Monday, June 24, 2013

Honestly, where the hell have you people been?

(In answer to Jim Wright, who objects that there has been little opposition to the vast expansion of the surveillance state post 9/11.)

Scared to death and silenced by money, largely through the efforts of the same people who most strongly support the national security state. Our elected representatives scarcely notice us any more.

In part, this is the result of a propaganda campaign spanning decades. It began with the abrogation of the laws of media consolidation and balance starting in the 1980s, as documented by Ben Bagdikian. The 1990s we saw the emergence of a right-wing propaganda network, led by Fox News. During the same period, campaign finance laws were steadily weakened, with the result that increasingly elected officials responded not to the voters, but to the people who funded their campaigns.

The decade of the Big Zero saw the triumph of right-wing views in the media. By then there were so few media outlets, and they were so much under the influence of the fearmongers, that few voices in the major media were raised against the war in Iraq or the vast expansion of the national security state.  On January 16, 2003, perhaps 100,000 people demonstrated against the Iraq war on the National Mall in the DC. On the same day, over 150,000 people turned out in San Francisco. The demonstrations were scarcely reported, and made no difference to Congress.

If there was to be a national debate it had to be informed, and legislators had to be free to debate, and take public positions. Information was suppressed and legislators were forbidden to publicly discuss what they knew of the security state. The impossibility of discussion also made criticism from outside the closed circle of classified policy-making impossible.

In the period running up to the Big Zero, a few voices were raised from the margins. Bagdikian I've already mentioned. Also the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, moderate libertarians, and the cipherpunks, radical libertarians. But these did not persuade.

Russ Feingold, a moderate leftist and the only Senator who voted against the Patriot Act, was voted out in favor of a Tea Party Republican.

The Senate was aware of the extent of surveillance and the Senators who knew were forbidden to speak publicly. Markey and Udall came nearest to doing so. The US press is likely to turn any whistleblower over to the tender mercies of the Federal government, which has been cracking down on whistleblowers. The same government that maintains an illegal prison in Cuba and has replaced its network of overseas black prisons with a network of overseas prisons belonging to countries willing to torture. If this story was was going to be published, it would be the work of a whistleblower and the international press.

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