Monday, June 24, 2013

Week of 06/24/2013

End the Info Hypocrisy Now!
– by David Matthews 2

I hate hypocrisy.  I really do.

Yeah, I’m guilty of it at times.  I’m only human.  I’m not going to try to claim that I’ve never been a hypocrite because that’s when someone will dig up something I’ve said or done in the past.  We’re pretty good at spotting the hypocrisy in others even though we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves… and that, in and of itself, is hypocritical.

But what’s worse is when we institutionalize that hypocrisy!  When the hypocrisy is just so entrenched that it becomes policy or it becomes a law that we just can’t agree with but we also just cannot end.

Our outdated and freedom-hating blue laws are the perfect example of this.  Laws that forbid certain activity even within the confines of your own private home.  Laws that most of us agree that have no place whatsoever in a free society and most of us would probably be guilty of breaking on a regular basis, and yet we don’t have the courage to own up to that and get rid of these laws.  And the religious groups that benefit through those kinds of laws know that our hypocrisy is so overwhelming on this subject that they don’t have to ever worry about them being repealed.

Well we are dealing with a new piece of institutionalized hypocrisy.  One that I’ve talked about for several years and one that I know some newspaper editorial have touched on slightly, while the air-fluffed ego-driven media mildly tip-toed around it.  This piece of institutionalized hypocrisy deals with information.

Point One: We have the “revelation” that the Internal Revenue Service has been engaging in selective scrutiny for certain social and political groups.  Be it Planned Parenthood or the various so-called “Tea Party” groups, the IRS has been the convenient political pitbull.

Point Two: We have the “revelation” that the National Security Agency has this security program that spies on our phone calls, despite assurances to the contrary that they’re not spying “on us”.  It appears that the NSA contracts out to a company that then grabs all of the details of our communications and then sends the “relevant parts” to them, but there’s no word what the contractor does with the rest of that information.

Point Three: Our federal government says that they have every right to access our email and private online conversations as long as they exist on a server somewhere that is not on our computers.  No FISA Court involved; no warrants needed.  They don’t even need to say “national security, bitches.”  If it’s out there instead of just on our own computers, our government claims they have a right to access it, period.  That sort of puts a crimp on the whole “put it on the cloud” campaign, huh?

Before we go any further, let’s get a few things out of the way.

First, when we say “intelligence” or “data”, we’re talking about information.  Everything about who you are and what you do and what you say and where you go and who you know and what you buy are all information.

And second, these “revelations” are really neither shocking nor are they new.  These are things that we’ve known were going on, in some cases, for over a decade.  The same groups that had no qualms about these things going on under President George W. Bush’s watch are now petrified that the very same things are still going on under President Barack Obama’s watch.  The same scope; the same justifications; the same “national security, bitches” attitude; and even the same promises to the contrary that “we’re really not spying on you, only the bad guys”.  The only real difference is that one president was a lily-white Texas GOP redneck and the other is an African-American Democrat home-boy from Illinois.  Other than that, it’s just same snoop, different day.

That in and of itself is a pretty decent hypocrisy to rant about, but that isn’t even the big one!  That’s just the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg.

True, I could rant about just that, and I initially got into this article planning on doing that.  I was ready to lambaste the GOP and the conservatives and neo-conservatives for their political hypocrisy over this, since they were the ones that used the “national security, bitches” speech ten years ago.  They were the ones that stood behind then-Attorney General John Ashcroft when he said in 2001, and I quote: "To those who scare peace loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends."  And here they are today crying foul when Obama’s supporters say the very same thing. 

So, yes, I had every intention of putting them in the political stockade and pelt them with blogger-eggs.

But as I looked more and more into the subject itself, I couldn’t just leave it at their doorstep.  I couldn’t because it’s not really their hypocrisy that is at the root of the problem.

It’s really ours.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the real hypocrisy when it comes to information-collecting and information-utilizing is all ours, and it is long-past time that we not only own up to it, but that we kill it once and for all.

The best way to show the real institutionalized hypocrisy is to turn to television.

You know that “crime drama” show you like?  Doesn’t matter which channel it’s on because they all pretty much do this.  There’s a scene in all of these shows where the investigators – be they “federal agents” or “police experts” – decide to look at a particular suspect, and they type up that person’s name into a computer and – Boom! – there is that person’s whole life right there on the screen.  Who they are, where they came from, who they married, how many kids they have, what sort of work they did, what kind of criminal record they have or don’t have, their bank account information, their financial transactions, their credit card purchases, a record of their phone calls, the number of places they visit on the Internet.  Everything they need to determine whether or not that person should be a suspect is right there at their fingertips with just a few clicks of the keyboard.

Now I know some of you are ready to hit the emails with “But that’s just TV, dude!  It’s fictional!”  Yes, I know that it is!  I know that it’s fictional and designed to speed up the time it would normally take to dig through those kinds of records to get all of that information.

But good luck getting your fellow TV viewers to believe that!

What happens after every tragedy?  The first questions after “How many people died” and “Did they catch the people behind it” are “How could this have happened?” and “Why didn’t someone warn us about this beforehand?”  We asked those questions at every workplace shooting, at every school shooting, at every large-gathering shooting, every terrorist act, and especially the Boston Marathon bombing.

We actually expect police and federal agencies to have all of this information at their disposal like their TV counterparts do, and to not only have it with just a few taps on the keyboard, but to then be able to use that information to stop tragedies before they happen!  We expect them to somehow know when bad things are going to happen and then stop them.

And when our real-life officials say that they lack the capability for that, what do we do?  We give it to them!  We tell them they can look anywhere they want just as long as they can find the “bad guys” and stop them before they do something “bad”.

And they’re not the only ones we give our information to, is it?  Banks, insurance companies, hospitals, pharmacies, the local grocery store, the electronics store… they all want to know everything about us, don’t they?  Oh sure the stores give us some goodies like some discounts, but what about the others?  Too Big To Fail, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Medical… seems like the only time we hear about what those guys do with all of our personal information is when they screw up and let crooks get their hands on it.

Then it happens… then we realize just how much information is out there about us, and who uses it, and why.  Then all of a sudden we get concerned about our privacy.  Then we get defensive and we wonder whether “Big Brother” is looking at us!

This is the hypocrisy we are all guilty of.  We gave these groups access to all of our information!  We gave Big Government and Big Corporate the keys to our own Pandora’s Boxes and somehow expected them to respect our privacy, never thinking that at any point they might consider us to be the very “bad guys” they’re supposed to look out for.

Think back to that crime drama TV program and the idea that they can dig up every single piece of information about you with just a matter of a few keystrokes.  How many people do they bring in for questioning on the basis of that information that ended up being completely innocent?  Now imagine if you were one of those people.  It makes you re-think that pompous line about “if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear”, doesn’t it?

Granted, we won’t be able to put the information genie back inside the bottle.  The time for that being even remotely possible has long since expired.  But we can remember about those limitations that we used to mock and remember that they’re not there to protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent from being treated as being guilty.

We need to own up to this hypocrisy before we can expect the politicians to own up to theirs.  If we can’t do that, then the politicians will continue to use it to play us.  They’ve done it before, and they will do it again.  It’s just a matter of how ignorant do we choose to be when it comes to our own information.

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