When you grow up within a country, there are some very fundamental things about that society that become imprinted upon you. You become the product of those ideas. Those concepts become the grid – the framework – through which you operate and, at some level, assume to be “right”. That is certainly the case with the notion of “freedom of speech” here in the United States.
Throughout all of our education, reinforced through the media and our parents, there was always this bedrock notion of freedom of speech and its corollaries, freedom of the press and the separation of religion and state. Academic freedom in schools of higher learning flows from this same font. The government could not tell you what to think and cannot hinder what you say (as long as it doesn’t endanger or harm someone else).
Ideas lubricate all aspects of the national system and are fundamental to the ability of the organism to adapt to change (to say nothing about the extended benefits related to personal self-image and the sense of well-being) . This is particularly the case in times of high rate of change and disruption. The solution is always in new ideas and concepts.
The founders of our country implicitly understood that Ideas are supreme. Those wise individuals also understood that there might be times when the people’s desire for change would outstrip the government’s ability to change. In that case, they said, the people’s interests win, even if they have to change the government.
Consider that in the context of these times. The dynamics are the same. As the world shifts and morphs into something new, the only way that we can safely and successfully get from here to there is with innovation – new ideas. And the more those new ideas flow, the more adaptable the country is – and the more likely it is to weather the contextual reorganization.
Do you follow that? Ideas – new ideas – are the lifeblood of a country’s potential of successfully making it through major change.
If this is the case, then the policy implications should be obvious: let the ideas flow – loosen up the interchange. Enable the ability to change and adapt with good, new ideas.
But there’s a problem. The essential nature of big government is conservative, risk adverse and defensive . . . and certainly is never characterized as highly adaptable. Rather than embracing the constant need to change and do things better, they typically defend the status quo and put on the brakes.
We’re living in a time of exponential change and Edward Snowden is an example of an attempt to insert a new idea into the mix. He’s arguing that rather than constrict the flow of ideas, the U.S. would be far better off to loosen up the flow of ideas. (If you don’t think knowing that the government is always looking at and saving records of everything you do dampens the flow of ideas and process, then you are not one of those folks who are pushing out the edges of the box, trying to get the systems to change.) Without the Edward Snowden’s of the world, governments inevitably become more ossified and bureaucratic, slowing down the rate of internal change. In the face of external change that is more than they can handle their focus becomes one of self-preservation rather than adaptation. This is the description of the beginning of the end of an empire.
So, it’s within this framework that we might ask the question: Does it seem right that, in a country that was built on the premise of freedom of speech, freedom of press and the free flow of ideas, the government would be actively involved in constraining free speech and suppressing the forces of change? It may not seem right, although one can understand what is happening – but even then, the details of what is going on are pretty hard to justify.
Consider this. It has now been shown that there is an active, organized, ongoing effort within the government to sway and discredit those groups that they don’t agree with, using the immense capabilities of the NSA to get inside of and manipulate their online operations and reputations. There are laws that make this illegal in the commercial arena, but our government is doing it in secret.
The alternative media has documented for 5 years that the government uses disinformation and disruption (and here) on the web to discredit activists and manipulate public opinion, just like it smears traditional television and print reporters who question the government too acutely.
New Edward Snowden documents confirm that Britain’s spy agency is doing so.
As Glenn Greenwald writes today:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.
These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself. Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. (read more . . . )
The Brits are carrying this personal invasion into observing intimate activities in homes and building a database of the faces of their citizens . . . just in case they need them.
The Intelligence Apparatus Is Checking Out Your “Intimate Body Parts”: According to the latest Snowden revelation, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which works in close collaboration with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), has been intercepting and storing images of millions of Yahoo webcam-chat users in a program appropriately code-named “Optic Nerve.”
Leaked GCHQ documents indicate that the snoops have discovered that “Unfortunately…it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of the body to the other person” and that “it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.” (To which the modern mind responds: “Well, duh…”)
(read more . . . )
Some researchers believe that Snowden files give indications of the government cover up of knowledge related to UFOs and other such areas (that they have otherwise be disparaging).
And finally, some folks are seeing the potential beginning of a shift in public opinion relative to all of this. Perhaps they are right. Maybe Edward Snowden is accomplishing his goal.