The Significance Of Exposing Government Misconduct.
There are two themes that are repeatedly and regularly stressed on American TV about the secret spy program that Edward Snowden exposed to the world: that it is for our protection and therefore necessary and that it’s harmless. As a CNN consultant put it yesterday, “Where is the harm? Who’s been injured or harmed by it?”
If you happen to see the world as divided into two camps of good and bad, where the US government (and corporations that lobby, influence and literally buy it off and own it) as representing the good, and anyone who stands in their way or doesn’t appreciate or side with them, as representing the bad, then, within that infantile, overly simplistic and defective worldview where facts become invisible or insignificant, and which is constantly reinforced through fear – whether of communism or terrorism or something else – and where the other side, which at times seems like the rest of the world, is out to get you, then it makes sense to defend your government spying on the whole world, including all US citizens and to call for maximum punishment for those who expose such secrets. This is the worldview which is drilled into people’s heads from early age and constantly reinforced by mass media and is very hard to change. I’ve seen even liberals defend it on Facebook.
If the objective of the government spying program is to minimize the possibility that someone might get his or her hands on some explosives and kill some people, I say there is a better way: let’s put a camera in every room, including the bathroom, of every household in the country and implant a GPS tracking device in the body of every person and hire millions of people to watch their every move.
Well, actually, we’re not that far off from that point. Already, over a million individuals have jobs that one way or another require top secret clearance. There are 16 spy agencies with hundreds of thousands of employees and NSA is planning to build a new huge campus of buildings in Utah to expand its operations.
The point is: you can do all that, as we all now know thanks to Snowden that it’s being done, but, is that your idea of democracy? As for the second point – “what’s the harm?”, – the harm is in loss of privacy, government control of us and our lives and tyranny. The harm is that the government gets an upper-hand over the people and gets the ability to preempt and prevent a people’s movement that could ultimately overthrow it, should people decide it doesn’t serve their needs or wishes.
And, here’s where you run into a problem with people who have been brainwashed to hold the worldview I described above which goes like this: The US government is democratically elected, represents all Americans equally and tries to do good around the world by aiding those in need and standing for freedom and liberty. And if the citizenry ever decides they don’t agree with the elected officials’ policies, they can vote them out at next election cycle and elect the other party.
That’s the narrative put out there for us. Within this narrative, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou and others who expose government wrongdoing are either malicious individuals who hate their own country (not what the government is doing, but their country which makes it easy to categorize them as traitors) or foolish, lost and misguided individuals who have psychological problems.
What is generally missing from the conversations in the media is the potential benefit of exposing such secret intrusive programs (in the case of Snowden) and massacres and war crimes (in the case of Manning). It’s no secret that the revelations made by Bradley Manning had an influence on the decision by Obama Administration to withdraw most of US troops from Iraq which arguably saved the lives of many American troops, not to mention Iraqis. Ironically, he’s been blamed by the Administration for endangering the lives of US troops. The significance of the revelation of the spy program by Snowden is the raised consciousness among American people about the nature and operations of their own government. Through such a program, the government can try to dig up dirt against any possible future popular leader who may not be willing to be bought by corporations or they can easily identify the movements and correspondences of leaders of a future movement in order to somehow neutralize them, arrest them for made up charges or at any rate stay a few steps ahead of them. This is not a conspiracy theory or wild speculation or exaggeration. During the Occupy Wall Street movement, even though there was no real leadership and no serious threat to government, the CIA and Homeland Security got involved and city mayors were coordinating their efforts at cracking down with the Homeland Security and even the White House.
Defending Manning and Snowden, therefore, is tantamount to defending democracy, as well as standing for justice. It’s times and situations such as this when our commitment to freedom and liberty is tested, not when we sheepishly walk into voting booths and vote for one or the other of two corporate sponsored candidates.