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I can no longer proudly claim the West is free. We are living in a surveillance state.

That's a little disrespectful to those who actually lived in surveillance states. Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

Even if you were engaged in actual subversive activities, like reading and publishing terrorist propaganda or selling drugs at scale, Tor makes it possible to do this with relatively little risk to yourself. It's still risky, but nothing like it used to be. And even if the government knows that you do these things, how much of a threat do you need to pose before they'll act against you in particular? The governments of old would routinely act against large numbers of their population for far less.

I'm not arguing for complacency, but it's important to keep perspective.




"If you see something, say something" is an actual campaign run during the last administration. It wasn't taken as seriously as what you mention, but the same spirit was/is there.


This is the slogan of a post-9/11 (and ongoing) MTA campaign that's been borrowed by the Department of Homeland Security and many other agencies around the country and the world since.

I believe the original intent was mostly about reporting unattended bags that could contain bombs, not reporting your neighbor for hosting a socialist book club or whatever. Obviously it's vague and broad enough that it could be bent to more sinister purposes though.


No need for the neighbors to report subversive activity when everyone is already self-reporting all this information online, both publicly and in not-so-private private communications.


>"If you see something, say something"

Perhaps a slightly different context but I have heard this almost verbatim a few days ago on buses and trains in Birmingham, UK.

If I'm not mistaken too, I believe that "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is also something the Govt used a few years ago.


"See it, say it, sorted" is the current British Transport Police campaign:

http://www.btp.police.uk/latest_news/see_it_say_it_sorted_ne...


I think the current "If you see something, say something." is specifically targeted at child abuse. At least, that's how all the adverts make it sound.


Australia ran one of these campaigns recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXxgclr7J9g

The content of the ad includes someone looking at someones trash, seeing some common chemicals and assuming they are making a bomb.


..and you still see this exact phrase on trains and buses in both the US and UK.


"If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget"


"Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?", No! Because there is no need for them ( three letter agencies ) to hire your neighbor when they can "hire" your smart TV.


Exactly. Your neighbor doesn't need to report on you, because you do it yourself with the bug in your pocket that records every word you say and every move you make.


"That's a little disrespectful to those who actually lived in surveillance states."

No it's not, and I highly resent this argument. It inevitably ends up with, but it's not at stasi levels... yet... When in truth what we have now would have made the Stasi have wet dreams! So stop it with this variation of affective fallacy already. Even if it was, somehow, disrespectful, which I don't think it is, even it was, who cares? It doesn't and shouldn't change the conversation whatsover. We are having a discussion about the current state of our mass modern surveillance engine, not about any other time in history (though they might be relevant to learn from).

Also, at this stage, if we don't talk about the potential before it gets too bad, we won't be able to stop it. Binney and Drake both refer to the current state as the "turn-key totalitarian state", and Drake for example got his start spying on east Germany during the cold war! As a matter of fact, if anything, I would find it to be highly respectful, for we are trying to prevent a similar fate those before us have failed to prevent.

"Tor makes it possible to do this with relatively little risk to yourself."

Nope, when they own enough fiber backbone nodes owning the tor network becomes much less non-trivial. Also, targeting tor-browser 0days, along with, as we can see from the NSA and CIA leaks, direct comprimise of machine, make tor not nearly as useful as a tool of anonymity as you seem to think. (Still useful, don't hate me J Appelbaum...)

"how much of a threat do you need to pose before they'll act against you in particular?"

Easy, all you need is to be effective and credible. It's been seen time and time again, since COINTELPRO and on. If you are just ranting and raving, maybe doing a protest or two, no one gives a fuck (other than to enter your name into a database somewhere). The second your protest actually starts doing something, or your dissident political campaign affects change in some way, thats when you become a target.

"The governments of old would routinely act against large numbers of their population for far less."

What's your point? First of all, with the surveillance engine storage, there is nothing to prevent the sudden repeal of ex post facto and suddenly they start walking the cat backwards 5 years, enmasse, against any potential dissidents. Remember there are over 1.1 million Americans on the "Terror Watch List", with no transparency of how they got there or any recourse to get off.

You say you aren't arguing for complacency, only for perspective, but your rhetoric does not match your claim.


There's a big difference between "we are living in a surveillance state" and "we are on a slippery slope to a surveillance state". A huge obstacle in getting more of the populace to care is the fact that many people who do care (and especially those who write and talk most often about it) seem to think every millimeter of hyperbole and lies in the "right direction" furthers the cause. Ask the Democratic party how that strategy works out in the end.

Internet manifestos like yours or ones that end with "I can no longer proudly claim the West is free. We are living in a surveillance state." empirically don't do shit except help convince people on the sidelines that people who care about the formation of a surveillance state seem to be kind of paranoid.

Actually want to get people to care? Talk about very well substantiated examples that touch things most people are familiar with. It's not like Snowden failed to give us a wide selection. Even if COINTELPRO's soul sequel is in place, you're better off going with a soft sell that hits closer to home than a hard sell that fewer people will identify with.


> There's a big difference between "we are living in a surveillance state" and "we are on a slippery slope to a surveillance state".

Indeed. The first is the state of matter and has been for quite a while, the second is wishful thinking.


As long as you can post that without any worry of jackbooted thugs kicking down your door, there's a very real distinction whatever terms you want to use. Keep up that virtue signaling though, I'm sure it'll help even though it hasn't before.


What does "jackbooted thugs kicking down your door" have to do with "surveillance state"?


Because if it were a real surveillance state, there would be jackbooted thugs, and the fact that I can say this proves that I'm not Scottish.


>but it's not at stasi levels... yet...

Totally agreed. This kind argument is almost always provided in exasperated language that invokes the No True Scotsman fallacy.

Do we really need to wait until it 'x bad' before it's ok to say we have a problem? And if so, who gets to define 'x'?


> No it's not, and I highly resent this argument.

Take a step back before exploding in rage at what should be a polite discussion on the internet.


@sillysaurus, it also saddens me when Westerners schrilly dismiss their countries as corrupt or undemocratic when if the just looked around at the rest of the word and see how much they have, which they ought be proud of and protect. But their are two caveats:

First, the west is freer than the rest because it is more able to criticize even the little things.

Second, electronic surveillance is not longer even one of the little things. It happens out of sight, and mostly out of mind, so authorities now act without the kinds of restraint usual in the west. And rich western governments are actually more capable of this sort of thing that most others.


Fact is Western countries are not democracies or even close to being democratic, never were (switzerland has some democratic components) and western governments are increasingly corrupt as it is a part of the end of the life cycle of empires and civilizations[1] as shown by history.

[1]: The fate of empires and the search for survival by Sir John Glubb


Phew lad. You're a bit far gone aren't you.


> Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

This is possible and more probable than it used to be a couple decades ago. But it's more under the guise of "terrorism" than subversion nowadays.

And it's not neighbor but the middle man between you and people you interact online with that is doing the surveillance (ever heard of facebook ? google ?). It's been a little while now since we've entered the surveillance capitalism society and it is dealing with subversion through behavioral prediction and modification.

It's already in use, one example is police in California.


> That's a little disrespectful to those who actually lived in surveillance states. Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities? Surveillance state comes in a spectrum. Not being on the worse end doesn't means you can't complain.

That's the argument surveillance states use "sure we do these things, but it's not like we are full-on like <insert worse country here>"


I feel it's the same fallacy as saying to a child "eat because others elsewhere starves".

Also Don Ho (NPP's author) is from China. (Studied and lived most of his life in France though, so in my books he's French)


Is Facebook your neighbor?

Are you sure? How long do you spend talking to your neighbor each day?


It's always been true that you have to watch what you say when you're in public. Even still, you're free to criticize the government as much as you want on Facebook. Not so in a surveillance state.


But if you're effective in that criticism you'll get harassed or attacked.

See Jacob Applebaum, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald among others. Journalists, filmmakers, programmers, doesn't matter. The point is that if you don't move enough, you won't really notice the chains.


You got your definition of a surveillance state wrong.

> A surveillance state is a country where the government engages in pervasive surveillance of large numbers of its citizens and visitors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_surveillance#Surveillance...

Ever heard of Snowden instantly stopping the conspiracy theory accusation by releasing internal document showing it was actually happening ?

Surveillance state is not about what you are able to post on facebook. The modern surveillance state welcomes this kind of public posting, it provides data for behavior control through behavioral prediction and modification.


Not true. US citizens may criticize the US government, but it is illegal for work visa holders (such as H1B holders) to protest or criticize the US government.

Thus, an H1B holder in the US may need to remove from Facebook any friends who become protestors in case they are asked to hand over their phone at a border crossing.

This represents a material loss to Americans in the Facebook context.


Not true. US citizens may criticize the US government, but it is illegal for work visa holders (such as H1B holders) to protest or criticize the US government.

That is absolutely 100% false. There is no law or regulation that prohibits anyone, including work visa holders, from criticizing the government. I'm floored someone would even think that.

I'm honestly curious what led you to believe that?


Because until recently I was an H1B holder and was specifically ordered to not take part in any protest as part of the fine print in the visa. One of the luxuries granted to a green card holder is the privilege to protest (and fund politicians.). Also, immigrants (green card or not) may not "undermine the US government", whatever that means. This is attested to during the immigration interviews.


There is a big difference between sedition (undermining the govt), and not being able to "criticize the government." Perhaps there is some nuance there that confuses H1Bs for whom English isn't their first language.


The point is that the interpretation is up for significant abuse.


There need not be a law. The simple fact that US CBP can (and did) ask you to open your social media accounts and browse through implies that what you post on social media can act against you.


We are not talking about Customs and Border protection, we are talking about speech rights for legal residents already in the US. Citizens and non-citizens can get screwed entering the country.


I don't know about this matter in the US, but it seems to me there is no need for law a regulation to revoke a visa arbitrarily. There are countless reports of this kind of thing happening at the border, some have even been confronted to screenshots of their private facebook messaging.


I don't recall this particular rule. Not saying that you are not correct, but sources would be helpful. I wouldn't be surprised if that were there, there are all sorts of silly rules for visas, specially work-related ones.

Now, even if it's not illegal, I'd say it's _unwise_. Leave the protesting to US citizens, as they are afforded more protections.


> That's a little disrespectful to those who actually lived in surveillance states. Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

No really disrespectful. It is a valid concern that what other had to suffer could be a real future potential, realized through technological mean. The human reporter is taking away from the equation. But I get where your are coming from having experienced this second hand.


>Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

Maybe not to the state, but neighbors are absolutely watching neighbors ready to report to the court of social justice for suspected undesirable opinions. This has led to people losing their families and careers for views that other people disagreed with.

Remember it's not the judge that decides if you're guilty; it's the jury.


> That's a little disrespectful to those who actually lived in surveillance states. Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

What's worse, if your neighbour consented to watching you and is actively reporting, or if the surveillance state doesn't even need your neighbour's consent to watch you because these neighbours (and family, friends, partner, etc) are all on Facebook, voluntarily carrying GPS-tracked recording devices everywhere they go, even into your bedroom--thereby making any defensive choice you can make for yourself useless, not joining Facebook, taking care what happens to your phone, etc.

Certainly you can argue it's more disheartening and chilling if, through propaganda, your neighbour voluntarily chooses to report you to the state.

On the other hand, the part where the state doesn't even need consent, that they can watch you much more closely and accurately, all the while your neighbours believe everything is fine--that's also pretty bad.

I'm all for perspective, but can we agree that it's just different? Maybe they don't carry people off to secret prisons quite as often any more. But the level and depth of surveillance is a lot worse, they know a lot more about everybody. And the propaganda, they don't need it to convince your neighbours to spy on you to make sure you're not doing anything subversive, no they control the Facebook feeds and the media's narrative to attack the concept of "subversive" itself.

> And even if the government knows that you do these things, how much of a threat do you need to pose before they'll act against you in particular? The governments of old would routinely act against large numbers of their population for far less.

But what if today, for the governments it is easier to not just act against you in particular, they defuse the whole threat on a much wider scale, the "terrorist propaganda" with a truckload of "fake news" (already there, just a little nudge into the spotlight).

I suppose that yes, if you carefully add all the pros and cons together, these old surveillance states were in fact worse. Given that I believe torture is one of the worst possible things you can do to a person, and that happened on a much larger scale, if you're keeping score that really makes it worse. On the other hand what we have now in the West is also pretty bad. And the level and depth of surveillance and control is worse now. Just because something that was worse was called a "surveillance state", doesn't mean we are also living in one now, and that it's doing bad things to our freedoms.

(granted your last line pretty much tried to say this, I felt like I needed to add some words)


>Is your neighbor watching you, ready to report you to the state for suspected subversive activities?

Yes. They are actively encouraged to do so by the government: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FENOAIrHSl8




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