Believe It Or Not, America Just Got Even More Orwellian
The psywar has escalated even further now that the last remaining checks on government surveillance have been swept out the door.
On December 16th, President Obama left for vacation in Hawaii, unable to wait the remaining month of his term to relax after an exhausting eight years of violating human rights, extending and expanding all of Bush’s most pernicious policies, completely ignoring the entire platform he campaigned on, and his personal contest to see how many times he could make George Orwell scream in his grave in a fiscal year. Before he left, the president whose administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined and just put a dissenting journalist through four years of prison held a press conference to remind everyone that the Russians are the bad guys, wherein he somehow managed to say with a straight face that “Mr. Putin can weaken us, just like he's trying to weaken Europe, if we start buying into notions that it's okay to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents.”
Since that epic specimen of accidental sketch comedy, things have only gotten creepier. Associated Press reports that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), the surveillance monitoring agency which famously issued its scathing report on the illegality and unconstitutionality of the NSA surveillance program, is now a dysfunctional, neutered mess, and as TechDirt rightly observes, it’s highly unlikely that a President Trump will want to change that. To put things simply, the last remaining checks and balances on government surveillance are now accompanying George Michael through the pearly gates. They are as dead as Wolf Blitzer’s vacuous stare.
And there really doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do about it. After its current incarnation was formed to go along with the Patriot Act in 2007, the PCLOB sat unused and effectively unstaffed for an astonishing five years, with the Senate and the Obama administration finally getting it off the ground in 2012, and even then it didn’t even start actually holding substantive hearings until November of 2013. So getting the board up and running was never a priority for either the Bush or the Obama administrations, and there doesn’t seem to be any legislative mechanism in place to force the issue. Trump will effectively be able to say “Yeah, we’ll get to it” without ever actually moving on it, like a sleazy landlord, or my 2003 New Year’s resolution to learn French (I’m lost in any situation where I don’t need to ask for a baguette).
Democrats might whine about it a bit, but at this point everyone knows they don’t really mean it. They only care about things like government transparency and Constitutional rights when there’s a Republican in office. Like periodical cicadas, Democrats who care about government ethics only grace us with their presence every few years, make a whole lot of noise, and then vanish again until next time. If we hadn’t seen it for the melodramatic performance that it is eight years ago, you might be forgiven for thinking America is suddenly full of a bunch of anti-war, anti-corporatism, pro-transparency progressives who want urgent action on climate change and an end to corporate cronyism. As soon as there’s a Democrat in the White House again though, they will forget all about those issues and pretend that whatever corporatist stooge they elected will take care of them. No ground will be gained; they will be a non-issue and a non-threat, and everyone knows it.
This is just one more straw on the back of a dead camel pancake, of course, since the U.S. government has been passing act after act of Orwellian legislation for conducting legal propaganda and psy-ops on American citizens. In 2012 a 1948 law forbidding the U.S. government from performing psychological operations on its citizens was repealed, on Friday President Obama signed into law an act which allocates funds for a propaganda campaign against anything the State Department labels foreign propaganda, and now government surveillance will be effectively unchecked. So they’re basically trying to stick their fingers in your brains all the time now.
And yet, we know about this. There are a lot of people who are paying attention to these slick tricks and manipulations now, and there will only be more as we keep drawing attention to this stuff. So who knows? Maybe we don’t need the PCLOB anymore. Maybe our strange ragtag network of subversive dissidents is all we need to bring this thing down. The internet has forever changed the way politics happen; the way alternative media and WikiLeaks shaped the 2016 elections is proof of that. We are powerful.
So the hell with them. Let them come. Let them keep flailing about like a pinned little brother trying to wrestle control of the narrative away from the people. They’re fighting a losing battle, and their desperation proves it.
They want a psywar, they’ve got a psywar.