A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.
"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted . The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.
"Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet," media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week.
Overall, he said, "the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism." And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.
It's a truly odious and destructive mix -- a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.
"The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet -- Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft -- all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people," McChesney said. "There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public."
Central pieces of the puzzle -- routinely left out of mainline media coverage -- have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington's highest places for the vast surveillance that's integral to the warfare state?
What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington's quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials -- and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.