Glenn Greenwald writes:
“Any casual review of human history proves how deeply irrational it is to believe that powerful factions can be trusted to exercise vast surveillance power with little accountability or transparency. But the more they proudly flaunt their warped imperial hubris, the more irrational it becomes.”
Indeed it does. But before we get to the punch line, let me back up for a moment.
There is a picture painted by myself and some other dissident writers about the psychology of the state supremacists behind militarism and omnipresent surveillance, who found themselves off the leash since 9-11. This is the picture that led me to write an (unpublished) satirical novel called Pyramid of Babel, about an imperial successor capital to DC (and Big Brother), and feel that it was entirely fair to lambaste and mock its semi-fictional mentalities.
This picture has been thought a bit of a caricature by some folks who were willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Surely, if they say “national security” depends on it, they must have good reasons? They don’t just want to be in charge? They can’t just be enamored by immature power fantasies? most people assumed.
Consider Exhibit A: NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, and his Information Dominance Center constructed to look like the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
As you can see, most people were giving these dangerous characters far too much credit. In this case I’m genuinely sorry to have been proven 100% correct, because “we’re all in this together,” to steal a line from one of my favorite movies.
(An aside: In my case, I had the advantage of having studied the “Pentomic Era,” in which this level of mad, bizarre indulgence excused by “national security” had already been taken as seriously as could be and funded as seriously, and quite nearly killed everybody.)
Yes, it really is just as bad as we, “the extremists,” said. Far too many of the men and women who have risen to the top, as scum does, really are the most absurd caricature of narcissist. They really are playing games with all of our lives. It’s as plain as the starship chair in the “Information Dominance Center.”
And no, it wasn’t just some odd whim of one man. This effectively captured the spirit behind Total Information Awareness by another name, the spirit of paranoid madmen with too much money and too many toys, US versus THEM (and the ‘them’ are us, to echo Pogo). Congressmen—who supposedly, laughably, provide oversight for the military-industrial complex—fit right in:
“When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather ‘captain’s chair’ in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.
“‘Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,’ says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.”
Shut them down. Shut them down, now, before it’s too late. Above all, don’t take them seriously. They don’t deserve the respect.