Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Today's Internets - "Actually, really knowing someone doesn’t mean anything..."

 "Actually, really knowing someone doesn’t mean anything. People change. A person may like pineapple today and something else tomorrow." - Chungking Express (1994) - Quotes - IMDb

"The fallout from all of this NSA surveillance will take a very, very long time to measure, but it will be profound. The government, again, has put so much emphasis on the "benefit" of preventing an exceptionally low probability event, that it barely even considers the massive costs on everyone else...   The power of a surveillance state to spin out of control has wide-reaching consequences. It's difficult to see how anyone can claim it's worth the costs."

"The usual arguments: the government doesn't care about your emails. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about. This is about protecting us from terrorist attacks, not about snooping into Americans' communications. Don't you remember 9/11? 

I tire of responding to those. 

Let me offer one response that applies to all of them: I don't trust my government, I don't trust the people who work for my government, and I believe that the evidence suggests that it's irrational to offer such trust."

"3. When governments say that they are using their powers to fight terrorists, governments are lying. Government actually use their expanded powers to pursue whatever they want, including copyright infringement and the War of Drugs. Therefore it would not surprise me in the least if a nominally anti-terrorist measure were stretched here to accommodate a leak investigation. 

4. Governments say that they are using their power to fight terrorists, as if the identity of "terrorists" is a static and principled matter. In fact, who is or isn't a terrorist is a political question resolved in the discretion of the government based on the balance of power at any given time, as I learned to my regret."

"“In America,” he adds, “it is always a paranoid time.” 

That’s the core argument of “The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy,” a new cultural history...  Walker’s book is a riposte of sorts to the most famous treatment of America’s suspicious fantasies, Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” an essay first published in 1964 and oft cited since. Walker calls Hofstadter’s essay “flawed but fascinating,” and gives Hofstadter credit for the canny observation that the people who battle conspiracies have a tendency to form organizations and initiatives that eerily resemble those of their alleged foes. (Joe McCarthy, meet Joseph Stalin; you two guys have a lot in common.)

But where Walker feels Hofstadter went wrong is in his assertion that “political paranoia is ‘the preferred style only of minority movements’” and that the style has “a greater affinity for bad causes than good.” Au contraire, says Walker. “Educated elites have conspiracy theories, too” and the nation’s long history of “moral panics” illustrates the ways that “influential social institutions” — from the government to churches and political parties to the press — engage in paranoid thinking, sometimes with lethal results...

“I’m not out to espouse or debunk any particular conspiracy theories,” but rather to tease out what they reveal about our collective psyche. This is a tricky brief because, as Walker himself admits, some conspiracy theories — such as the activities of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program to investigate “anti-American” groups in the 1960s and ’70s — are documented, while some of the undocumented ones are more credible than others. “It would be absurd,” he writes, “to deny that conspiracies can be real … The world is filled with plots both petty and grand, though never as enormous as the ancient cabals described in the most baroque conspiracy literature."

...Although conspiracies do exist, we need to be vigilant against our propensity to find them whether they are there or not. The most sensible outlook would appear to be that of Robert Anton Wilson, who concluded that “powerful people” could well be “engaged in criminal plots” but who found it unlikely that “the conspirators were capable of carrying out those plots competently.”"

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