With all the recent discussion about Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and the NSA leaks, I was hit with a surprising feeling of…indifference. As a Patriot Act hating progressive, I was troubled by my own lack of outrage. Don’t get me wrong, I think the NSA surveillance is definitely a case of government overreach and more than a little creepy. Does it bother me less that the program is currently under the Obama administration? I suppose it does. Not because I think I’m an apologist, but because I know he’s not Ted Cruz. Of course, the scary part is that after expanding this program what would it look like under a President Ted Cruz? We aren’t going to have a Democrat in the White House forever. I shudder at the thought.
Yet still, I simply can’t bring myself to being up in arms over it. After a considerable amount of reflection,the reason came to me. As a majority in many cases and a plurality in almost all cases, we have already given it away…willingly.
After the shit hit the fan on 9/11, Americans were all too eager to give in to fear, because as Warren Zevon once sang, “You’re a whole different person when you’re scared.” And make no mistake, we were scared. Hell, if you weren’t a little frightened I question your grasp on reality. Unfortunately, that fear took hold at a time when the clown prince of president’s, George W. Bush, was in office. With Cheney and Rumsfeld in tow, 9/11 gave the Bush Administration carte blanche post tragedy.
In our collective grief and fear, we rallied around the shrub. Bush’s approval rating soared to 90% right after 9/11. Even more impressive is the fact that his approval rating stayed above 60% until the second week of January in 2003. Oh, we wanted to believe didn’t we?
And what did we get for this faith? An unnecessary war in Iraq, the beginnings of the drone program, and the infamous, aforementioned Patriot Act.
But here’s the thing, as a country, we wanted all of it.
You might be able to forgive yourself for supporting the bill in 2001 if you indeed did. I get it, we wanted to feel safer, civil liberties be damned. What’s more surprising is the continued support for a piece of legislation that invades our privacy like none other. Upon reflection, we are still more or less for it. In 2005, 59% of us approved of its re-authorization. In 2011, 58% of Americans found it necessary in combating the “war on terror.”
It’s not just that we wanted it, it’s that we keep wanting it.
Do I blame our support of the Patriot Act for the expansion of the NSA spying program? You bet your ass I do. But here’s the thing, we want that too. A Pew Poll from last month finds that 56% of Americans find the snooping program “acceptable.” Which as you may have noticed is pretty much in line with Patriot Act approval. Now I understand there are more than a few good hearted civil libertarians who take true, righteous issue with the trend of encroachment in our day-to-day lives. That being said, this so-called “bombshell” delivered by Greenwald and Snowden is really anything but. If we were paying attention in 2006, we could have gotten righteously steamed back then when our national McPaper, USA Today, originally reported on it.
This isn’t even new news.
Our self subversion of our own privacy doesn’t stop there either. Go to any ten of your Facebook friends’ pages and I’m betting nine of them are sharing shit that will result in jaw dropping and head shaking. Not only are we more than eager to overshare, we seem to be addicted to it.
And what about Facebook? Just Google the words “Facebook” and “privacy” and you will find no end to the articles expressing the concern over “data grabs,” info mining, and other privacy concerns regarding the social media giant. And guess what? Most of us don’t care. Or if we do, not enough to drop out and start partying like it’s 1999–you know, back when people still wrote letters. How do I know most of us don’t care? Well, are you still on Facebook? I’m betting you are.
So okay, I get it. We’re upset about the ability of the government to listen to our phone calls, read our e-mails, and look through our windows. But I would be a lot more persuaded about the privacy concerns of the average American were we not so complicit in giving it away. Until that changes, I have no room for mutual outrage in my heart over this issue.
Now excuse me, I have to go post this article on my Facebook page.