Friday, June 10, 2011

Orwellian Surveillance, Spies & Infiltration

In George Orwell's world of 1984... were a billion people suffering from the effects of malnutrition?  Was a full seventh of that fictional population hungry?  Obviously things were rough in that fictitious world, but was it really that bad?  Was it hard for billions of people to find potable water to drink?  Were the oceans surrounding Oceania full of plastic?  Was the primary fuel source of Eurasia leading to a negative feedback loop in the climate (which consequently might raise the planet's temperature by several degrees within the next century)? 

I recall in the book that the proles were rationed low quality cigarettes along with imitation chocolate, and I know they were spoon-fed manufactured pop culture to keep them content... but did they really have it that bad?  I mean... compared to the reality of our world today -- in the U.S.A. and beyond. 

Particularly in the U.S. and Britain, Orwell's book has veritably been used as a guide to establish a surveillance society.  New laptops come with cameras (built right in and focused at the user).  The "memory hole" is quaint compared deleted emails.  And, as Julian Assange recently pointed out... Facebook is "the most appalling spying machine ever invented."  People write their own profiles which are kept on corporate servers and then the corporations give open access to the government.  Some people even discuss radical politics on public forums which, for all they know, may be owned, operated, or monitored by government agents.  In short... I'm not certain the modern spying apparatus could be much improved or made more efficient. 

But that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much the modern world resembles (or has surpassed) the dystopia of 1984.  It's not inconceivable that the masses of our world are as ignorant as the Proles about the inner-workings of the inner-party.  How about the general acceptance of war and the tolerance of civilian casualties in enemy nations?  And does the "two minute hate" have anything over the celebrations which took place when Osama Bin Laden was assassinated?  It's even been shown, for those who will care to look, that, like the "followers of Emmanuel Goldstein," Al Qaeda was mostly a government fabrication.

Again though... I think we generally overlook a key aspect of Orwell's dystopic vision.  That key aspect has to do with how untrustworthy and personally disloyal those around us are.  This is related to the surveillance apparatus, but I think it's deeper than that -- because we have no idea of how much we can trust anyone around us.  Under the auspices of the "war on drugs" (which itself is beyond Orwellian), even the children are instructed to inform on their parents -- and neighbors are encouraged to keep tabs on their neighbors.  But that's still just the tip of the iceberg. 

If you are any sort of dissident (even of the mildest character and only advocating the mildest changes) you run the risk of encountering informants paid by the state.  Spy recruiters callously suggest that, “By working in domestic terrorism investigations, you get to see the First Amendment in action.”  And so... you start to get stories of vegan potlucks being infiltrated.  But that's just the start.  Agents have long been known to worm their way into groups of radicals and set them up with actions they otherwise may never have had anything to do with.  Undercover agents have even gone so far as to marry activists and retain their cover for years!  They have not only joined radical organizations... they have even taken key leadership positions within those organizations -- and this is a fact which should not be overlooked or taken for granted.  Just as in Orwell's novel... lovers, neighbors, seemingly innocent shopkeepers, and politicians at all levels, are often potentially suspect in terms of personal loyalty.     

I would suggest that even if you are not an activist, or a radical of any sort, that you should still be cautious about whom you let into your personal circle of friends.  Even though they may dress like your clique, smile profusely, laugh at all your jokes, and shake everyone's hand... those are only superficial aspects which allow people to get much farther than they should.  Anyone can learn the talking points of any party line and seemlessy integrate into a circle of friends as say just the right things.  Again... this is especially true amongst radicals -- but everyone should be cautious about gossip-mongers, those who exaggerate petty problems, and those who frequently talk with flippancy about highly illegal actions (real or hypothetical).  In general, it makes sense for everyone to avoid those who may be subtly trying to dismantle functional (or potentially functional) relationships.  Such things happen all the time. 

In practical terms... what this all amounts to is a breakdown in what radicals and activists refer to as "security culture".  For those unfamiliar with the concept...  security culture includes ideas like "loose lips sink ships" (in regard to varying degrees of direct action which a group may be involved with).  There is more to it than that, but what's often missed is the fact that you usually shouldn't participate in serious direct actions with anyone who loudly and boisterously talks about security culture -- because while it may make the individual look like a legitimate activist (and they might be), such individuals are all but raising a red flag to draw the attention of government agents (assuming they aren't one).  People who publicly talk about things like security culture in reference to political action can only ever legitimately be above-ground activists -- because as soon as they start talking openly about such things they, and their social connections, are monitored.  It needs to be recognized that above-ground radicals are taking risks simply by talking about and advocating certain ideas -- and they should only mix with underground activists very conditionally.  It should even be noted that agents can be arrested, on the pretense of being "down with the cause" and/or some of them might collect a reward in civil court after supposedly having their civil rights violated.

The larger problem, however, may be that people are simply resigned (and/or blinded) to this reality.  Millions of people get their concepts of freedom from cable news and very few people really know anything about the likes of anarchist history or any sort of liberation theory.  The masses have had their rights and privacy stripped away, they've been convinced by the media that a terrorist group could be ready to strike at this very moment, and they've been placated by bread and circuses while being made aware that things are worse for the people who are actually being bombed and terrorized in their name.  And, again, most people aren't radicals, activists, or even politically aware beyond the shallowest level.  They watch television shows which glorify the police (and the secret police), and they are sold that glorifying line of thought more often than they get pitched consumer goods during the commercial breaks.  But when someone in their proximity gets unjustly trampled by the state, figuratively and/or physically, there is a disconnect for them as to why that is happening.  It's usually dismissed as a simple mistake, an unfortunate misunderstanding, or an isolated tragedy -- despite the fact that people get brutalized every single day by agents of the state.  If an individual was at all guilty of anything... it's usually accepted that they deserved whatever treatment they received (no matter how harsh or disproportionate).           

In any event... I have my own reasons for writing this particular article.  Because of writing of articles like this (although this current article is pretty tame), combined with my living conditions (if you can call it living), and taking into consideration my youthful actions of the past (I was something of a reckless firebrand)...  I am probably in a better position whereby I can readily see and experience the things discussed in this article on a regular basis. 

Nevertheless... I, and much of this article, will be written off as being merely paranoid.  I understand that and it doesn't bother me.  I am confident in the ideas I've presented in this article and am not completely paralyzed with fear (although I'm usually pretty careful not to step too far out of line these days).  I know this article, and I along with it, will be mocked -- despite any compelling links presented or ample logic demonstrated.  I don't feel like much of a martyr about that because I really don't care about what most idiots think about me.  And I could elaborate about times in my life when I was overtly followed for weeks on end (at the same time when little notes would appear on my doorstep suggesting that I should kill myself).  I could tell the story of how I was drugged with a strong hallucinogen at the WTO protest in 1999.  Or... maybe it would be relevant to tell about the time I was smashed by an uninsured private snowplow while riding my bicycle (in 70 degree weather).  And maybe I should explain how all these things factored into my eventual meltdown.  But... that's all beside the point.  I didn't write this article for my own sake.  Think what you will of all this and take it or leave it.          

If you are an agent of the state... if you still have a soul or any humanity left... start blowing whistles anywhere and everywhere you can.  Otherwise... you will remain the lowest form of humanity and will continue to represent the worst of our species (and that's saying a lot if you know anything about humankind). 

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