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Monday, August 16

You Say You Have Nothing to Hide?

One of the standard bullshit lines I get from my conservative coworkers is the mantra "I have nothing to hide" when queried about the Surveillance Society measures enacted after 2001. I have found a very interesting argument to use in counterpoint to that rather bland assertion, which I repost here (courtesy of, and many thanks to, paradox at DailyKos).

Dull, Predictable, and in Servitude:

It’s a dismayingly gross loss of privacy to have saved image scans that strip clothing, only to leave a creepy wraith-like image of person left, to be at whatever regressive TSA whim of the moment might possibly be, most likely juvenile leering of women and celebrities. Sexism and objectification run very deep in the United States, most of the images released are of females with the Google images cache prominently showcasing a shapely female with a pistol perched on her perfect ass. Perhaps a lineup of portly males with needledicks to laugh at would have a different impact of the news.

Which was accepted with appalling nonchalance, in our Age of Terror it has horribly creeped on all of us that our email, telephone conversations and messaging are wide open, any official in any number of government agencies can get all of them quickly if desired, along will all our financial information, we no longer have personal lives as little people Americans.

So the fuck what, I have nothing to hide.
A predictable bombastic response from the most confident among us, but even they are comically incorrect, for no human is ever truly sure there is nothing to hide with even your body scan on file. Fear and just the knowledge of being watched will inevitably produce that most awful and terribly dangerous human behavior: conformity. Chilled, but not in a good way.

How ploddingly dull and predictable life would be without souls among us daring to be different, to prod the status quo, to demand change from circumstances that scream actions requiring anything but conformity. Caution, fear and conformity that is clamped irrevocably into the frame of reference for ordinary Americans—your email is being read, they know how you talked about your mother and your scan is in the C cup file at the airport—will not produce a society of rich diversity, bravery is required for change and variety and Americans won’t have it.

We’ll still have music and movies and the arts, of course, but they will seem dimmed, diminished and pale imitations of a more vibrant past (remember when radio was cool and fun, when there was a good movie to see every month?). Much more dangerously, conformity will rob our bravery to the point where we cannot substantively change, we simply won’t have the moxie for it.

Conformity has another insidious, creeping consequence: servitude. Knowledge that all your personal life could be launched publicly at any time smashes into place a citizenship stance of inferiority, of irrevocably being smaller and weaker than his or her government. That precisely flips the entire premise of Democratic daily life, Uncle Sam is supposed to be working for us, government is the people’s instrument of service, not the other way around. When we accept the reality of being passive, pushed-around pawns we should hardly be surprised when our government and leadership more often treats us so.

The new Age of Terror is a confusing, frightening one, but in all the horrendous mess it’s abundantly clear Americans were never hated for their freedoms. Having phone, email, body scans, internet usage and messaging always totally off-limits except under warrant is not the reason our people are being killed in Afghanistan.

Which, tragically and very dangerously, is not the case at all, as Americans we’ve lost our personal privacy in our freedoms list. It’s difficult to believe that as time wears on Americans will continue to accept the stifling, offensive reality of it, and it would be very wise for political leadership of either major Party to fervently embrace personal privacy as an ironclad political principle and vastly visible goal, doing so would surely go a long, long way to ensuring continued political success.

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