So the big news this week is that Obama went to Verizon wireless and demanded phone records. “How many?” Verizon asked. “All of them” Obama replied. In other news to shock the sensibilities of respectable mainstream folk, the government has been working with tech companies to gather massive amounts of information on foreign nationals through a program called PRISM.
Through this program the government is able to retrieve and store e-mails, pictures, video, documents, you name it. They’re also building a massive facility in Utah, five times larger than the capitol, to house all this data. If knowledge is power, then the real seat of the government is in that secret facility in Utah.
Imagine for a moment that you’re in a scenario where you are able do something ethically wrong and are guaranteed not to be caught. Would you do it?
Obviously the responses you’ll get depend on whom you ask and what the unethical act is but, regardless of those factors, the people who say no are saying so because they feel a sense of moral duty to do the right thing.
Now take that same question and ask the government, a beast that is immoral at its core.* Would you expect the government to do the right thing?
This is exactly the situation we have in front of us. The government has the potential to do something deeply unethical: destroy privacy and freedom by watching everything you do. Without a higher power to punish them and without empathy to guide them, how can we expect a fundamentally immoral creature to do the right thing?**
We can’t. They say they are only using PRISM to spy on foreign nationals, but nothing is stopping them from turning those same powers in against those they see as internal threats to their existence.*** There will come a day when they are using this powers un-apologetically against their own people. I promise you.
What really infuriates me is how people still buy into this absurd notion that the government is the “good guy” and that you are thus doing the right thing by complying with their laws. A tech podcast I listen to, Security Now, is guilty of this. When talking about privacy and security they are practically tripping over themselves to declare how much they want to be in compliance with the law and help “the good guys” catch the “bad guys.”
What if the government are the bad guys? Just try to imagine it for a moment. What would the implications be? Trusting the government to do the right thing with your privacy and personal freedom is like handing the key to your liquor cabinet to a kleptomanic alcoholic and trusting they won’t drink all your booze. If you do then you’re a fucking idiot and deserve the consequences.
Also, in regards to everyone being shocked by these new revelations of government abuse, I’ve just one thing I want to say:
I told you so.
*If (A), It is immoral to force your will on another person though violence and (B), A government derives its power from having a monopoly on socially sanctioned violence, then (C) the government has a monopoly on immorality.
** Yes I am brushing up against on the religion/morality thing on purpose. I’m referencing that tired old debate on “does morality come from a higher power.” No, morality comes from empathy and the government is unable to empathize and thus unable to do the right thing. Individual people within the government might be able to empathize, but they are only a small part of a much larger and powerful organism with a collective conscious that is unable to empathize.
*** Historically, as government abuses grow worse, the population becomes more irritated and eventually enraged. The population is then seen as a threat to a government’s power. This coincides with the militarization of the police. The police are “supposed” to protect the people, the military is supposed to protect the state from its enemies. When the police become the military, then the people become the enemies of the state.