stresses have built at too many stress-points and a palpable fear judders through the wireless waves that something has to break. Oddly, political cracks appeared this month in two of the least-expected places: Sweden and Turkey. WTF? I wonder a little now if the revelations of Edward J. Snowdon about the American Security apparatus will bring on a wave of street protests in Washington DC on the Fourth of July. Maybe I’m just channeling my own dim memories of 1969, but this historical moment has a similar tingle. We know that the amalgamated gun nuts are already planning what they’ve advertised as an “armed march” across the nation’s capital. Frankly, I’m kind of glad that they’re doing this. The government needs to be reminded that there are already enough small arms loose in America to temper its cloddish excesses. The time is ripe for others to join in a larger Fourth of July demonstration.
Most satisfying would be a Washington march by college loan debt slaves terminating in a bonfire of the loan contracts on the Ellipse. I keep waiting for the “magic moment” when millions of these poor swindled young grads will send the message thundering through Facebook and Twitter that they are done paying the inflated price for their useless degrees in “marketing” and “gender studies.” Aren’t you amazed that it hasn’t happened yet? (Although the default rate is rising so fast that a general renunciation may be accomplished without public fanfare.)
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the US government goes after Mr. Snowdon, who is currently on the lam in Hong Kong which, some of you may remember, belongs to China. Does that ever have the potential for a world-class embarrassment? There’s less than a month before America’s big annual birthday party, just enough time for this story to build to an explosive climax. The government will surely have to make some kind of move before than. Given its recent tendencies to over-reach on everything, the government could easily screw the pooch on this. The 29-year-old Snowdon has the look and demeanor of an all-American hero and it will be interesting to see the reaction if and when federal agents haul him off a plane in handcuffs. What’s more, Snowdon made a clear, concise, and eloquent statement explaining his actions: “The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong,” he said.
You couldn’t put it plainer than that.