Why do people ever expect reason to be a part of this? This quote shows exactly the point of surveillance (and torture for that matter). In a reasonable world, science and reason hold the greatest possible power. To perform surveillance despite the fact that it doesn't make sense is to exert one's power over reason itself. You cannot argue with an entity wielding such power, they have empirically shown that they are more powerful than reason. Follow this line and the only reasoning you are left with as an individual is submit or...
I've pasted this a million times but I strongly believe this is the absolutely most important quote from 1984 (from O'Brien torturing Winston Part 3, Chapter 3):
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?' "
We could easily add to that 'the object of surveillance is surveillance'. There is no end game in any of these assertions of power other than expression and confirmation of power: not security, not prosperity, not even the welfare of the nation.
"Next in importance to personal freedom is immunity from suspicions, and jealous observation. Men may be without restraints upon their liberty: they may pass to and fro at pleasure: but if their steps are tracked by spies and informers, their words noted down for crimination, their associates watched as conspirators, who shall say that they are free? Nothing is more revolting to Englishmen than the espionage which forms part of the administrative system of continental despotisms. It haunts men like an evil genius, chills their gaiety, restrains their wit, casts a shadow over their friendships, and blights their domestic hearth.
The freedom of a country may be measured by its immunity from this baleful agency. Rulers who distrust their own people, must govern in a spirit of absolutism; and suspected subjects will be ever sensible of their bondage."
The Constitutional History Of England Vol II (1863), pg. 288
by T. E. May
And so answers a question in the thread Don't fly during Ramadan. Why, when picked for examination/interrogation, does TSA threaten or actually re-search bags & people over and over knowing nothing new will be found? This.
I am not entirely sure of this btw. We've seen a number of very short-lived successful coup de'etats in Ecuador which can only be under the assumption that the military seized power to make a political statement on behalf of protesters, and then quickly relinquished power. Additionally I have to wonder about Felix Sulla's restoration of the Roman republic near the end of his rule. I think it is likely that these are exceptions that prove the rule but "no one ever" is way too broad to be true on its face.
I think the larger problem is that organizations have a will to live independent of their members, and killing an organization is hard. What is the object of surveillance? It depends on who you ask. For the government agencies involved, this is a matter of extending their territory and so your view may hold some water there, but for a wider class, the object of surveillance is money, and they are the ones calling the shots I think.
All too often those young idealists morph into the power structure they seek to topple. They may not start out with the objective of dictatorship per se, but they know no other path than to impose their own.
I think you may have inadvertently hit on the problem. The people who hold the most power in the US don't do so because of democracy, they do so because of money. Campaign financing means that the winners are those who are able to wield a significant amount of money.
It isn't necessary that the people with the most money win elections either, just the fact that you must have millions to even get on the playing field means democracy is not the foundation of their power, it's just an obstacle.
"As if giving grounds did not come to an end sometime. But the end is not an ungrounded presupposition: it is an ungrounded way of acting."
See also this excellent Venkatesh piece on the relationship between observation and authority: http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2013/03/22/social-dark-matter-on-s...
It is fortunate indeed that these blessed tools that were sent to protect us from unchristian violence are also perfectly suited to protect our immortal souls from the corrupting influence of everyday life.
It is a manifest part of God's plan for us that we use these tools to spread God's word and to protect his flock from evil thoughts and actions.
Control must be absolute. God demands it.
Rather, I think this an issue with the human psyche, which is complex, but unambiguously real. Whether or not there's a God, there are many who clearly want to believe in something which is omni-present, and I'm guessing that for those with no faith, or for whom their faith doesn't scratch that itch, they fill that gap with a fictional Good Guy Government that protects you while you sleep.
I think it's more a desire to see justice than a desire for something omni-present. People that believe in neither religion nor good government will sometimes make claims like, "yeah one day I'm going to be that guy's boss," which is just saying, "I feel bad now but he'll get his comeuppance later and balance will be restored."
Applying Bayesian empiricism! My posterior measurement of P(redeemable|young) after a lifetime of observation is too high. While I'm on the topic of children; how is it just to kill the youth of Egypt for the flaws of their ruler and his enforcers?
False. God is omnipotent :)
Even some miracles are not miracles (ie: Jericho wall destruction, God explained what people had to do, but if you pay attention, it was a matter of physics, not supernatural power).
The difference of course is that with religion I have the luxury of not believing that the surveilling entity actually exists. I have no similar comfort with the NSA.
I wish I didn't believe that the NSA exists, but I do, and there isn't any way for me to change that. I cannot simply decide that I no longer believe something exists.
If you could make yourself disbelieve NSA, would you?
"Can't I just let myself forget what you've told me? Can't I just let myself forget what you've made me do. You think I just want another puzzle to solve? Another John G. to look for? You're John G. So you can be my John G... Will I lie to myself to be happy? In your case Teddy... yes I will" (from Memento)
Really this just highlights that "choosing" to believe or not believe is sort of a silly concept.
Yeah, for most of us. But that's the thing about the guy in Memento - he can chose what to think and "remember" in the future since he trusts his own handwriting and pretty much forgets everything else.
"However I would be happier if I didn't know it existed"
If you could chose to forget, you wouldn't know it existed, and thus be happier. Souds like the logical thing to do :)
In your anecdote, do the religious people see themselves as being in the same social group as the president or other powerful members of government?
To start, does the list of religious people you've talked include many non-Christians?
Which parts of the government are those?
Isn't that the point of surveillance?
Governments want innovation, originality and critical thinking for its ability to foster wealth and a rich culture. At the same time they are afraid of the disruptive changes that is results of it, so they set up mass surveillance for the fear that is coming out of control.
At the same time they probably know that this have a bad effect on the society. That is why it was taken enormous measures to keep it secret, including gag orders on anything that could reveal its existence, likely in a hope that the bad effect won't happen if people don't know about it. Now the people know.
While we do need a small number of elites to improve and think up new ideas (see Lenin's New Economic Policy of infusing innovation into Communism through temporary small scale Capitalism), it would be dangerous if everyone had free time or capacity of enlightened intellect to be as creative and critical as they are capable. The 60s are great existence proof of that.
As we are seeing with a general lack of outrage in the population over the snowden released information, people are more cautious, saying less and policing themselves. It is a small minority, maybe to their own peril who are speaking their minds.
The cynic would say that maybe Snowden's release was a planned move by the Administration. Think of how much more effective the system will be if it is in "the open." A bold move, but if successful, forever changes what the notion of liberty means in the US.
I disagree. I think that there will be some people who will be creative no matter what. There will some people who won't be creative no matter what. And there will be some people in the middle who could swing either way.
As an example: I think that Steve Jobs would've been creative and ambitious no matter what. But I don't think that Wozniak would've been ambitious if it wasn't for Jobs pushing him.
Certain environments foster creativity and experimenting. US colleges are full of weird intellectuals with crazy ideas. OTOH, Your typical, say, police department (or most government agencies...) is not.
The environment that we live in will tend to sway people in one direction or the other. (... just look at the environment of S.V. or YCombinator...)
Yes the total creative output is lower, but control is still retained. The state maximizes for control, not creative output or liberty.
It is really sad the NSA thing existed in the first place. A waste of intellect, creativity and resources on all sides. All those TFLOP years of computation for what?
"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death"
It starts with outward self-censorship and ends with the internal...
"He set to work to exercise himself in crimestop. He presented himself with propositions —'the Party says the earth is flat', 'the party says that ice is heavier than water'— and trained himself in not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted them." - Chapter 4.
One observation in all of this: It is really the aim of at least some terrorists, to provoke the authorities so much so they will take measures that their subjects revolts againss. That was Baader Meinhof, and Rote Arme Fraktione ideology.
So when the authorities has failed, since they bought into the game, we are the last line of defense in not letting Osama Bin Laden win this.
Terrorists really don't deserve to win.
I guess now many of us are seeing the light that it seems much more likely that this is really all about controlling the masses to the benefit of the state and not about security at all. However, those being given such powers may very well have figured that we would later figure this out but by then it would be too late for us to do anything about it. I would like to believe that we the people will prove them wrong.
This is the case in at least some EU nations, like Lithuania. I am not even sure which is better between this and the US-like or UK-like alternative.
Although that is in the comment section rather than the leader, which I would expect as she is a columnist. But it is certainly funny in retrospect. Polly has always been something of a statist however, and is someone who seems generally ready to give government the benefit of the doubt on first principles.
What would be the reaction of politicians if their every phone call, email, message were able to be read and published?
On the other hand, do you really want the neighbor's meth-head boyfriend to have NSA style access to your records? to your children's records?
Seriously guys, a world with zero privacy may sound kind of cool... in theory. But you have to realize that there are actors much more nefarious than most governments on Earth, and the impact to the lives of those who become "persons of interest" for that kind of actors happen to be more immediate and unpleasant.
But as for what this would be like, most likely it would be a society like the Borg (TNG Borg, pre-queen, not VOY Borg).
The USA Constitution makes it completely clear: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." This became a political problem for the powerful, so they concocted a legal notion amounting to the suffix "unless the search is imposed on everyone without particular cause" which has proven surprisingly effective and acceptable to the general public.
When all branches of government conspire to ignore the rules, more rules won't stop them.
The political game is obviously rigged against us. Our strength is the technical solution, not the political solution.
Of course, most adversaries of the US aren't competent. Planning to jihad something? A good first step to not getting caught would be to never visit a jihadi website in the first place.
"Our surveillance is justified because terrorists!" rather misses the point..