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
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail