You could say I was a pretty devoted follower. An infowarrior.
And like Alex, I was angry and not going to take it anymore.
I believed in 9/11 conspiracy theories and FEMA camps. I believed that the Illuminati had infiltrated Hollywood and their satanic cabal includes celebrities like Lady Gaga and Jay-Z.
I believed in controlled demolition. Disease and autism-causing vaccines. RFID chips. Tainted GMO foods. The Bilderbergs, Skull and Bones. The Myth of Peak Oil. The global warming hoax and the NWO.
I stopped watching “lame” stream news.
I was determined to not be lulled in to a sense of false security. There was no way THEY were going to make me believe that
I was ready for the government’s next false flag operation.
I got into the habit of calling the uninformed “sheeple”.
Now, as much as Alex Jones encourages his listeners to think, there’s a funny thing that happens when you start thinking about things a little too much. Sometimes, sometimes when you think too much about what you believe you fall into a kind of thinking called skepticism.
On its own, skepticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The 17th century Scottish philosopher David Hume is noted for his skeptic treatises. Descartes’ famous “method of doubt” was a product of skepticism. And no science would ever get done without a heaping dose of skepticism.
Blame it on David Hume, but my new-found skeptical thinking began to creep into everything I read, saw, or listened to – including the Alex Jones Show.
You know what happened, right?
Ok, let me clear up something right now. I’m not discrediting all conspiracy theories. Conspiracies happen. Governments, corporations, and organizations do (sometimes) conspire against the will of the people and enough sneaky stuff goes on around the world to convince anyone, let alone someone with a conspiratorial mind, that something is going on.
The government may try to convince the people that they’re not busy drawing up plans for global domination (and eventual extermination) and setting up FEMA camps, but your argument isn’t helped at all when the logo of one of your federal department looks like this:
Now, that’s just begging for a conspiracy theory.
You see, even though a good dose of skepticism often inoculates one against bad reasoning, you don’t have to fan of David Icke, Art Bell or Coast To Coast AM to name more than a few real-life conspiracies and instances of government wrong-doing:
- Internment of Japanese citizens during WWII
- The Tuskegee Experiment
- Forced sterilizations of so-called mental “degenerates”
- Government-sponsored LSD experiments on U.S. soldiers and other unwilling participants
- Exposing citizens to potentially deadly pathogens without their knowledge or permission
Let’s not forget the Watergate break-in and cover-up, the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”, J. Edgar Hoover’s predilection for wiretapping anyone he didn’t like, Senator Joe McCarthy’s communist witch-hunt, Nixon’s enemies list, Iran-Contra, ABSCAM, the Pat Tilman cover-up, the PATRIOT Act, Nigerian yellow cake uranium, Bush (now Obama) era warrant less wiretaps, PRISM and the mining of meta-data from all electronic communications – including private email, internet searches, and telephone calls.
I don’t even want to THINK about what DARPA is up to.
There’s trouble enough when we deal with conspiracy theory. It doesn’t help at all when it’s conspiracy fact.
The problem with conspiracies is that in order for a conspiracy to be successful, the conspiracy has to be kept secret.
Unless you’re a ten year old girl (or the government), you’re probably not very fond of secrets.
In case you don’t know, a secret is defined as:
Secret. adj. 1. kept or meant to be kept private, unknown or hidden. n. 1. thing to be kept secret. 2. thing known only to a few.
Generally speaking, we don’t have a problem with secrets or with a certain amount of secrecy or privacy. There are matters and/or activities that we all want to keep private.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects
And protects the people from:
unreasonable searches and seizures
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain unenumerated rights, including the people’s right to privacy, is guaranteed under the Ninth Amendment.
Now, since governments are comprised of people, and people keep secrets, you wouldn’t be abnormal if you assumed that governments also keep secrets. In fact, a certain amount of governmental secrecy is necessary for the proper function of government. It would do no one any good for the government to disclose details of every action, negotiation or treaty. it engages in. The game of international relations is best won when a nation maintains a poker face.
In Federalist 70, Alexander Hamilton argues that the Executive branch (i.e. the president) must possess the ability (or means) to perform his duties vigorously and efficiently. Executive powers, according to Hamilton, include decision, activity, dispatch, and secrecy. Hamilton writes:
That unity is conducive to energy will not be disputed. Decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number, and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished.
Secrecy in the Executive enables the president to act decisively, swiftly, and unilaterally without outside interference – especially in matters concerning national security or the national interest.
The ability for the government to keep government activities secret is an essential function of government according to Plato, who in Republic, wrote that the public is often unqualified (or incapable) of carrying out or comprehending the responsibilities of government.
The problem with secrecy isn’t that governments keep secrets. Rather, the problem with government secrecy is that a government that makes a habit of keeping secrets tends to invade the secrets of its citizens.
When the thing acting secretively isn’t an individual but a federal bureaucracy, Americans shouldn’t be surprised that, in the secrets-keeping game, the public is definitely the disadvantaged player. We the people have nothing on the government’s ability to mine private activities and act surreptitiously. Especially when the secrets the government is keeping from us are about us.
There’s a reason, after more than half a century since George Orwell penned his dystopian novel 1984, why this phrase is still in the public conscience
We may have a problem with government intrusions into a citizen’s privacy, however, the practice is nothing new. Government snooping is as American as internet porn and apple pie.
Despite our constitutional guarantees against invasions of privacy, during his 48-year tenure as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover authorized the surveillance of many individuals, including Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, comedian Lenny Bruce, John Lennon, anti-Vietnam activist Abbie Hoffman, and Cary Grant.
Yes. Cary Grant. The actor.
When Daniel Ellsberg (with Anthony Russo) exposed the Nixon Administration’s secret bombing of Cambodia (Nixon had neglected to inform the American public and Congress of the bombing of Cambodia), Nixon retaliated by invading Ellsberg’s privacy.
E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.
Because the best way to de-legitimize your critics is to accuse them of being a loony.
Nixon claimed that the Ellsberg break-in, along with illegal phone wiretaps, secret smear campaigns against political opponents, and recorded personal conversations in the Oval Office was justified in the interest of national security. Nixon claimed he needed “… to protect military, diplomatic or sensitive national security secrets.”
Following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congress passed the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act authorizes the government to perform searches without warrants (so-called “sneak and peek” searches that allow federal agents to search terror suspects’ homes without their knowledge or consent) and to eavesdrop on private telephone conversations. Under the PATRIOT Act, courts operating outside the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have to power to grant FBI investigations into the affairs of individuals without first obtaining warrants from local jurisdictions.
When the American “whistleblower” Edward Snowden revealed PRISM, the FBI-NSA program designed to thwart terrorist attacks by way of data mining internet servers (including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Verizon), the government responded to charges of invasion of privacy by stating that collected (private) information consisted of “meta-data”, which the government insists is non-specific. The government claims that it focuses merely on key words, such as “bomb”, “terrorist attack” or “jihad”, not on the actual content of a web search, Facebook post, cell phone call or email.
That means that any individual is free to search for XXXjuicyblackbutt.net without any fear of government surveillance.*
One would think, given the public’s knowledge of government history of invading the people’s privacy, that public opinion would be dead-set against any form of government surveillance.
However, this is not the case.
According to a survey published in Time Magazine:
- 81% of Americans favor some form of surveillance in public spaces.
- 38% favor monitoring cell phone calls and email.
- 55% favor monitoring of internet chatrooms and forums.
- 79% favor the use of facial recognition software in public areas.
- 53% of Americans claim that they were already aware of government monitoring of phone and internet communications (for terrorist suspects) when news of government monitoring of emails, internet searches, and cell phone calls was reported by the national media.
If the surveys are a correct reflection of the sentiments of the American public, and if no one is bothered by an occasional invasion of privacy, we should not be worried if the government collects internet meta-data or monitors our phone calls. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you be worried about the government looking at what you do?
If this is a sentiment that you believe, you might have missed the point.
Secrecy, whether it’s your teenaged, weed-smelling son (who insists that he‘s not smoking pot), excessive government secrecy or government intrusion into the private activities of the people, is never a good thing.
Former Nixon White House council, John Dean, says secrecy is an “evil” on several counts:
- Secrecy is un-democratic.
- Secrecy threatens liberty.
- Secrecy precludes public accountability.
- Secrecy alienates the people from the government.
- Secrecy is dangerous.
- Secrecy encourages incompetence.
- Secrecy hampers “the exercise of rational choice”.
- Secrecy encourages and hides groupthink.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …
Government, states Jefferson, not only serves the will of the people, but the existence of government is necessarily dependent on approval of the people.
In Federalist 71, Hamilton writes:
The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those whom they intrust the management of their affairs…
You see, Jefferson and Hamilton hold that a government derives its legitimacy from consent, which in turn, necessarily relies on the public trust. If the people sense that the government has or is conspiring against their interests, that is, if the people do not trust the government, the people lose faith in government institutions. This is especially troublesome if the form of government is a democracy. Democracy requires public participation. Participation requires accurate and open information.
Army Private Chelsea Manning, who was convicted on charges of handing over thousands of classified government documents (of diplomatic and military secrets) to WikiLeaks, wrote to a friend:
I want people to see the truth, because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
Manning echoes Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s sentiments that the people cannot maintain a democracy without an open exchange of information. Jefferson wrote that the “constant accumulation” of knowledge is best for the “well-being of mankind, not infinitely, as some have said, but indefinitely…”
You can’t get correct information if the government is hiding it from you. And one is less inclined to believe information that the government gives out if one suspects that the government is unlawfully peeking into their private affairs.
It’s a trust thing.
Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) said of the G.W. Bush Administration:
I believe a veil of secrecy has descended around the administration and I think that’s unseemly.
Burton says the appearance of excessive government secrecy is unseemly.
And like with unseemly people, nobody respects an sneaky, unseemly government.
Unseemly ain’t legit.
In the end, people won’t want to participate in a government that they believe not only violates their privacy, but is also illegitimate.
Ok. You might be saying to yourself, “Who cares about participation. I don’t vote. I’m not a terrorist, so I’m not worried about the NSA looking at my web browser history.”
Well, first off, good for you. You possess an extraordinary level of non-paranoia.
My guess is you’ve probably never heard of the Tri-Lateral Commission or the Bohemian Grove.
Or the fact that, according to a recent New York Times article, the NSA possesses software that allows them to tap into computers while the computer is offline.
The REAL problem with government secrecy (both keeping secrets from the public and invading individual privacy) has to do with the Constitution itself.
It might not be so obvious, but all this government secrecy and digging into the private business of people is a subversion of the Constitution. When the government spies in on private activities and data (of those activities) is handed over to various government agencies and authorities, we don’t know nor have any idea what data is passed to local police, the CIA or even the IRS (this may not be legal). We don’t know when we are being tracked or by who (or is it whom?). There is no mandate that requires the government to inform the people what they’re up to while they’re sneaking and peeking into your (our) emails, web searches, and cell phone calls.
It is in the interest of the people to act without fear of being watched or fear that we may unknowingly engage in some activity that may subject us to arrest. However, it is a violation of the law to inform an individual that he is being watched by the government. The result is an inevitable “chilling effect” on speech (that thing supposedly guaranteed by the First Amendment), not just for individuals, but for potential whistleblowers who uncover and report government misconduct.
It’s also worth mentioning that NSA spying may be in violation of the National Security Act.
When the government violates the law and the rights of the people, it ultimately weakens the Constitution and eventually the nation itself.
When people feel that the government is willing to violate its own laws it leads to mistrust. People feel like the government is conspiring against them. And when people feel like they are being conspired against, you can guess what happens next.
That’s right. Conspiracy theories.
Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the invasion of privacy not just limited to U.S. citizens.
The leaders of Germany and Brazil (and several other nations) were also spied on by the NSA.
The NSA used/uses radio waves to tap into Russian and Chinese military computers while their computers are offline.
You don’t have to have a degree in international relations from the University of Phoenix to figure out that the international community of nations will trust your country a little less when they start to think the American Stars and Stripes should be replaced with:
And if eight seasons of Three’s Company has taught us anything about interpersonal relations, it’s that spying on one’s neighbors, no matter whether the neighbor is Jack Tripper and his young, nubile female roommates or German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is damaging to our relations with our international neighbors.
Lastly, the invasion of privacy not limited to governments. You can argue slippery slope or the Law of Unintended Consequences, but spying on private activity will eventually be taken up by corporations, hackers, and other folks with malevolent motives.
If our own experience with secrets proves anything, someone will tell. Secrets are eventually revealed. The NSA might have a lock on internet snooping for now, but the NSA won’t keep hold of their monopoly on technology forever. Once a new technology is revealed, a Pandora’s box is opened.
Whoops. Not that Pandora Boxx.
This Pandora’s Box.
Imagine trying to get a job at a day care center if the government can inform your potential employer (without your knowledge or consent) that while you’re online you watch super violent anime porn.
Or Facebook having full knowledge of your herpes outbreaks (imagine that status update).
Or your apartment manager finding out that you frequently look up how to make explosives using common household materials.
Purely out of curiosity.
Or the local police being informed that you not only Google searched how to make explosives but that you also searched for the locations of local churches and the definition of the word “jihad”.
Not because you’re a terrorist. But because you’re curious.
But the NSA, Walmart or Russian identity thieves won’t know that. They’ll only see the words “explosives”, “church”, “jihad” or “big black butt”.
Think about that and try to go to bed at night.
I dare you to.
Of course, you know the NSA will be watching you.
* This was the case until it was revealed that the government does indeed monitor internet porn searches. Apparently potential terrorists like to look at websites with pictures of naked ladies.
Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning was accused of violating the 1917 Espionage and Sedition Acts. Congress passed the Act in an effort to suppress opposition to World War I, the Act imposed penalties for any speech, statement or writing against the war as well as punishment for interfering with the government during wartime.
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. The Federalist Papers. 2003 . Ed. Clinton Rossier. NY: Signet Classic. p. 392, 400.
Howard Zinn. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. 1999 . NY: Perennial Classics. p. 547.
Massimo Calabresi and Michael Crowley. “Homeland Insecurity”. Time. Vol. 181. No. 18. May 13, 2013. pp. 22-28.
Michael Scherer. “The Geeks Who Leak”. Time. Vol. 181. No. 24. June 24, 2013. pp. 22-29.
John W. Dean. Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. 2004. NY: Little, Brown and Company. p. 54.
Thomas Jefferson. “Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia”. The Portable Jefferson. 1975. Ed. Merrill D. Peterson. NY: Penguin Books. p. 336.