In an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose aired on Monday, June 17, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama, in defending the U.S. government’s data collection and monitoring of its citizens, emphatically stated, “We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place … that their phone calls aren’t being listened into; their text messages aren’t being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere.”
In essence, President Obama was assuring not only his people, but the rest of the world that America has not become an Orwellian state. This claim merits a careful comparison of the state of America’s society and government, and by proxy the entire free world, to the thinking and presage of George Orwell. If President Obama is right, then Edward Snowden is a traitor, but if the President is wrong, then Edward Snowden is a hero that ought to be protected by U.S. whistle-blower laws.
- “Big Brother is watching you.” G.O.
- “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” G.O.
If you were to travel to London today and tour George Orwell’s neighborhood, you would notice literally hundreds of government and private security cameras within a stone’s throw of Orwell’s old flat. Here in America security cams, traffic cams, cellular towers, and global positioning satellites, and soon-to-be unmanned aerial drones monitor the comings and goings of every person on our soil. The ratio of industrial to government data collection is irrelevant. A digital copy of every text, e-mail, telephone transaction, non-cash retail transaction, Google search, and Internet Service Provider connection is kept for both industrial and government data mining purposes. Just as our controlled substance prescriptions already are, soon our health records will be in one vast government database… a veritable mountain of personal data to be used and abused. A free citizen must go to extraordinary lengths to mitigate the amount of data these faceless, shadowy powers catch up in their nets. It gives the innocent citizen a shuddering sense of being guilty until proven innocent, of being a criminal, an unwilling rebel resisting a hidden enemy, forced to skulk from shadow to shadow to avoid being seen by the all-seeing eye. This ubiquitous gloom casts a terrible pall on 1st Amendment rights to free speech and free association, 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure of private effects, U.S. and international copyright laws (what I write belongs to me), and the general human need to have a bit of privacy. Every man, woman, and child is swept up in this vast, voyeuristic net that monitors everything we do and say. With a few clicks on a keyboard, any computer analyst with proper corporate or government clearance can create a complete profile of our habits, attitudes, associations, travels, and physical health, accompanied by quotes from our personal correspondence. We can only escape their threatened scrutiny by carefully minding our Ps and Qs, for there is a database for nearly everything, even incontinence. Despite what President Obama claims, the IRS and NSA have proven time and time again they will unilaterally act against law-abiding citizens with extreme vindictiveness. Big Brother is not only watching, it is also acting, and armed drones are on the way.
Snowden 1, Obama 0
Big Brother is but a single part of Orwell’s dystopic vision for the future. He had a rather dim view of many developing aspects of the relationship of ordinary folks to the elite powers.
- A Ration of Chocolate
Depending on your sources, at any given time 40 to 50% of Americans are on some sort of public assistance, and 9 of 10 citizens have accepted public assistance in their lifetime. Do not get me wrong, a social safety net helps maintain a stable society, BUT since 1947 the productivity of the American worker has increased four fold, while income, adjusted for inflation, is stagnant or decreasing for that same worker. The tremendous profits generated by the workers’ increased productivity have sent corporate profits to record levels over the past ten years, yet the workers’ wages and salaries, when taken as a percentage of American gross domestic product, are sitting at their lowest point since WWII. Basically, instead of sharing profits with the workers who generate them, the elites are keeping that money for themselves, forcing many Americans to unnecessarily accept public assistance.
Snowden 2, Obama 0
- “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” G.O.
From shore to shore, America is a land thick with laws that govern all aspects of our lives. Some laws are good laws, some laws are bad laws, and some are well-meaning laws with unintended consequences. The application of the law, like it or not, is means tested. As person’s wealth and power increase, the number of laws they are subject to decreases.
For example, back in the spring of 1996, Vice-President Al Gore appeared at a Democratic fundraising event taking place in the His Lai Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. The event, and others like it, gave all appearances of being an illegal funneling of millions of dollars of communist Chinese money to the Clinton re-election campaign. Despite a massive investigation, no one went to jail, and no one within the Clinton inner circle was even convicted. Why? Well, in the words of Vice President Gore, “My counsel advises me that there is no controlling legal authority or case that says there was any violation of law whatsoever.” Al Gore is more equal than you and I.
The Columbia River Crossing project, a planned replacement of the I-5 bridge connecting Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, Washington, began a decade ago. In ten years of ‘planning’, political cronies in Oregon’s Portland metropolitan area have handed out nearly $180 million of the citizens’ money to their friends and associates without making any headway on the project. At the end of June, 2013 the CRC project died without digging a single shovelful of dirt. What the hell? Minnesota managed to rebuild their I-35 bridge in 13 months for $234 million. How did Oregon politicians get away with squandering hundreds of millions of citizen dollars over a decade on the vaporous Columbia River Crossing project without going to prison? They are simply not held to the same laws as you and me. They are more equal.
Like it or not, Oregon is a staunch death penalty state. Oregon’s most recently elected governor, John Kitzhaber, swore to support both the U.S. and Oregon State constitutions, and faithfully discharge the duties of his office. Despite this oath, once in office he immediately suspended Oregon’s death penalty laws for the duration of his term. Had he confessed his intent to unilaterally suspend Oregon’s death penalty laws during the election, I am confident Chris Dudley would be Oregon’s current governor. All parsing aside, Kitzhaber’s actions violate the spirit of his oath of office. Unfortunately, there is no controlling legal authority to prosecute, impeach or recall Governor Kitzhaber. For all intents and purposes, our governor is an elected king… at least for a day… and his authority received the full backing of the Oregon Supreme Court in a June 2013 decision against death row inmate Gary Haugen. Make no mistake, this is not about the ethics of capital punishment. This is about the breakdown of constitutional checks and balances. Governor Kitzhaber is effectively usurping the authority of the legislature and electorate and overturning Oregon law, and there is no controlling legal authority to stop him. That makes him far more equal than an ordinary citizen. At the local, state, and federal level the political elites and corporate elites (who are sometimes one in the same person) bend, break, and rewrite laws every day to serve their own purposes – a clear subversion of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause.
Snowden 3, Obama 0
- “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” G.O.
- “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” G.O.
- “In our time political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” G.O.
I see there are three fundamental personalities that run for political office. First, we have idealists, the dreamers, people who want to change the world for their version of ‘better’, like Orwell’s character, Old Major from Animal Farm. Second, we have folks who run for office to reign in the powerful for the sake of the weak, like Orwell’s character Snowball. Third, and by far the most abundant, are the narcissistic sociopaths who love power and control for their own sake, like Orwell’s character, Napoleon. This third type can be bribed and bought, for their end is not a just society, but rather the accumulation of power at the expense of others. They are the politicians who survive to reach the highest offices of the land, leaving the idealists and honest leaders who cannot be corrupted dead in the ditch along the way. They do and say whatever is necessary to get elected or appointed, they take their oaths, then promptly deceive the citizens they represent. There are not enough honest statesmen left to maintain the system of checks and balances created by our Founding Fathers. Simply listen in on U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, as he does everything he can to not directly answer Texas senator Ted Cruz’s questions about military drones. The exchange between Senator Ted Cruz, TX, and Eric Holder is a classic example of the extraordinary resistance our leaders have developed to the original system of checks and balances built into the U.S. Constitution. Politicians manipulate and obfuscate the truth, even under oath, just about every time they open their mouths with nearly absolute impunity. Their ultimate goal is to create an alternate reality for the masses to believe that does not reflect the true nature of the world at large, then to marginalize or punish those who attempt to expose their agenda. And they are never punished for lying, for there is no controlling legal authority. The absence of a controlling legal authority allows activist judges to legislate from the bench, the executive branch to oppose and undermine the Constitution, and the legislative branch to be bought and sold through a system of bribery via campaign contributions, access to special employment opportunities, and other quid pro quos made available to them by the wealthy and powerful. Does anyone ever go to jail for this crap? Nope, because there is no controlling legal authority. And now that the American worker’s wages and salaries are at record lows when compared to corporate profits and GDP, the workingman’s ability to influence our politicians through grassroots campaign contributions is greatly diminished.
Snowden 4, Obama 0
- “Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing,” G.O.
- “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot,” G.O.
- “What can you do against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?” G.O.
Over the past forty years America has become a full-fledged liberal, progressive society. While striving for race, gender and sexual equality have been largely positives for our society, progressive thinking has steadily eroded the much of our nation’s foundation. Children born out-of-wedlock and abortions are at epidemic levels. Illegal drug use has been destigmatized, and prescription psychoactive drugs are needlessly and rampantly prescribed for adults and children who do not need them. We have become a society filled with the need for instant gratification, filled with greed, sloth, and egocentricity, much like bratty little children who demand everything be given them by the nanny state. We refuse to be victimized by the notions of virtuous behavior, instead living for the seven deadly sins. Teachers are not allowed to teach, for no child is to be subjected to discipline of any sort. In sum, the progressive movement has unapologetically done more damage to the social infrastructure of America than good. Many progressives are positively Orwellian in their insanity. Look at that old canard, Ebonics. Ebony phonics? That was left-wing, progressive lunacy at its best.
Snowden 5, Obama 0
- “Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket,” G.O.
- “Early in life I had noticed that no event is every correctly reported in a newspaper,” G.O.
Decades of mergers, acquisitions, and the legitimization of rampant corporate greed brought the majority of journalists under the control of a handful of large conglomerates, essentially quashing the abilities of investigative journalists to report independently. At the same time, journalists began evolving from citizen investigators into progressive social engineers, too often ignoring corruption because the corrupt furthered their own journalist causes. Tough questions became few and far between, and real answers were no longer required or expected. “The end justifies the means” attitude has replaced honest assessment and truthful reporting.
Certainly, with the advent of the internet and electronic media, information on the actions of the corrupt often can be found at the periphery. However, the fringe are of no account without the main arteries of media picking up the truth, shouting it from the rooftops, and demanding public accountability. Frankly, in my opinion, the only reason the Obama/Snowden story is getting so much attention today is because Obama’s administration foolishly kicked the hornet’s nest when they illegally wiretapped the Associated Press.
Snowden 6 Obama 0
- “We were never at war with the East. We have always been at war with the West,” G.O.
- “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it,” G.O.
All my life America has been at war. As the Korean War wound down and turned into the Korean occupation, the Vietnam War began heating up. As the Vietnam War ended, the Cold War escalated into President Reagan’s famous quote, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall, of which Reagan was speaking, was demolished November 1989, leading to the reunification of Germany. In the waning years of the Cold War, our new enemy, Radical Islam, emerged. Starting in 1980, not a year has gone by without America having some dustup with some Muslim country over some item or another. We are now in the thirty-third year of a war eventually dubbed ‘The War on Terror.’ Could we get any more diffuse? I suppose we could start ‘The War on Anything Suspicious and Out of the Ordinary.’ I am not saying that America is or was on the wrong side of any particular conflict, only that while wars and crises are funded on the backs of the ordinary citizen, it is extremely profitable for the elites, and we always under threat of some manufactured crisis and always at war.
Snowden 7 Obama 0
- Living in Dystopia
Orwell’s dystopic society, Oceania, was a grim, hopeless nation, indeed. He imagined a world where the human spirit was utterly crushed, much like it was at the height of Communist Russia or China. America, and its citizens, are nothing like that. While some in our government, possibly including our president, may indeed desire to take away our rights and make us utterly dependant on and subject to The State, they have a long way to go before they can achieve anything near as awful as Orwell’s fatalistic novel, 1984. Americans know the press and government are full of crap, and, due to the extraordinary foresight of our Founding Fathers, have guaranteed, constitutional rights that will prove extraordinarily difficult and dangerous for our leaders to take away with any other method than an extremely protracted incrementalism. President Obama, along with scores of left-wing progressive politicians nationwide, made a serious effort to undermine America’s right to bear arms in 2013 only to meet fierce resistance from those they consider inferior, the ordinary citizens. Even the violent revolutions and nightmarish genocides inside Russia and China could not completely break the spirit of those peoples. Yes, for a time, communism crushed the color of life, and Eurasia and Eastasia existed as nations… but only for a time. Most of the evil leaders of our world, just as George Orwell did, underestimate the spirit of man. The only way to completely eradicate the human spirit is to kill us all, and in America the citizens can shoot back.
Snowden 8 Obama 1
While America has yet to become an entirely Orwellian society, our government has been incrementally putting into place an Orwellian model of government since World War II. Big Brother is really watching, and everybody knows it. For my president to go on a national news program and deny this reality is a real head-scratcher. President Obama attended a quality college preparatory school as a youth and very likely read Animal Farm, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and other prescient warnings disguised as novels as part of his English curriculum. Even if his intentions are currently good, how could he not know he is the commander-in-chief of a budding Orwellian government? Everybody else does! It is almost old news. Edward Snowden’s confirmation of the existence of Big Brother is hardly treasonous. All he did was have the courage to bring attention to the elephant in our living room that is rummaging through our cupboards and stealing our peanuts. For that, I will always think of Edward Snowden as a national hero. Hopefully President Obama will stop short of making him a martyr. Perhaps, on this 4th of July, 2013, the President will man-up, pardon Edward Snowden, and get this egregious affair over with. All the guy did, at the end of the day, is embarrass the spooks a bit by catching them with their hand in the cookie jar before dinner. It is not like any of those pricks are going to jail for violating my constitutional rights, a punishment they so justly deserve. Or perhaps the President will come clean with the country who elected him and say, “Yup, Big Brother is here, he’s a badass mo’fo’ and he’s here to stay! What are you gonna do ‘bout it, punk? NOTHING, THAT’S WHAT!” And he would be right.