When I was in middle school, my father introduced me to a former Black Panther who was indicted as part of their famous trial in New Haven during 1970-1.
At this point, he was a bit of a local celebrity who hung out at Yale University's coffee shops, was semi-homeless, and ran his own newsletter from the public library and copy center on Broadway. He would tell folks about Cointelpro and surveillance programs such as "Typewriter" and "Echelon" that systematically monitored American's phone calls and other communications.
Many folks laughed at him; they said he was crazy; others chose to listen before becoming upset, disturbed, and moving on.
In the Age of Obama, it would seem that the conspiracy theory and "paranoid" types may just be ahead of the curve of "normal politics." As such, they are dismissed and mocked even while their observations are proven years later to be true.
In reading about how Top Secret America has its hands in all of the proverbial cookie jars, I am experiencing a mix of emotions: I am numb and not surprised; I am jaded and relatively disinterested because so much of this is old news.
As the American people admit their complicity to a violation of their rights of privacy, I would suggest that Benjamin Franklin will be proven correct once more:
In a state of tranquillity, wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war* and the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible. Every art of corruption would be employed to loosen the bond of union which renders our resistance formidable. When the spirit of liberty, which now animates our hearts and gives success to our arms*, is extinct, our numbers will accelerate our ruin and render us easier victims to tyranny. If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!We are all being watched. Yes, you, right now, are likely being surveilled by Top Secret America.
The go-to explanation for the public's dispassionate response to the surveillance society often grounds itself in the philosopher Michel Foucault's description of the "panopticon"--what he detailed as an all seeing arrangement of power that conditioned people to a certain set of behaviors because they knew that the prison guards (or other keepers) were watching them.
Top Secret America works in a slightly different manner. The mass public knows it is being watched online as well as by cameras in public spaces. However, they do not feel a need to rebel because the watching eye is comforting and familiar. Why? how else are you going to stop those "terrorists?" And if you have not done anything "wrong" what are you worried about?
Power does not just punish its objects. Rather, it makes people feel safe, secure, and offers security that legitimates our complicity and surrender to it.
By that logic, a natural question arises. Why would the National Security Administration all but admit that the all seeing eye known as PRISM exists? What is the act of misdirection here? In poker--and in magic--a master player only lets their adversary see what he/she intends for them to notice. Thus, what is the misdirection, and how is PRISM a magician's trick that is focusing the public's eyes on the left hand, when the real coup is happening somewhere else?