FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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).

 
More articles by:

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
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail