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Are 'We the People' Useful Idiots in the Digital Age?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message John Whitehead       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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Back in the heyday of the old Soviet Union, a phrase evolved to describe gullible western intellectuals who came to visit Russia and failed to notice the human and other costs of building a communist utopia. The phrase was "useful idiots" and it applied to a good many people who should have known better"That's you and me, folks, and it's how the masters of the digital universe see us"They hear us whingeing about privacy, security, surveillance, etc., but notice that despite our complaints and suspicions, we appear to do nothing about it.--John Naughton, The Guardian

"Who needs direct repression," asked philosopher Slavoj Zizek, "when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse?"

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In an Orwellian age where war equals peace, surveillance equals safety, and tolerance equals intolerance of uncomfortable truths and politically incorrect ideas, "we the people" have gotten very good at walking freely into the slaughterhouse, all the while convincing ourselves that the prison walls enclosing us within the American police state are there for our protection.

Call it doublespeak, call it hypocrisy, call it delusion, call it whatever you like, but the fact remains that while we claim to value freedom, privacy, individuality, equality, diversity, accountability, and government transparency, our actions and those of our government overseers contradict these much-vaunted principles at every turn.

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For instance, we disdain the jaded mindset of the Washington elite, and yet we continue to re-elect politicians who lie, cheat and steal. We chafe at taxpayer-funded pork barrel legislation, and yet we pay our taxes meekly and without raising a fuss of any kind. We object to the militarization of our local police forces and their increasingly battlefield mindset, and yet we do little more than shrug our shoulders over SWAT team raids and police shootings of unarmed citizens.

And then there's our love-hate affair with technology, which sees us bristling at the government's efforts to monitor our internet activities, listen in on our phone calls, read our emails, track our every movement, and punish us for what we say on social media, and yet we keep using these very same technologies all the while doing nothing about the government's encroachments on our rights.

So the government continues to betray our trust, invade our privacy, and abuse our rights, and we keep going back for more?

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Sure we do. After all, the alternative--taking a stand, raising a ruckus, demanding change, refusing to cooperate, engaging in civil disobedience--is a lot of work. What we fail to realize, however, is that by tacitly allowing these violations to continue, we not only empower the tyrant but we feed the monster. In this way, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, what starts off as small, occasional encroachments on our rights, justified in the name of greater safety, becomes routine, wide-ranging abuses so entrenched as to make reform all but impossible.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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