Read

User menu

Search form

The Digital Dog Ate Our Civil Liberties Homework: “It’s Just the Way It Is”

The Digital Dog Ate Our Civil Liberties Homework: “It’s Just the Way It Is”
Tue, 11/10/2015 - by Norman Solomon
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

Of all the excuses ladled out for the Obama administration's shredding of the Fourth Amendment while assaulting press freedom and prosecuting “national security” whistleblowers, none is more pernicious than the claim that technology is responsible.

At first glance, the explanation might seem to make sense. After all, the capacities of digital tech have become truly awesome. It’s easy to finger “technology” as the driver of government policies, as if the president at the wheel has little choice but to follow the technological routes that have opened up for Big Brother.

Now comes New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, telling listeners and viewers of a Democracy Now! interview that the surveillance state is largely a matter of technology: “It’s just the way it is in the 21st century.”

That’s a great way to depoliticize a crucial subject – downplaying the major dynamics of the political economy, anti-democratic power and top-down choices – letting leaders off the hook, as if sophistication calls for understanding that government is to be regulated by high-tech forces rather than the other way around.

In effect, the message is that – if you don’t like mass surveillance and draconian measures to intimidate whistleblowers as well as journalists – your beef is really with technology, and good luck with pushing back against that. Get it? The fault, dear citizen, is not in our political stars but in digital tech.

When Amy Goodman asked Savage about the Obama administration’s record-high prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, he summed up this way:

“Because of technology, it’s impossible to hide who’s in contact with whom anymore, and cases are viable to investigate now that weren’t before. That’s not something Obama did or Bush did. It’s just the way it is in the 21st century, and investigative journalism is still grappling with the implications of that.”

A more astute and candid assessment of such matters can be found in “Through the Looking-Glass," where Lewis Carroll wrote this dialogue:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," Alice replied, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," Humpty Dumpty responded, "which is to be master – that's all."

The surveillance state is not the default setting of digital technology. The surveillance state is a failure and suppressor of democracy.

A surveillance state or a democratic system – which is to be master?

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Originally published by Huffington Post

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, Norwegian divestment, oil divestment, fossil fuel divestments, carbon emissions, Green New Deal, petro-states

Europe's largest oil producer is effectively admitting the oil game is over and promises to divest from the industry – but it wants to play to the final whistle. Can it have it both ways?

Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Amazon cloud storage, Amazon government relationship, Amazon surveillance technology, Amazon financial dominance

Amazon provides is unmatched providing cloud storage to our federal government, gubernatorial organizations and local municipalities, with over 2,000 agencies now dependant on AWS.

Brexit, Brexit failure, leaving the E.U., British turmoil, Brexit no-deal

The rejection of a no-deal left the government crestfallen as its attempt to keep control of the Brexit process by maintaining a no-deal on the table was quashed.

youth climate strike, climate protests, climate walkouts, strike for climate, Greta Thunberg, global youth protests

The global Youth Climate Strike will have its official coming out party this Friday, March 15, when tens of thousands of young people worldwide skip school to protest climate inaction.

Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, Norwegian divestment, oil divestment, fossil fuel divestments, carbon emissions, Green New Deal, petro-states

Europe's largest oil producer is effectively admitting the oil game is over and promises to divest from the industry – but it wants to play to the final whistle. Can it have it both ways?

Environmental activists occupy the office of then incoming Democratic majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Amid transatlantic proposals for a Green New Deal, monetary policy – normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors – has suddenly taken center stage.

Image Credit: Sara Jane Rhee

Teachers are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal.

District of Columbia Democratic Attorney General Karl Racine (center) is hiring outside climate counsel to work on matters related to an Exxon investigation. Karl Racine/Facebook

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has revealed plans to hire climate lawyers to focus on an investigation and potential litigation against Exxon Mobil Corp.

billionaires, abolish billionaires, extreme wealth, wealth inequality, income inequality, tax the rich, wealth redistribution, wealth tax

America’s billionaires have suddenly realized they just may be facing an existential crisis: A good chunk of the American people, they now understand, would rather billionaires not exist.

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago
Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Amazon cloud storage, Amazon government relationship, Amazon surveillance technology, Amazon financial dominance

Amazon provides is unmatched providing cloud storage to our federal government, gubernatorial organizations and local municipalities, with over 2,000 agencies now dependant on AWS.

Posted 3 days 13 hours ago
Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, Norwegian divestment, oil divestment, fossil fuel divestments, carbon emissions, Green New Deal, petro-states

Europe's largest oil producer is effectively admitting the oil game is over and promises to divest from the industry – but it wants to play to the final whistle. Can it have it both ways?

Posted 2 days 26 min ago
Brexit, Brexit failure, leaving the E.U., British turmoil, Brexit no-deal

The rejection of a no-deal left the government crestfallen as its attempt to keep control of the Brexit process by maintaining a no-deal on the table was quashed.

Posted 4 days 14 hours ago
Image Credit: Sara Jane Rhee

Teachers are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal.

Posted 3 days 38 min ago
Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, Norwegian divestment, oil divestment, fossil fuel divestments, carbon emissions, Green New Deal, petro-states

Europe's largest oil producer is effectively admitting the oil game is over and promises to divest from the industry – but it wants to play to the final whistle. Can it have it both ways?

Image Credit: Sara Jane Rhee

Teachers are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal.

Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Amazon cloud storage, Amazon government relationship, Amazon surveillance technology, Amazon financial dominance

Amazon provides is unmatched providing cloud storage to our federal government, gubernatorial organizations and local municipalities, with over 2,000 agencies now dependant on AWS.

Bouteflika protests, Algeria protests, second Arab Spring, Algeria youth, Algeria elections

Hundreds of thousands gathered at capital Algiers' landmark Grand Poste square demanding the president step down.