The Laptop Panopticon


First, I have a confession to make: I don’t exactly like computers—nor do I understand them.  For almost a decade, I pretty much ignored the Internet, simply reading and teaching in the manner in which I had grown accustomed in the late 20th century.  (Cf. Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information, 1994.)  Only in recent years, after having left college teaching, did I finally become converted (in both senses of the term)—thus becoming, ironically, an enthusiastic contributor to such esteemed online newsletters as CounterPunch.  But I still know nothing about viruses and other such mysteries of “cyberspace”—nor can I summon the interest.  And in these past years, using an old, weather-beaten laptop, I’ve really had no problems using the Internet on a daily basis—until the immediate aftermath of Snowden’s NSA revelations.

I, like millions of others in the U.S. and elsewhere, was appalled.  I dashed off a short piece speculating about the obsessional psychology of the NSA technocrats–compelled to scrutinize each and every communication transmitted via the Internet.  I quickly e-mailed it to another online newsletter for which I sometimes write.  The following morning, knowing the time at which new articles are usually posted, I typed in their website—and, boom, instantly—my computer froze up and I was grandly informed that “Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool” was busily at work.  Nothing unusual, you say?  It was to me—the first time I can remember this happening.

I was simply flabbergasted—had I “hurt the feelings” of vulnerable NSA technocrats?  Were my comments “insensitive”?  Sure, I tried to be a bit provocative, aiming my Freudian speculations at these NSA “control freaks” (sorry).  But the piece was merely the commentary of a mild-mannered citizen concerned—to put it mildly–about the disturbing revelations about an (apparently) out-of-control, rogue agency.  More seriously: do super-intrusive agencies like the NSA, exhibiting colossal, “above-the-law” hubris, reflexively seek to squash the criticism of mere citizen-writers such as myself?  Last month, I tried to correspond with an American academic who happens to be  teaching at a university in the Middle East—but abandoned the effort when I noticed that the original text of my email had been “amended.”  After that, for a week or so, a short string of gibberish was inserted into my routine daily e-mail (certainly puzzling for the recipients).  Other such amusing incidents?  From time-to-time, my computer freezes up–“DSA.gnt.exe”–whatever that means.  Or more commonly: “Anti-Malware Executable.”  All very annoying—and ridiculous.

In our (besieged) democracy, such agencies still remain subject to rigorous public oversight and must exercise their functions entirely within the limits of the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.  And of course, obviously—such “intelligence” agencies should be run by civilian watchdogs, not by army generals specializing in data-collection or counter-insurgency.

I close with this rhetorical question to those “intelligence” professionals who may (secretly?) admire Snowden’s courage, integrity, and civic-mindedness.  Are you not subverting the very U.S.A. you claim to be “protecting”—by this wholesale, systemic violation of fundamental American values (specifically, amendments 1 and 4 of the U.S. Constitution)?  Edward Snowden—to his lasting credit as a defender of civil liberties—believed that you are.

William Manson, a psychoanalytic anthropologist,  formerly taught social science at Rutgers and Columbia universities. He is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press).


William Manson, a psychoanalytic anthropologist,  formerly taught social science at Rutgers and Columbia universities. He is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press).

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?