January 19, 2012

It's the End of the World! Again! And Again! And Again!

I tell you this with profound seriousness. And I'm completely sober! (For the moment.) If I had a million dollars, I'd bet all of it on the proposition that the U.S. Government has the power right now to shut down any and every website, internet provider, etc., etc., etc., etc. it wishes, and to do so permanently. And they could throw a whole lot of people in jail because they "threaten national security" or violate some statute, regulation, administrative rule, whatever.

I'd win that bet.

Look, protests against the ever-metastasizing warfare-surveillance State are jake with me. So kudos to Google, Wikipedia, et al. -- as well as all you "ordinary" peepuls -- for making a big stink, and causing some Senators to interrupt their power lunches to say, "Oh, oops, haha, forgot there were human beings out there! Actual people with actual lives! Who knew? But okay, my bad!" And they set aside the latest power grab -- for the moment. [singing] They haaave a seeecret ...[enough singing] They know this latest power grab doesn't matter a damn, as we'll see in a moment.

Still, awesome protest! Um, was there protest on a similar scale about the NDAA? I guess I missed it. But heck, that only means the government can throw any of us or, you know, a million of us in jail forever, without charges or trial, without recourse to an attorney, without telling anyone what they've done with us or why. So I think this has worked out fine. I mean, we can all have a great time on the internet, which will make it that much easier for our overseers to identify the ones that need to be disappeared. Forever. See how that works? That is AWE SUM, dude! It's, like, synergy. But before you're hauled away, you can watch movies and teevee and stuff. Party on!

What's that crazy guy yelling from way out there, where nobody can hear him? WHAT? It's all kind of moot, since they can murder any of us anyway? Whenever they want? And ... huh, what? They don't even have to have a reason -- to murder us? He really is nuts! Seriosomente, man. WHAAAAT???? Oh ... mebbe not so nuts. No problem. Like The Man said, in the long run, we'll all be dead. Google it! You can!!

You know what is totally keen about, ta-da, "this time in history"? It's like there never were any other times at all. No history! No past, no future, barely even a present. This moment is all th -- ah, gone. Can't even finish a sentence! Pixel time! You'll have to read the rest of this really fast. Or skip it. Teevee!

I did a quick search of my archives to locate earlier posts on The End of the Internet, and I immediately found two. (I think there are more, but two makes the point.) One is from November 2009, "The Internet as You Know It Will Cease to Exist." Many of the same issues arose with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

One of the points I raised is the claim, repeated an endless number of times in endless variations, that this invention will change everything! As regards the internet, the claim is: when information is free, tyranny is dead forever! To which, I replied: Shit, man, no -- but (heh) with more words:
[I]f you understood the possibilities that might be realized by the internet, do you seriously think those people and interests possessing the most power and wealth did not? Yes, we're all special and unique and all that keen stuff, but the ruling class is people, too (revolting thought, I understand, but also true). And the ruling class is not stupid. It is certainly not stupid about this kind of thing. So our betters will do everything in their power to harness and redirect every advance to their own purposes. Again, consult history. This is always the pattern.
But that same post had good news. It did! Check it out. I also mentioned the critical importance for the future (for the future of us "ordinary" schmucks, anyway) of going local, and included some comments about how to do that on the internetz! And I ended on an upbeat note. (It was the drugs. Where the hell is that phone number?)

The other post about The End of the Future Forever and Ev-- (haha, thought it had ended right there) is from June 2009, "You're on the Battlefield Right Now." Ah, shades of the NDAA. See how the same themes come up again and again? That began with a discussion of how the Pentagon and the military generally regard cyberspace as part of the battlefield they want to control, and what that means for you and your 'puter. (Nothing good.)

But -- and this is what I truly wish you would fasten your bleeding eyes on -- I then referenced an earlier discussion of mine about FISA. What I said about FISA applies with full force to all the debates about the NDAA, and about internet "piracy" bills. My ongoing theme was and is: "The selective focus on FISA misses the crucial larger picture in a way that ensures that the ruling class's hold on increasingly tyrannical power will never be consistently or seriously challenged -- which is, of course, precisely what the ruling class wants."

My argument was this, and I repeat that the identical argument can be applied to indefinite detention or control of the internet:
With regard to FISA and issues of liberty and privacy in general, let me now ask you a few questions. How long do you think it would take you to identify, read, and understand every provision in every statute, regulation and other authorization that gives surveillance powers to the government? Furthermore: Would you know each and every place to look, or how to determine what those places were? Additionally: With a staff of 20, or 50, could it be done, even if you were provided with limitless time and limitless funds?

I submit to you, without qualification or reservation, that you could not do it. No one could. Consider that most legislators in Washington aren't even aware of much of what's in the bills they so eagerly vote on. Consider the prohibitive length and complexity of legislation that comes before Congress. That's true of what is going on now. If you tried to track down every piece of legislation, every regulation, every administrative agency ruling, and every other pronouncement still in effect that allows the government to surveil and otherwise keep track of you, me, the guy down the street, the woman next door and the man in the moon, based on alleged concern with and the need to protect us all from the ravages of drugs, "illicit" sex, any and all other suspected criminal activity and, natch, terrorism, how on God's green earth would you do it? You couldn't. I further submit to you that the only reason you appear to have some precious remnants of freedom left, and the only reason you remain at liberty, is that the government hasn't comprehensively focused on all the powers it already possesses and hasn't come anywhere close to utilizing them fully and consistently. This is the moment you should fall to your knees and thank whatever gods may be for the miraculous, close to perfect incompetence of the pathetically ineffectual blockheads in Washington.
The conclusion of the argument is one almost no one chooses to face squarely. Nonetheless, it is the truth: the U.S. Government already possesses the power to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants.

Of course, it's not only incompetence that allows you to continue to believe you have some small remnants of liberty, although the incompetence of government generally is entirely staggering to behold. It is also the degree of determination of the ruling class in implementing the powers they already possess, which in turn is related to how much they think they can get away with. From that perspective, protests have great value, and the bigger and louder, the better. But wide-scale protests, especially if they become genuinely threatening to the ruling class, then trigger another element: the desperation of the ruling class to maintain control. If they feel sufficiently threatened, the crackdowns will begin, and their scale will at least match the scale of the protests.

Tragically enough, there's an additional factor. It's horrifying to think about, in multiple ways, but consider the following. What if there were another series of attacks here in the U.S., on the scale of 9/11 or even worse? What if attacks occurred in several major cities on the same day, or within a week of each other? What if five or ten thousand people were killed? Do you have any doubt, any doubt at all, that the government could haul in very large numbers of people (with no charges, or very vague ones concerning "threats to public safety"), shut down websites, and exert "control" in a multitude of other ways -- and that very, very few people would protest? Even after everything that's happened in the last ten years?

It's impossible to predict the particular form of future events. Liberty might continue to vanish slowly, in small increments, with the worst excesses targeting "those" people and not anyone you know, so that the illusion of freedom may continue for the majority of people. Or a cataclysm might occur, either by way of attacks as I described, or widespread financial collapse, or a series of natural and/or human-caused disasters, or ... The general direction cannot be disputed: liberty is vanishing. At some point, it will be gone entirely.

But my point, the point I've been making for years, is that it's gone now. Most people have simply rendered themselves incapable or unwilling to acknowledge and accept the fact. Read Jonathan Turley's recent column, "10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free." The reasons he discusses are assassination of U.S. citizens (yeah, they can murder you and anyone else they choose, but...teevee!), indefinite detention, arbitrary justice ... you know the list.

In my view, the most critical paragraph in Turley's article is this one (my emphasis):
An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.
That's the authoritarian state we live in now. Compare that to this passage I wrote in April 2006 (yes, six years ago; just kill me now -- oh, you will? thanks!):
To put the point the other way, which will hopefully penetrate the wall of resistance erected by so many people: the only reason you aren't in a concentration camp right now is because Bush hasn't decided to send you to one -- yet. But he claims he has the power to do so -- and there are almost no voices of any prominence to dispute the contention. What is even worse than the loss of liberty is the fact that most Americans aren't even aware that the loss has occurred.
My very serious suggestion, which I humbly submit to you, is: You still have your life. Live it.

Go local, in every area of your life, to the fullest extent possible. Seek out alternative arrangements beyond the bounds of the State, invent them as needed. Live your life, with all the joy and happiness that you can -- and not on their terms.

Politics, certainly politics in the modern State, is about control, force and violence. Politics is not going to save you. It never was.

Live your life. More than that: live it ecstatically.