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Thu Dec 19, 2013, 11:02 PM

Dave Eggers: US writers must take a stand on NSA surveillance


Dave Eggers: US writers must take a stand on NSA surveillance
As the Obama administration responds to the NSA mass surveillance revelations, Dave Eggers reflects on the impact they have had on US writers, and asks if the prevailing sense of fear heralds an intellectual ice age

Dave Eggers
The Guardian, Thursday 19 December 2013


Most citizens would object to their government searching their homes without a warrant. If you were told that while you were at work, your government was coming into your home and rifling through without cause, you might be unsettled. You might even consider this a violation of your rights specifically and the Bill of Rights generally.

But what if your government, in its defence, said: "First of all, we're searching everyone's home, so you're not being singled out. Second, we don't connect your address to your name, so don't worry about it. All we're doing is searching every home in the United States, every day, without exception, and if we find something noteworthy, we'll let you know. In the meantime, proceed as usual."

Yes, it's been strange to live in the USA in this, the era of the NSA. Not just because of the National Security Agency's seemingly boundless and ever-more-invasive collection methods, but because, for the most part, Americans have been proceeding as usual. In the wake of the Snowden revelations, there's been some outrage, and a flurry of lawsuits filed by organisations such as the ACLU, but most polls show about 50% of the population including a shockingly high percentage of Democrats find the NSA's domestic spying programme more or less acceptable.

No doubt many moderate Democrats have been caught in a paralysis of cognitive dissonance. That is, on a gut level, this level of spying seems horrific and unconstitutional, but, then again, would President Obama, himself a constitutional scholar, actually endorse much less expand a domestic spying programme unless it were morally acceptable and constitutional? And thus moderates twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend, or at least allow, the NSA's collections. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/19/dave-eggers-us-writers-take-stand-nsa-surveillance



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Reply Dave Eggers: US writers must take a stand on NSA surveillance (Original post)
marmar Dec 2013 OP
grasswire Dec 2013 #1
JDPriestly Dec 2013 #2

Response to marmar (Original post)

Thu Dec 19, 2013, 11:58 PM

1. the comments section is MUST READ


Here's just one of them:

ahbehceh

19 December 2013 4:49pm
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Something which even thrilled me more than the shocking scale of bulk data collection by the NSA is the apathy with which it has been received since the beginning of the Guardian's and Spiegel's revelations of Edward Snowden's leaked documents, especially by US-Americans. Is it really the case that those US-citizens who feel seriously concerned about the massive state surveillance feel intimidated in the first place? In Germany the feelings are somewhat different; we are absolutely enraged - although there is as well a certain helplessness how to fight this shadowy apparatus best, which is made up of the joined capacities of IT-companies and secret services.

The fact that Nazism and GDR communism have left us with piles of documents about the creepy violence of surveillance and its capacity to disintegrate the base of the individual's identity, politically reflecting Germans cannot understand that anybody might fail to realize that a spying apparatus is not only a foreboding of possible future totalitarianism, but is totalitarian as such. We just need to read Kafka, the eastern German author Wolfgang Hilbig and all those German writers who were chased out of our country after the Nazis had burnt their books in May 1933, to KNOW that the vague and hidden threat posed by permanent observation out of the dark has a more damaging effect on the human soul than plain and obvious (physical) violence. You can curse, hate and damn a torturer; but the shadowy presence of secret ears and eyes doesn't allow you to develop an attitude towards the "something" that makes you feel being accused. That means: You have no chance to externalize the perpetrator, which leads to the consequence that he/it becomes something within yourself. You start to observe yourself, to check all your activities and to wonder all the time how they might be interpreted by the observer. You start to form excuses for ordinary activities which shouldn't need any excuse at all. And if anything strange happens to you, you don't dare to tell others. They might shrink back from you, because they may either think you are a dangerous contact, which might turn them into suspects themselves, or they may consider you paranoid.

When the Stasi focused on someone without having any clear evidence that you had done something worth a warrant, they broke into your house, bugged it and stuffed the socks in the drawer which usually contained your pants - and the other way round. So they were sure you knew that they observed you, but wouldn't tell anybody else, for fear others might consider you suffering from a beginning dementia. On some German blocks critical journalists, who had done research in Iraq, or environmentalists who had worked on the impact of genetically modified food on human health, claimed that similar things had happened to their email accounts.

This is all highly alarming, but still most of us are not yet in danger of being arrested or put into a prison camp. Therefore I think we have the duty to protest heavily, because if we don't, we will share the responsibility and guilt of anything they might do in our names in the future.

The Nazis fought through their terrible Enabling Law on the 24th of March in 1933 (which shows some terrifying similarities to the NSA's claims). Only a small proportion of the German population understood then what instrument their new government had gained there. And they only really used the full scale of the power it implied years later. WWII didn't start before September 1939, and the Wahnseekonferenz, on which they decided on the genocide of European jews took place ten years later, in January 1943.

I'm glad that with Juli Zeh and Ilja Trojanow two German writers took the initiative to stir a world-wide protest against surveillance. But the reactions were more than only modest. (Hardly 160 000 people have signed it for now.) Why? Is really fear the reason for the low response? Lack of understanding? Helplessness? Or are people complicit because they hope that in the end they might belong to those who rather hope to profit from the claim for US hegemony implied here? (Then they would be exactly in the same state of mind as ordinary Hitler-followers who didn't consider themselves being Nazis in the late 1930s, but just wanted to profit economically from the system.)

We need to speak up, clearly and distinctly. We have to shout out our protest. Governments want to be re-elected, companies want to sell their products. We aren't that helpless. And we have to do so with joined forces. (Unfortunately even critical US-citizens are not keen to cooperate here with Europeans.) The cynic view "We can't do anything anyway" has to be contested as the most hypocritical mode of complicity. We MUST fight for all those human rights which are based on the right of privacy.


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Response to grasswire (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 03:56 AM

2. Thanks. I have learned on DU that Americans have very little knowledge of what happened

in totalitarian regimes like those in Eastern Europe and the USSR and NAZI Germany. It really, really breaks my heart to have to admit just how ignorant Americans are of the dangers of the NSA spying. I believe that it isn't just average Americans but those running the spy programs at this time who lack the life experience to see the dangers in what they are doing. It's just so sad.

Freedom -- liberty -- those are among the most precious gifts we Americans enjoy. We are taking them for granted, and that puts them and us in great jeopardy.

Freedom and liberty may appear to make people vulnerable to, for example, terrorism. But in reality in my experience and based on my knowledge of history and my travels, I think that the flexibility and creativity that freedom and liberty make possible far outweigh any increase in vulnerability that they cause.

The NSA surveillance is excessive and should be cut back, drastically cut back.

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