We can see them there, huddled under cover of night, assembled in the darkened corners of dimly-lit bars, conversing in hushed tones, eyes darting nervously, wondering who among them might turn coat. Which man here conceals a Ministry badge? Do I hide one myself? Dare I even ask?
How their hands do tremble. How their voices quiver, knowing that a second of free expression might cost the author his life. How shall we ever find our way home again, to the land of the free?
We awoke with a start. A dystopic vision had crept into our peaceful, evening reverie. We had dozed off somewhere over the Rio del Plata, on our return to Buenos Aires from Punta del Este. The distasteful images – the jackboot thuds, the stale smoke of a dimly-lit bar, the vague but unmistakable sense of fear, of dread – lingered a bit longer in our sleep-fogged head. Better order some more of that cheap wine, we thought, reaching for our newspaper.
What is happening in the world, Fellow Reckoner? The age of secrecy, of spooks and goons, of disappearing enemies and suspicion among friends, is bearing down on us. The lessons of history were cast on stony ground, it seems, left to whither in the ignorance of night.
Barely a day goes by when we don’t read of some new encroachment on our freedoms. Last week it was the freedom to share information online. The L.A. Times relayed the details:
“After receiving indictments from a grand jury in Virginia for racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and other charges on Jan. 5, federal authorities on Thursday arrested four people and executed more than 20 search warrants in the U.S. and eight foreign countries, seizing 18 domain names and an estimated $50 million in assets, including servers run in Virginia and Washington, D.C.”
The four men were arrested in New Zealand, with, presumably, the collusion of the New Zealand government. The arm of the Empire is indeed long. So what did these individuals, who face a maximum prison sentence of 55 years each if convicted, do, exactly? They hosted a website, megaupload.com, that allowed for digital file sharing. In other words, they built the ultimate mixed-tape swap meet where individuals – millions of them – could gather to share media files.
Now, one might assume that artists would want their music distributed, to have their artwork seen and heard by as many eyes and ears as possible. Correct. In fact, that was exactly what Megaupload – a website owned and operated by recording artists – was trying to accomplish. Explained Jeffrey Tucker:
“[T]he trendline with Megaupload was clearly toward using the space to launch new artists with new content: not piracy but creativity. As Wired.uk wrote, this crackdown came shortly after Megaupload announced music producer Swizz Beatz – married to Alicia Keys – as their CEO. They had rallied a whole host of musicians including Will.i.am, P Diddy, Kanye West and Jamie Foxx to endorse the cloud locker service. Megaupload was building a legitimate system for artists to make money and fans to get content.”
Are you connecting the dots here, Fellow Reckoner? Let’s see…an old, entrenched industry with political clout (and a distinct lack of actual artists) hires the arm of the state to ride roughshod over a new, innovative competitor with a superior distribution model…a model actually endorsed by artists. It’s a classic case of parasites affecting to serve their host. And it doesn’t stop there.
In almost every facet of modern life, those privileged few, who were ostensibly appointed to “serve and protect,” have stolen into a role of bullying and intimidation.
Consider the Transport and Security Administration, for example, one of the most glaringly obvious examples of nefarious mission creep.
“We are your neighbours, friends and relatives,” declares their website, invoking an ominous Big Brother tone. The TSA was founded, again according to the agency’s website, “to protect the nation’s transportation systems so you and your family can travel safely.” Bare that in mind next time one of the 50,000 spooks is gate-raping you at the airport. Rand Paul, to his credit, refused this humiliating procedure just today on his way to Washington D.C. The Kentucky Senator was, of course, detained for daring to refuse the mandatory invasion.
We are reminded, constantly, of Orwell’s Newspeak Dictionary, in particular the reference to what the author calls “blackwhite.” Orwell described it as “…loyal willingness to say black is white when party discipline demands this. It also means the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”
The obedient citizen will therefore recognise a department bent of launching massive, undeclared military offensives against nations afar as the Department of Defense. He will learn to refer to the department that invades his personal privacy and security as the Department of Homeland Security. He will come to know the department that claims the right to kidnap him from his place of business for helping people around the world share information as the Department of Justice. He will call the theft of his property and that of his fellow workers Internal Revenue. He will consider it his civic duty to surrender this property…and when he notices one among his group who does not pay, he will dutifully, with a sense of pride, notify the appropriate authority. He will salute soldiers who kill people he has never met, in places he has never been, as heroes. And when he sees something, you can be sure he will say something.
Eventually, before the citizen knows it, he will have become everything his state wants him to be. When black is white, and he knows it to be so, he will finally be a patriot.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
Joel Bowman is the Managing Editor of The Daily Reckoning USA