A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two
Saturday, June 15, 2013
The Gist of Surveillance:
Some examples of responses to the release of NSA data collection on the US population:
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist. The Frankendata Monster in Counterpunch: details the many iterations that the data collection apparatus has gone through to hide its activities while still being funded by the tax payer. Makes the point that this is old news in a way, but made ignorable by the (slightly) tricky shifting of names and personnel. He tends to focus on the immediate gain to existing operators.
Norman Solomon, on Common Dreams in Clarity from Edward Snowden and Murky Response from Progressive Leaders in Congress, presents the “legal” argument as it ping-pongs around congress: the argument ranges from Snowden as the traitor to hero, NSA spying as essential to criminal, with huge amounts of CYA as the stock for the stew.
Ray McGovern, in Secrecy’s Tangled Web of Deceit (also at Common Dreams) points out the lying as it grades from nonsense through bull-shit to damned lies to criminal lying; all out of the mouths and pens of the leaders of the surveillance programs. He details the lies being told (with appropriate Shakespearean references) and powers of obfuscation available to government and corporate insiders.
Jonathan Taylor is a Professor in the Geography Department at California State University, Fullerton. Apathy and Our Totalitarian Future in Counterpunch: essentially a correct understanding – not devoted to Snowden, terrorism or other tangential concerns. The point is surveillance and the eventual uses the data is put to.
Eric Draitser states, in The NSA and the Infrastructure of the Surveillance State (also Counterpunch), that the surveillance state acts “against the interests of the ordinary Americans.” But, we are told by the people managing the surveillance that it is not against our interests: it is to track and target terrorists and others dangerous to the people (realistically, a few hundred and at most a few thousand people). So why billions of dollars being taken from salutary domestic uses to create both a surveillance and analysis system that can handle the total electronic communication product of the whole world?
The summary response in the “progressive” press (the reactionary press is quite another matter and requires a stronger stomach and mental construction than I possess) focuses on wasteful spending, the corrupt misuse of the secrecy system so that groups and individuals can hide behind a screen of secrecy, devices to extract money from the taxpayer, use of fear to gain control of both power and money, lack of concern because “everyone” knows that they are innocent of dangerous actions and ideas; and accepted beliefs that this has something, if not everything, to do with the attack on US commercial and military infrastructure by 15 Saudi young men plus 5 others in 2001; and/or Iranian intransigence; and/or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and/or an international movement of Muslim extremists who “hate us for our way of life.”
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But, it cannot be the targeting of individuals and groups that is the ultimate goal – the difficulties there are not improved by massive data collection – it must be rather the use of analysis programs, similar in function to climate modeling programs, to model population behavior. The great concern for the future is how the population will respond to the increasing restrictions and limitations imposed by global “balancing” of economies, the end of economic growth and ecological perturbations, all as interpreted by the ruling elites (in their own interests). Patterns of activity would arise out of the massed data just as thunderstorms, tornados and hurricanes are presaged from meteorological data. It would then be possible to focus on nodes of activity and then to groups and individuals for controlling responses – a sort of pre-crime model.
This is driven by non-integrated, but compatible motives: immediate personal gain and the promise of population measurement and control. Immediate added benefits include commercial uses and the fact that large sums of money can be extracted from the fearful taxpayer as long as he and she are frightened of the bloodthirsty “other.”
Frankly, I see no way to stop this from happening; the potential gains in power and control are so great and the technology is rapidly increasing to levels that make such data collection and analysis functionally possible. Our human actions will become like the humidity of the air, the barometric pressure or the direction of the wind, to which the surveillance/police state will respond. Isolated individual communications will be of little interest, that is not the concern, but the discernment of patterns of social dissatisfaction and the forms taken will be.
Events like the Boston Bombing or even 9/11 are ultimately of little interest, it is the large movements of population attitude and potential action that frighten the elites. They know that they are parasites on the body-public and dependent on them, even as they constantly present themselves as the superior human form. The ruling elites could not exist without the masses; to know the mind of the masses has always been an elite goal and now they are only a few years from possessing a major tool toward accomplishing it.