No Rubber Duckies for May 35th & The Joy of Selectively Censored Propaganda #sympathy4theconspiracytheorists
I do have sympathy for the conspiracy theorists among us, no, not Alex Jones, who is a John Edward-level d-bag (and what is awesome is that we have two completely different people who basically have the same name who qualify for that distinction); no, I sympathize with those true believers who are sincerely trying to Put It All Together into a Grand Unified Theory of Who Is To Blame. By this I mean that there are actual conspiracies and plots all over the place, it’s just that none of them is so grand and unified as to put anything approaching all of it together. Consider the first link above; a Chinese citizen certainly has to deal with a reality that uncomfortably resembles the writings of George Orwell, complete with a central party that believes it has some kind of ownership of its citizens. (It is this idea that is so repugnant in its primitivity; this notion that a state or a political party owns the people like the gods of Sumer and Akkad owned the people of their city states in ancient Mesopotamia is perhaps the most regressive idea that underpins totalitarians.)
But I have become digressive.
It must be tough, though, because there are all these dirty little plots and tricks being worked everywhere you look, it seems; the thing with the Time cover is one of those things that are like candy for the conspiracy seekers. It is a perfect example; the rest of the world saw an ugly unsubtle cover declaiming that Guantanamo will always exist and the North American cover features a portrayal of the Mayor of Chicago that is so disconnected from reality in its absurd flattery that it is as if it was crafted by someone who didn’t know anything about the city or the political creature that is occupying its executive position. It literally brought to mind the stuff produced by the Ministry of Truth when they would rewrite old newspaper stories in ‘1984’; one of my favorite bits is when Smith, the lead character whose job was to rewrite yesterday’s news, realized that the best thing to replace an unpleasant political truth with was a puff piece about a hero that he would just create out of thin air.
The thing is that we are all under surveillance to one degree or another and it is naive to think that your clever phone that can tell you how close you are to a Starbucks or a diaper fetishist doesn’t leave electric clues as to what you are doing in the restroom stalls of coffee shops. This doesn’t mean that each of us has our own man in black assigned to read our emails and make transcripts of our telephone calls; for one thing, there simply will never be enough men in black to do the job. On the other hand, people are getting traffic tickets via spy camera and their pharmacy is telling the grocery store about their medical conditions so that their checkout coupons are better targeted to them. These are generally minor compromises made for convenience but when we made the Patriot Act the law of the land we compromised everything for a sense of security.
Here’s the problem for Obama; as a Senator it makes perfect sense to argue for the principles of privacy and the individual rights of citizens but after being elected President he has an entirely different set of responsibilities and priorities that force him to recalculate his perspective on these principles. When he became President the law of the land was the Patriot Act as it still is now; if he were to refuse to utilize all of the tools it authorized him to use he would effectively be hampering the perfectly legal work of the national security apparatus. Politically speaking, he has nothing to gain and plenty to lose for restricting law enforcement from legally exercising their authority. While the warrants issued sound incredibly broad, they are all perfectly legal under the laws we have imposed upon ourselves. As one of the people who has always argued against the broad powers granted the government by the Patriot Act, I get to utter a weary and sad ‘I told you so’ yet again and scratch one more mark into my cell wall and point out that we can change the law and make better ones, but since this Congress is getting ready to try and repeal Obamacare for the forty-something-ish time I’m not very confident about that happening right now.
It needs to, though, because the Patriot Act is bad law that allows people who too easily get intoxicated by tiny sips of power to have as much as they like with almost no oversight. Consider the general who was running psy-ops on senators and congressmen, or more recently, how the hacker who exposed the Stubenville rapists got raided by the FBI and could end up doing more time than the rapists. Even the tempest in a teapot that is the IRS controversy is an example of this kind of bureaucratic overreach to be endemic to the system. What is amusing is that so many of the people who were all too happy to hand this kind of power over to a feckless idiot like Bush clench up at the idea of a guy like Obama wielding it; it’s like it never crossed their minds that a rich conservative white man might not always be in charge.