News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Paranoia vs Reasonable Doubt: The NSA Program and Its Effects on Society

Friday, March 31, 2006

Paranoia vs Reasonable Doubt: The NSA Program and Its Effects on Society

When it comes to the debate over whether the government should be able to spy on US citizens, some express a call to rational concern and balanced objectvity. Indeed, with such a threat as government eavesdropping and the power of technology to intrude into the most private spheres of our lives, a reminder to remain calm is perhaps called for. ...

This reminder can cut two ways, however. It can make us complacent and unaware of the true threat that these measures pose. That fact alone calls for some response. In other words, you might say, "What's all the fuss about? Isn't it just a bunch of lawyers trying to make tempest in a teapot?"

I have suggested in my previous postings that the danger to us, to our culture is quite immense. It is insidious, however, and acts under the radar. This darker side of the these programs and the behaviouristic efects they have on our society is best summarized, perhaps, in the comment a student made to me after a debate on this very issue: "We need these programs because everyone is a potential terrorist."

Another delusional, overwrought mind buzzed into paranoia? Consider this story story reported by UPI:

The state of Indiana may set up an "intelligence fusion center" to collect and analyze data on what security officials deem as suspicious people. [my emphasis]

Legislators and public safety officials say the center would be part of homeland security efforts, staffed with law enforcement officers under the governor's supervision, reports the Indianapolis Star.

State Sen. Thomas J. Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, who is sponsoring a bill for the center, says the measure would allow collection of intelligence information on an individual only if that person "reasonably" appears to have knowledge of terrorist or criminal activities.
Giving way somewhat to a slippery slope argument: Do you want to live in a culture where spying on others, suspecting everyone to be a terrorist, looking askance at "suspicious people" (whatever that might mean)?

This is not a free society, it is a society enslaved by its mass fears and delusions. It enforces some warped notion of conformity that tracks and perhaps jails those who do not conform to some bureaucrat's idea of what is the right way to act or what ideas to think and express.

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lightningjoe said...

You are absolutely right that the current trend toward blanket suspicion is insidious and dangerous.

The gold kernel of the American Dream is that a citizen does not have to ask the permission of the society at large, in order to pursue his or her goals and dreams, so long as those dreams do not involve damaging others.

This is an important principle, because as mortal beings we do not have unlimited resources or time in which to justify our aims to the general culture. The time spent allaying rampant suspicions of differentness can be better spend pursuing our aims.

Today we see, around every corner, those who are willing to take away the rights of others, not to prevent further damage by someone who's inclinations have been seen to run that way, but to prevent even the bare possibility of damage in the first place.

In other words more and more of us have, in practical terms, lost our faith in the well-meaning of our fellow citizens. We are unwilling to trust that our fellows have internal limits that will prevent them from setting out to damage us.

This (i believe quite false) perception has been fanned by a political establishment that reaps inordinate benefit from keeping the population afraid.

Even the depredations of people who really are out to damage us pale next to the damages we enact on ourselves every day through unsafe driving and the toleration of toxic substances in our lives.

The Bush administration seeks to keep us in a state of fear, so that their tactics, supposedly aimed to reinforce our "security" will not be questioned.

Their tactics are still working well, for around 40% of American citizens.

waggoner41 said...

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

In 1930's Germany, there was great success in driving political action by instilling fear in the citizenry.

It seems that there are far too few Americans who "remember the past". We are therefore, as a nation, condemned to repeat it.