Friday, June 14, 2013

NSA surveillance won't be used against you. Will it?

C'mon: we can trust these guys
 "All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual," Bush said as Obama nodded in thanks. "And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country."

by Richard Mellor

As to be expected, the Wall Street Journal is defending the massive surveillance and spying on millions of Americans (and others) in the interests of public safety and the defense of individual freedoms that are so important to the Journal as a voice of big capital.

Freedom is a word that is thrown around quite a bit these days.  The War on Terror came about as a result of people throughout the world who oppose freedom and are jealous of us because we have it. Nonsense, I know, but the truth as the Journal and the billionaires want us to understand it.

But freedom for the coupon clippers means economic freedom-----freedom for capital to exploit labor, not economic freedom in the sense of a wage that keeps one from starving. Their freedom is the right to hire and fire workers at will. It is the freedom to pay someone $8 an hour or the freedom to bribe politicians or to throw someone out of their home if they fall on hard times and can’t pay the moneylender their interest money. It is the freedom to pollute the environment in their rapacious quest for profits. It is the freedom for someone like Larry Ellison who owns $300 million yachts and a 141-acre Hawaiian island. It is freedom for the coupon clippers to take the collective wealth that productive labor (physical and mental) creates and give it to their offspring.

So when the capitalist class and its cheerleaders like the WSJ talk about freedom it actually means a lack of it for workers, the poor and middle class.

And secretly gathering data, phone conversations, e mails etc. on millions of Americans is necessary because, the Journal tells us, “the safety of citizens is the first—and in our view, the principal—obligation of government.”

“A government that cannot ensure peace cannot protect individual rights” the Journal announces in its own defense of these Stalinist measures.  What individual rights is the Journal referring to I wonder?  I am sure it is the right to ride one’s Harley without persecution. And the right of the mentally  to beg for money at stop signs and the right of some poor slob to get inside a cage with another human being and beat each other to pulp, and the freedom of  the coupon clippers that own the media to make entertainment out of it.

It is the right to say what you want as long as you don’t act on it and campaign for your ideas to become mass ideas, especially if these ideas threaten the worship of the market and the accumulation of capital in the hands of a tiny minority of us.

It is not the right to productive labor.  It is not the right to expect society to provide basic health care, education shelter and leisure time. We all want peace as well.  But how can we have peace or feel secure when whether we earn a means of subsistence or not depends on the gamblers and speculators on Wall Street and their GDP estimates?   How can we be at peace in this world when shelter, the ability to access medical care, access to education for youth and a secure and safe existence for the older generation, is not guaranteed by the very society that the labor and sacrifice of generations built?  How can we claim to live in a free society when capitalism incarcerates two million people, mostly youth and youth of color and 30 million have no work and even more have work that can’t provide security and a future? There are millions of working poor in his country. 

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, people were walking away from their homes abandoning their “moral obligation” to pay off the moneylenders but kept their car payments up.  At least if their car was repossessed they could get to work and sleep in it in some Wal Mart parking lot perhaps.  That is another freedom and right that is not high on the Wall Street Journal’s list of rights, public transportation.

While past heroic struggles of workers and the poor, the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements as well as the great labor battles over a couple of centuries have won us freedoms that we should be grateful for, and while we do not suffer the fate of many people in other countries, we can see that the 1% are gradually eroding them under the guise of fighting terrorism. They have beefed up their security apparatus and are preparing for the battles that lie ahead as they are forced to put the US working class on rations.

We cannot be free under these conditions. 

Like the so-called War on Terror, there is language to describe what the coupon clippers want us to believe, and what we describe through the reality of our material existence.

The data collected on millions of Americans is not going to be used against us, not going to be used to deprive us of our rights the Journal explains. The purpose of collecting all our private e mails (or what we thought were private) and records of our phone/skype conversations is that though we are all caught up in the net, the aim is to“detect potential threats and prevent attacks before they occur, not prosecute them after the fact”

You don’t have to worry Jane Q Citizen, the Wall Street Journal assures us, “The NSA is screening the data system in general for conduct that threatens the security of the system, not targeting any particular individual or group using the system.”

Don’t be afraid, fellow Americans, the Wall Street Journal insists, “It should also be some comfort that two Presidents as distant in temperament and philosophy as George W. Bush and Barack Obama both endorsed the NSA programs.”

Well, that’s made me feel better.  But Bush and Obama, while different in temperament and I should add brainpower, have the same philosophy. They both agree that the market is god and social production cannot be organized in any other way except on the basis of profit. They both believe, and Obama is the better representative for the coupon clippers on this one, that workers and the middle class will pay for their crisis, a crisis of capitalism. They differ only on the details.

As I pointed out in a previous blog, the FBI defines terrorism as, “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

A strike under this definition is terrorism.  It always was, we won the right to strike by forcing the bosses and their government to legalize it. An activity that limits the rights of corporations and capitalism is terrorist activity according to the FBI.  Young people or homeless people squatting in abandoned buildings or the vacant property of slumlords are committing terrorist acts if they defy the sheriff’s calls to leave. If you try to force the state through mass direct action, occupations, economic disruption to change priorities by shifting capital and human resources from waging wars around the world to social need you are a terrorist.  The only protests that are not acts of terror are those that don’t work.

We should remember that the American Revolutionists were "terrorists" according to the colonial authority and surely this statement from the Declaration of Independence would trigger a look at the author's phone records:
“..when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

We shouldn’t compare this snooping to spying, the Journal says, “The right comparison is a cop on a beat who patrols public spaces. He's not investigating a crime or enforcing a law; he's watching for suspicious behavior” Yes, but in examples such as this, (the beat cop) we can see the cop.  But even here, as in the stop and frisk methods of the NYC police, this is their answer to poverty and its by-product, crime.

As a young man I went traveling in Europe.  I ended up in Istanbul and took a train to Baghdad. It was 1971. US capitalism’s stooge Saddam Hussein was in power.  But Iraq was a fairly secular country by Middle East standards. Women were in government I think and I saw many people dressed in western clothes; the Iraqi's were kind to me given the role of British Imperialism in the country. It was a good experience and I talked to some of them about their lives. I recall getting the impression that life under a US supported dictator wasn’t so bad as long as you never got involved in politics, as long as you didn’t oppose the regime. The CIA had helped Hussein rid the country of any opposition.  Keep out of opposition politics and you’ll be fine.

The billions of e mails and private conversations the NSA has stored may never affect some people as they are correct in saying that they are not targeting people unless they threaten the system.  An Arabic name for one will trigger some interest. But when those millions who thought they would never get involved in politics are forced to do so by the capitalist offensive, the snoops will do a little research.  Everything they can find to discredit you will be dragged out.  That affair with the neighbor; the little detail you left off your tax return or and other details about your private and personal life you thought you were discussing with your counselor, parent, friend will now become very valuable information.

Freedom means different things to different people who have different economic interests in society.

We can thank Edward Snowden for bringing some of these things to light

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