J’Accuse, or: why you really shouldn’t trust the government

If you see something, say something. Edward Snowden did and now apparently the country’s atwitter about whether Big Brother is so in the Orwellian sense or in the run of the mill older brother who knows better and looks out for you so the other kids don’t pick on you sense.

Many of you – a full 37% according to one survey – are quite okay with Uncle Sam having a complete record of your lives. Some of you even go beyond that; so far as to say that you’d be okay with giving your Government your DNA.

Some of you have argued that we need to appease the Government Gods now, lest there be another attack that will utterly destroy whatever freedoms and liberties we have left and make things much worse.

I am here to tell you that this is utter madness.

Consider this scenario: you are at the DMV, to obtain or renew a driver’s license, something that a vast majority of Americans have or have had. Along with the form, you are given two other things: one waiver form and one swab. It is now a condition of obtaining a driver’s license or any other form of government ID or assistance that you sign a waiver and provide a swab of DNA. The waiver states that you hereby give the United States Government and all its agencies and its employees and its departments the authority to obtain, monitor, record, collect and store your phone calls, your text messages, your passwords, your emails, your photos, your music and your thoughts. You further waive all Fourth Amendment challenges and Fifth Amendment privileges and Sixth Amendment rights. You can keep your gun.

Do you sign that piece of paper?

I can sense some of you shivering. Why is PRISM any different? Why is Maryland v. King any different?

Consider what the Government can do today: it – if you are a Verizon customer – knows who you called, when you called and for how long you called them. It knows who you’re emailing, what you’re buying, what you’re selling, what you eat, where you eat, when you eat, who you text and quite possibly what you text.

They say they’re doing this legally – although the Electronic Frontier Foundation has just managed a big win – but it’s in a court you can’t see or can’t go to or can’t be told about. A court, by the way, that has rejected only 0.03% subpoenas, which aren’t based on the tried and true standard of probable cause, but an even lower – if that’s possible -standard.

“But it’s legal” some of you say and so Snowden is a traitor, guilty of espionage. True. But anti-miscegenation laws were legal. Anti gay-marriage laws are legal. The death penalty is legal. Abortion is legal.

What’s legal isn’t always right. And it’s certainly not right when it’s done in secret unbeknownst to the vast populace.

So what, you say. I haven’t done anything; so I have nothing to hide. Take my phone calls. Take my DNA.

To which I say, great, can I have your credit card numbers and your social security number too? No? You mistrust me, a solitary individual against whom you have recourse, yet you willingly subjugate yourself to a faceless, untouchable government?

All it takes is an accusation. J’Accuse and now you’re condemned to navigate the panopticon, where they know everything and see everything. You know who decides what is a crime and what isn’t? The government. You know who decides who has broken the law? The government. You know who decides whether to prosecute an individual? The government. You know who puts on evidence to prove that someone is guilty of a crime (and usually wins)? The government. You know who uses DNA to prove guilt? The government. You know has people (jurors) blindly following its dictates? The government. You know who you signed over your privacy, your personal information, your DNA to? The government.

Think they won’t use it against you tomorrow if they suddenly dislike you?

If you answer yes, ask yourself why. Is it because you trust the government to do the right thing? Or is it because you’re privileged and you don’t think this sort of thing will happen to you?

But the Government isn’t seeking data on “non-privileged” people. It’s all of us. You. Me. The guy down the street. You may think you’re different than me or my typical client. The government doesn’t. They’re the ones who you think will protect you, yet they’ve already proven that they see no difference between you and a criminal.

And your blind obeisance isn’t helping. The greater deference you give to the government, the more emboldened it becomes. There aren’t, it seems, any more internal checks on the abuses of power by politicians. In that we are becoming like the rest of the nascent countries in the world. But for them it’s a progression; for us it’s a regression.

When you let all governmental action pass unchallenged, without critique or scrutiny that is more than perfunctory lip service. When you refuse to stop and really think about what your Government is doing in your name – not to you, but to others – that you are doing a disservice not only to yourself, but to everyone else. If you stop believing in the Constitution, why should those in power continue to?

Unfortunately, the more rights you give up, the less rights you retain. So where are you going to hide now, now that you’ve given away all your rights? Maybe you can join Ben Franklin, in his grave, while he rolls, because you’ve just given up your liberty for some temporary safety and you’re never getting it back.

3 thoughts on “J’Accuse, or: why you really shouldn’t trust the government

  1. C. N. Nevets

    And of course the legal rationale and foundation for the secret court with its secret decisions on secret warrants … is also secret. Who else could ever get away with that?

    Reply
  2. wyrdwyrd

    I humbly submit that I think your argument could use some strengthening. People do already semi-consensually give away a ton of personal info to private agencies all overs the place all the time. So you should address that point–either by slightly changing the focus of your argument to pointing out that giving away lots of personal info is always bad regardless of whether it’s to the Government or Mark Zuckerburg or else address it by pointing out why it’s always *worse* to give away information to an agency that legally has the power to see you dead. And has killer drones. Facebook has no killer drones AFAIK.

    Secondly, there’s this: “where they know everything and see everything”
    Panopticon is a really cool word. But I wouldn’t use it here because it’s patently untrue. See when people try to justify government spying they sometimes do it under the assumption that this is how it works–that by gathering nigh infinite data the government gains nigh infinite foresight. But this is obviously not true. If it were true, then the government would be the thing that conspiracy theorists claim it to be–the Illuminati. If it were true, Snowden wouldn’t have been able to leak this info (except as part of a plot), 9/11 never would have happened (except as part of a plot), Wikileaks would never have had any leaking… etc.

    The whole point is that even with all this data on you, me, and everyone, the government still *isn’t* in a position of godlike power–or at least it isn’t in the kind of position that some people imagine it to be.

    It can still use it’s great might and oodles of data to find reasons, after the fact, to (fake-)justify coming down like a ton of bricks on anyone it feels like. At least that’s my speculation. Let’s see what the government can dig up on Snowden using the very system he just outed.

    Privacy and personal information in the 21st century are very complicated. Information is power. Government is (always) necessary and (always) stupid. Government should never be trusted. Corporations should never be trusted. The more power they amass the more we should distrust them.

    Some of the above may not have been clear and for that I apologize. I would edit for clarity, but doing so would take at least as long as writing this has done and I don’t feel I have that much time to commit to it at present.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    Reply
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