If citizens believe that dissenters might someday become political targets or scapegoats for the convenience of criminal administrations like the one we now have, more citizens may very well, (consciously or unconsciously), limit their exposure to dissenters, knowing that the government could --if it ever wanted to --trace the links and intimidate anyone who ever associated with them.
How many people are anxious to have a secret service team come to their home for a little interview? Can't you anticipate the fun? "We see that you had a relationship with this Mark Goldman person back in 2006 ..."
Citizens might just psychologically tune out and/or avoid contact with potentially controversial figures without even being aware of why they're doing it. Isn't it reasonable to assume that the temerity we currently observe among many citizens might be attributed to just this phenomenon?
For example, isn't it possible that some citizens remain silent in the face of unconscionable behavior on the part of government for fear of the financial or social consequences that might result? Aren't we all just a little afraid sometimes to speak our mind for fear of losing customers or the goodwill of those in our social circle? Well maybe that fear is well founded, but where does it come from?
Power brokers are always "sending messages" and all to often the messages they send are intended to produce fear in the minds and hearts of recipients. This is intimidation and this intimidation permeates the space in which we live. That's not freedom. You can't be free and afraid at the same time. Fear is more dangerous to democracy than Al Qaeda is.
As a society we have been continuously intimidated since 9/11 and the NSA program is simply a ratcheting up of that intimidation. It wouldn't surprise me if the leak of the program's existence was anticipated. The response from government will likely make it more difficult for whistle blowers, and if the program is not dismantled, the program's existence will become embedded in the reality --consciously or unconsciously -- of every American.
Every citizen is affected because every citizen has to live in the evolving social consciousness. Fear is a preferred tool of tyrants and miscreants. And our current administration of miscreants are expert at promoting lies, instilling fear, and generally undermining civilized behavior.
Those who came before us lost a great deal of blood trying to put in place the civilized behavior that is now being dismantled. To the extent we look the other way, we extend the time we and our families will have to live our lives in a consciousness of fear and intimidation even if no one we know is actually being physically intimidated.
So now the question is, how do we return to a society that is not run on a culture of fear? Well first off we have to become aware of what is being done to the space in which we live. Then we have to consciously confront, face down and/or purposely ignore the fears that others intend for us to experience in their attempt to modify our behavior.
With every act of courage a little bit of fear evaporates and when a critical mass of citizens accept their responsibilities of citizenship we will then begin to erase the remaining vestiges of fear so that our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to once again pursue the dream that most of us have: the dream of living in a world of peace, freedom, justice, and true brotherhood.