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I don't agree with Brooks's viewpoint, but I would be curious to read how HN readers might refute (or support) his argument.



I find his philosophical views fairly reactionary. What does he want? For society to go back to a pyramid structure where people are bound to a particular village and have freedom to construct their own lives? We watch movies about people living in those kinds of worlds, whether authority prevents a person from being with someone they love, or forces them into a subservient role because of some irrelevant parental or biological characteristic, or simply denies them the right to follow their dreams, and I don't know about you but my reaction every time is one of horror. I would not want to live in that world. And yet that's what these "mediating institutions" that conservatives love ultimately do.

He is correct in that the reason why we are living under these simultaneous horrors of alienation and encroaching statism is indeed the fact that there is nothing other than the individual and the state left. But the solution is not to go back; rather, it is to go forward. For the first time, we have an internet that exposes us to cultural artifacts and sets of values from all around the world. You right now are reading something written by a Russian Canadian; the person replying to me may well be Chinese. True, we aren't going to spend our lives bound from the top down by powerful overarching communities. But what we can do is create communities of our own. We're seeing it already; the fact that this new wave of peer-to-peer services (taking an expansive definition of the term) like AirBnB, Couchsurfing and Meetup are doing so well is proof that people are willing to search for groups of people that share their own values and get together with them. For the first time in history, we're seeing powerful non-governmental organizations bounded by nothing but a shared vision for a better world get seats at the same conferences and decision-making bodies as governments and businesses. Freedom is not amoralism; notice that the author of this article mentioned that Snowden actually _donated_ to Ron Paul; would the archetype "selfish" individualist without enough money to actually influence the outcome ever do such a thing? Rather, freedom is the ability to shape your life according to your own image. And it's about time we simultaneously recognize the problems of the present day and advance a vision to move our society forward that recognizes this fact.

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I would say his argument is the olde: "We, your betters, know best. Don't argue or criticise, its unpatriotic." Oh, and bung in a bit of "what have you got to hide", while we are at it.

I really, really, hate saying this, because usually its a phrase used by right wing nut jobs, but it really smacks of genuine intellectual elitism. (Thank god for British gun laws, saying that makes me want to blow my brains out, or at least an old laptop. I'll have to make do with the next best thing, a Jack Daniels on ice)

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I find the framing of Snowden's actions as "unilateral" to be suspect. He's a whistleblower at the NSA, not a union organizer at a trucking company. What else would he do, see if any of his colleagues want to join him first?

I also feel like you're loyalty to an employer should be based on more than a $200k salary and an office in Hawaii, as Brooks suggests.

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Yeah, sounds like he thinks Snowden should have organised a coup d'etat. And that would NOT have been treasonous....

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Me neighter. I really don't see how keeping information to himself could have helped in any way. It's important for society to be aware of what is happening and it's up to society itself to decide on how much of their freedom they want to give away in order to be 'safe'. And what on earth does visiting one's mother have to do with a national security issue?

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One sentence from the piece. "If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods."

1. Eavesdropping does not disappear when vast data sweeps are allowed. 2. The problem with secret vast data sweeps is that they are secret and the efficiency cannot be questioned by the public. Even if the result of the sweeps induce more eavesdropping and wasting even more resources.

He doesn't exactly question that the data sweeps are accurate or not, he just assumes that they are. After a little exposure to machine learning, data mining and statistics he might question them a little more.

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