Americans are overwhelmingly polarized over ongoing presidential election campaigns. The choice is going to be between Donald Trump – an oligarch accused of disregarding the interests of minorities, and Hillary Clinton – an utterly disgraced public servant too unqualified and incompetent to even serve at the lowest possible grade in the US State Department. But, between the two, one has already clearly […]
Il n’appartient, qu’aux tyrans d’être toujours en crainte.
None but tyrants have any business to be afraid.
Hardouin de Péréfixe
Has the US government managed to “master the Internet”, their favorite way of referring to hoovering up every item of information on the web?
As Glenn Greenwald explains in his book No Place to Hide, the unrelenting spying on the Internet has not made anyone safer from terrorism, having played no role in preventing any terrorist attack, and actually just wastes a lot of time and money for government employees examining irrelevant data. However, the real rationale of such spying is actually less about making people safe than about thwarting meaningful opposition to government (p. 177).
As I quoted in an earlier post, the goal of “mastering” the Internet is based on the formulation that the Internet is a “threat” to existing nation-states. It is very perceptive of regimes to have made this identification, and good for their safety that they made it earlier on rather than waiting until it was too late. However, as I have also noted, only the security services have actually “mastered” the Internet, while the political classes are still dismally behind in that regard.
It is also telling that those who most often defend the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) and attack Edward Snowden for exposing their treatment of the world’s Internet users as the enemy are typically those of us who know nothing about the Internet. Opinions among the younger generation, the generation of the Internet, those who consider it sacrosanct, are profusely in favor of Edward Snowden and against the NSA. I suspect that this polarization is as true among political figures as it is in the general public.
The battle lines on this issue are overwhelmingly between those who are young and who appreciate and understand the Internet as part of a democratic political culture and those who are part of an older generation that feels threatened by new ideas and inventions. It is a division that has appeared before, and almost always concludes with the victory of the younger and more liberal generation.
Those who proclaim to have “mastered” the Internet have failed the most basic test of history. They have failed to master anything. What they do not understand is that the Internet is bigger than them and beyond their capacity to control, such that they can obtain nothing more than illusions of control by trying to conquer and pacify it. Short of actually switching off the Internet, the United States has no capability to prevent it becoming the greatest publishing medium of anti-Americanism and the greatest counterweight to American power that has even been witnessed. And the Internet has already created another generation and another body politic that now exists in its own right and cannot simply be switched off.
The goal of “mastering the Internet” is a goal that will end in mastering nothing. It is less driven by sound security thinking than a sense of national embarrassment felt by America’s leadership that they helped bring into existence yet another tool that is now effectively used to mobilize anti-American sentiment.
American leaders are motivated by delusions of spreading “freedom” that don’t align with the actual actions of their regime to suppress freedom around the world. The result is that they preach and advocate the very same technologies that they later have to think of ways to “master”. American leaders talk of nothing but toppling repressive regimes, but their own regime reeks of repression as it tries to balance its own monstrous, grotesque weight on its strained tiptoes. Incompetence and a deeply unstable relationship between government and the governed thus becomes the price, as hypocrisy is not merely ingrained in American speech but translates into policy that can only be called schizophrenic, based on contradictory claims about America’s role in the world as both the greatest guarantor and the greatest “controller” of our freedom.
Since it rose to a position of super-power prominence by accident in 1945, the United States has stumbled throughout the world, repeatedly tying its own shoelaces together, saying one thing and doing another, emptily preaching peace and liberty while spreading wanton destruction. There is not a single calamity, terror or defeat that came upon the United States, from the debacle of the Vietnam War to the 9/11 attacks, that was not created by the United States and provoked upon itself. To people who understand its history for what it really is, there is little surprise that the US has spent billions of dollars trying to “master” a technology that it created and spread in the first place. It is little different than the confused thinking that led the United States to pump money into Islamist terrorist groups as a way of thwarting the advance of Soviet influence in the Middle East and Asia in the Cold War, only to later have to fight the same terrorists they supported.
The enemies of the United States need do very little to eliminate this bumbling and inept regime, but wait for it to once again and finally fall to its death in a hole it dug for itself.