Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What do the Palmer Raids and the Church Committee Tell Us About the NSA and Project PRISM?

According to a new Pew survey, a majority of the American people apparently support the violation of their privacy rights by the National Security Administration.

As we discussed earlier, this is a function of exhaustion--what I like to call the "so what, I can't do anything about it effect"--as well as socialization by the media and elites that such violations are acceptable because the bogeyman of terrorism must be stopped at any cost.

The National Security State's partnership with Hollywood has also helped to "educate" the American people about how "cool" it is that "their" government has such fantastic capabilities.

From the relationship, movies such as Zero Dark Thirty and Enemy of the State are produced, movies which are nothing if not advertisements for American Empire turned both outward against "terrorists" and inward against the citizens of this country.

Ultimately, the National Security Administration and the Surveillance Society are facts of life that have been with us for decades. The public's acceptance of this reality is not wise; however, it is understandable.

Operation PRISM is part of a long history of spying on the American people by their own government. The public may not have read books such as Body of Secrets or know about the Palmer Raids. The public may consider the endless list of alphabet soup names for spy programs such as Cointelpro, Echelon, Typewriter, Shamrock, Minaret, or Rex 84 confusing and tedious. This same public may also find such code names exciting and titillating as they evoke images of James Bond and Jason Bourne.

As street griots are fond of saying, "there ain't nothing new in the game." During the 1970s, the Congress convened a hearing on the law breaking excesses of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The Church Committee's findings are an eerie foreshadowing of what has come to light about the NSA and Operation PRISM.

And just as most Americans have little to no specific memory of the Church Committee, this most recent non-scandal about the NSA will be soon forgotten.

Edward Snowden likely has a movie, some books, and probably a video game on the way immortalizing his brave deeds. The National Security Administration's violation of the American people's rights are now part of mass popular culture. Therefore, as popular culture the memory of such misdeeds are forgettable and ephemeral. There is no public outrage because the "crime" is poised to be lost to the memory well and the collective political ether.


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Werner Herzog's Bear said...

I LOVE the Church hearings. The transcripts are available in full online at archive.org. I encourage my students to look them up when I tell them I am not spouting conspiracy theories when discussing the CIA's involvement in assassinations.

Oops, I think I just used two of the NSA's keywords.

Ben Grim said...

Dern, we are so helpless against this shit. It's best to just roll over and go back to sleep, repeating over and over to ourselves to help us nod off: Its a free country. Its a free country. Its a free country. Heaven forbid that we wake up and take the only other alternative. Quit going along with the program. That would require actual effort and critical thinking on our part. Its too hard, and if we did we might actually cause things to change. Then where would be?

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chauncey devega said...

You damn radicalizing unAmerican! I like the part where they talk about all the James Bond devices for killing people. I also think it was in this hearing that Readers Digest was outed as a CIA front during the Vietnam War.

chauncey devega said...

Totalitarian? No. That word is very over-used. A national security state? Yes, from the 1940s onward.

Ben Grim said...

u say tomatoes, i say tomatoes.

chauncey devega said...

I am old school and agree w. Hannah Arendt that we have seen only two truly totalitarian states--Stalin's Russian and Hitler's Germany. Maybe North Korea would fit in too?

Ben Grim said...

i am of the school of my wise and saintly mentor, nomad, whose doctrine is normalized folk must occasionally be smacked upside the head with hyperbole to jolt them out of their dozy complacency.

Ben Grim said...

'Each (scholar on the subject) describes totalitarianism in slightly different ways. They all agree, however, that totalitarianism seeks to mobilize entire populations in support of an official state ideology, and is intolerant of activities which are not directed towards the goals of the state, entailing repression or state control of business, labour unions, churches or political parties.' WikiP.

So how would you characterize the system under which we live? I'd really like to know. Surely you don't believe its a democracy.

'Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.'

chauncey devega said...

Nomad. Goodness. That is not a name I would mention around here.

chauncey devega said...

Wikipedia. A good start. Not an ending.

There are different types of democracy. By that very basic definition the U.S. and most other liberal-democratic States have never been "democracies."

As noted elsewhere, American is a corporatist market democracy. I will post something on that next week if the curiosity remains.

Ben Grim said...

"Wikipedia. A good start. Not an ending."

Right you are, Captain obvious; which is why I asked the question.

Ben Grim said...

Well excuuuuuuuseeee me! Gee, your skin has gotten thin. That's a shame.

Ben Grim said...

Let me rephrase that. "Wikipedia. A good start. Not an ending."
That is quite obvious.

chauncey devega said...

Just trying to keep things moving forward is all. Banter is okay on occasion. But, to and fro that can slip into distractions about me or (your character or anyone else's) can be a bit of a derailer.

"Something has happened over the past several generations that has transformed this nation into a less free society -call that system of less freedom what you will. At what point did this transformation take place?"

I absolutely agree. Was it the end of WW2? Was it that America was always a work in progress in terms of expanding democracy--and was authoritarian in nature towards blacks, indigeneous folks, and some others for most of its history--and from the 1980s onward slipped backwards?

"What was the tipping point on this slippery slope to totalitarianism?"

Ike was prescient. As I mentioned earlier, I just try to be careful with terms. Totalitarianism has a very specific meaning and by over-using it so casually as so many do then the real concerns can be dismissed. Inverted totalitarianism is a better phrase. But even that is too technical and the word "totalitarian" can be a distracter when talking with the average person.

We need to develop a new vocabulary. Conservatives and the Right-wing are masters of language and its use. Centrists and progressives and pragmatists should take lessons from them.

Ben Grim said...

"Just trying to keep things moving forward is all. "

Applying the brakes is a good way of achieving that goal. Later, gator. Oops, I prolly shouldn't ha'said "gator".