Liberty, Security, Privacy, Big Brother, and the Concept of the Common Good
The outrage is palpable and the increasing realization by the average American that they really, truly are now living in an Orwellian surveillance state has been an eye-opening experience for many across the fruited plain. The once mocked conspiracy theory of the all-knowing Big Brother state has shown itself to be far more of an ugly reality than a silly fantasy. He who called the War on Terror basically over has now been forced to admit that his administration has vastly expanded the concept of the security state in the name of ‘public safety.’ The ‘trust us’ stance of government is no longer a working defense for such actions as this administration, and the federal agencies under its control, have shown that they simply cannot be trusted. Therein lies the true dilemma for the Obama administration as it seeks to calm the rising storm.
We already have proof that powerful agencies of the federal government deliberately, under orders from Washington, harassed and targeted specific people and groups that were ideological opponents of the current administration. The vast powers of the state were used as political weapons against its enemies on a wide scale and possibly affected the outcome of the last presidential election. Such things should not be taken lightly.
The fact that basically every phone call, Facebook post, internet search, website visit, email written, and picture posted online is being sucked up by Big Brother without regards to privacy concerns, constitutional protections, or the concept of personal liberty goes against everything America should stand for. It is state of affairs that should raise a cry of outrage in every throat and force a fundamental change in what we will tolerate from our government.
The fact that leading tech companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple were participating in a secret surveillance program on the citizenry known as PRISM should (but will not necessarily) lead to a complete collapse of public trust in the current administration and our current concept of government in general. What has not been explained away is why the administration has assembled the most powerful and intrusive systems of surveillance ever conceived. The Founding Fathers would not have stood for such things for one second and neither should we.
Such policies can have a chilling effect on political speech and free speech in general. There are those who argue that liberals have successfully seized the State just as they have academia, education, the media, the entertainment industry and increasingly the military. And this may be just another tool and tactic for those seeking to monitor, track, and eventually silence those who oppose their utopian, socialistic, nanny-state agenda.
Mr. Obama stated “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” But if it comes down to a choice between the two I choose privacy. We should always, always choose a free state over a police state even if the latter provides slightly more security from the random Boston bomber or occasional crazy.
As Americans we should not be forced to live with a camera on every pole, a bug in every phone, and an internal security officer on every corner. That illusion of safety in reality then merely becomes the mask for eventual tyranny and oppression in the name of the ‘common good’ and societal safety. For as Ben Franklin put it, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Liberty should be the goal of government, not the antithesis of it. The Republic exists to secure such liberties for its citizens, not to be the opponent of such. We’ve now traveled far down the wrong path and we may have to pay a high price to restore the Republic and regain true liberty for our children, and our children’s children.
And frankly, you are right Mr. President. The fact that we can’t trust you, your cronies, the agencies under your control, and the “oversight” of stacked secret courts or the Congress who has been complaining, but doing nothing, about such policies means we are going to have some serious problems.