Sunday, August 4, 2013

Oh...That's Just the Sound of George Orwell Rolling in His Grave

It was a bright mild day in June, and the clocks were striking thirteen...

I waited until age 30 to get my first tattoo because I am risk averse and the permanence of that decision made it a weighty one. I ended up opting for an homage to Orwell's 1984, one my favorite books, but not because I'm some tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. I read that book by choice in high school as part of my "Fuck Authority - the man keeps harassing me" phase. It is one of the few books I've read more than once and I'm always surprised by Orwell's prescience. Yes, Huxley nailed modern 1st world life in Brave New World but Orwell predicted economic unions, government controlled media, state sponsored conditioning, and most frighteningly, the surveillance state, so modern life is more appropriately depicted by a combination of the two books.

If you don't believe the US has state controlled media, conditioning, or that it is a surveillance state you probably watch mainstream news and are misinformed. I'm not writing to argue that we live in some Orwellian dystopia. It's the the information age. Ignorance is now a choice people certainly have the right to make.

Now, the guy with the BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU tattoo has something to say about the Snowden/NSA case.

I'm not going to give the entire background. If you have been living under a rock you can read the scandal's timeline here and Snowden's profile here. In a nut shell, Snowden, a former NSA employee, leaked a bunch of information proving the US government is spying on its citizens, allies, and enemies by data-basing phone and internet communications. The US government responded by labeling him a traitor, suspending his passport (stranding him in a Russian airport for weeks), interfering with his right to seek political asylum, threatening and blustering, and putting heavy pressure on the Russian government for the extradition of Snowden to stand trial for treason. Despite this pressure, Russia recently approved Temporary Asylum for Edward Snowden. The US Government and its media have responded with more bluster, seething outrage, threats of sanctions, and threats of severing diplomatic ties. I just have one question: What's the big fucking deal bitch?

"In a time of Universal Deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act" - George Orwell, 1984

Telling the truth does not a traitor make. Sure, Snowden embarrassed the US government but the information he released was all in the sphere of public interest, putting nobody in danger but himself. The Obama administration seems to have a problem with whistle-blowers, prosecuting more than all previous presidents combined* to  fullest extent of the law under the Espionage Act, written in 1917, a year when whistle-blowers were called "Journalists".

The Espionage Act was passed in reaction to German espionage attempts on prior to the US's entry into World War I. It says anyone who gives a state declared secret document to a non-authorized person has committed a crime. Additionally, the person receiving the document  has conspired to help that person commit a crime. The Espionage Act has sparsely been used in the past 90 years because it has always been somewhat controversial and viewed with a laughable attitude (until 9/11). It was intended for use against legitimate spies but is now being used to prosecute truth-speakers. That's a problem.

The Espionage Act landed Bradley Manning a life sentence in prison for leaking documents about US foreign policy. Which is kind of fucked up - our foreign policy, not leaking it. He shined a spotlight on America making it look bad but he had nothing to do with US foreign policy. All he did was tell the truth and watch the world disapprove of US action.

The argument that whistle-blowers endanger American lives and national security both at home and abroad is laughable. Last time I checked, the US drone-bombs the shit out of random countries killing  civilians. We regularly meddle in other's political affairs. We use our economic superiority to exploit 3rd world countries and keep them poor. We preemptively invade, depose governments, and "install democracy". We pay little heed to international borders when carrying out military actions. Why? Because we're the greatest country in the world! We're #1 and you best remember that!

If this NSA surveillance program is truly protecting us, how did the Tsarnaev brothers successfully set off bombs at the Boston Marathon? How did both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security fail us?

"Employing the concept of doublethink, the Party gives ironic names to its branches as a way to euphemize what they actually are." - George Orwell, 1984

It doesn't matter why the government is spying on us. It's certainly not indicative of the freedom Americans so vehemently celebrate. By the time you've reached this sentence there is a very good chance the government has filed a record of your visit to this site, not because this blog is important or provacative, but because that's just what they are doing. We know this thanks to Snowden. We should be having a discourse on the implications of this program. Regardless of opinion, no one can really argue that we aren't better off knowing about it. I don't think Snowden is a traitor. If anything I feel betrayed by the government.

"If you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself" - George Orwell, 1984

The diplomatic actions and rhetoric employed by the US government over Edward Snowden are embarrassing. This is a lot of bluster over one man and it comes off as spiteful and petty. The government acts like a spoiled child ratted out by a younger sibling and seeking vengeance. They are bending the definition of an old law to turn a truth-teller into a traitor. He did not sell weapons technology to our enemies. He did not give out battle plans or troop positions. He did not in any way endanger the American people. Sure terrorists now know they need to find a new way to communicate but that seems less important to me than the fact that I have no privacy. This isn't freedom.

Snowden simply said "Hey, Big Brother Is Watching You and that shit ain't cool." I think he acted in the interest of the public and my opinion will not be swayed by a government incessantly insinuating he is a traitor when it operates in secrecy against the people it serves.

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same tale - then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." George Orwell, 1984

*  It's worth noting that the Obama Administration has not prosecuted as single banker or CEO in relation to the      scandals that destroyed our economy. 

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