Many have noted the coverage of Snowden as a distraction from more earnestly tackling the import of what he brought to the fore. I think it’s precisely the opposite. Even if the latest American regime had turned out to be a transparent sparkle pony in every legal bag of pot, they would not be admiring their reflections in a one-way mirror.
Regardless, the rifling through of underwear drawers is the least of the beast. It’s true you could keep your weed (or whatever other metaphor) with your socks and deign not to speak to a soul about it, but everyone – and I mean everyone (I cannot emphasize this enough) – tells at least one person. Maybe deep down we all know that information kept to oneself is meaningless, save the meaning of the ultimate loneliness of keeping something to oneself. Human animals live to share information, sometimes even the innermost thoughts of their most trusted confidants.
In the rudest sense, both Edward Snowden and the NSA have shared information that doesn’t belong to them. Should either be a punishable offense?
Bradley Manning, too, revealed to the world something he thought might make a positive difference in how we collectively behave towards one another. The “this isn’t something we didn’t already know” aspect applies as much to soldiers killing people they’re “not supposed to” as the rarely spoken truth that the nature of bureaucracy is to pry into everyone’s private business, which one could loosely define as legalized snoopiness.
When the information is used to chase people down and toss them into steel-reinforced concrete cells at the whim of judicial hocus pocus, the implications come into focus.
((Speakin’ o’ implications, will we never weary of the refrain that slippery slopes lead into unimaginable tomorrows, and instead insist that living on a slope is presently slippery enough to conclude that it is as bad as it gets for the persecuted and executed, captured and tortured, and/or assassinated or imprisoned? The problem is not tomorrow, it is today.))
It’s how we twist the information, how we react to it that matters. There’s no way to stop its flowing, but there is at least a chance to decriminalize a whole mess of shit associated with it, not to mention de-stigmatize that of our darkest fears regarding our personal privacy.
Bradley Manning is being punished for being a tattletale. I scoff at the notion that he has put people in danger; his ongoing mistreatment is to let the world know that the most massive killing machine on the planet can kill whomever it pleases and it’s none of your business how they do business, even if your footing part of the bill. The supplementary effect of these scare tactics is that it reiterates that it is treason to expose murderers – as if Manning had said, “My fellow Americans, I present to you war criminals,” to which the Code of US Military Justice replied, “I know you are, but what am I?”
Likewise, even if you do believe that this spying apparatus is primarily to prevent terrorism and that the information revealed by Snowden has thrown a wrench in the works, even placed “innocent lives” in jeopardy – So what?
Is that not the price of freedom?
The data-mining itself would be laughable if it weren’t for the kraftka-tivity of the criminalization compartment.
The more important question is then: Whose freedom?
I heard somewhere that a wrinkle forms in your grey matter membrane when you learn something; the better you learn it, the deeper the wrinkle gets. I don’t know if that’s true, but I suppose it’s related to a kind of neural pathway being cleared that gets easier to traverse per trip.
If I’ve read a novel only one time, it might on some occasion elicit a vaguely recalled outline of detail, but from a film I’ve seen a gazillion times, I can quote several lines. The details of the novel are more intuitively reproduced if I’ve discussed it, read someone else’s impressions of it, and/or read it again, gaining additional perspective while getting to know specifics.
The relationships between all of the above form affixed neural paths granting me indirect, yet definite access to the material from a greater number of angles.
I can add up the price of the items of my grocery receipt quickly and accurately in my head – in English; but it usually takes more than once to get it right in German, with the nature of a mature nervous system likely to limit that newer skill ’til the day my neurons no longer fire.
If you always enter your email password manually, you know your email password, if not, then the path of memory lies outside of your sphere of influence – your brain, as it were, is somewhere else.
Do you remember the source of that thing you read today on the Internet?
If you answered, “The Internet,” then touché.
The evolution of the mind, or how the brain works, so shifted at the onset of the printed word, one can imagine the effect it had on traditionally-told tales by tongue. Who knows, maybe the game of Telephone didn’t render such absurdly divergent results as it did before it was called Telephone, and maybe the peak of the independent human capacity to store & recall information with accuracy lies in the distant past.
If an animal can intuit rainstorms, it might be because it hasn’t reached a point in its evolution where, like me, it finds itself on its way to appointments thinking, I forgot to check the weather page.
The ancient computer system that enabled our elders to map the stars & their movements with remarkable precision was called “repeated observation”. Repeated observation is being outsourced at an exponential rate. For example, my mid-to-long count sucks; I don’t trust for sure that the moon is full until I look at the really cool graphic I’ve bookmarked that tells me so.
You can protest – Hey that ain’t me, speak for yourself, who’s we? etc. Maybe so. But dude, you’re dying…
In the early twenty-first century, the difference between sitting on a secluded park bench reading an entire chapter without once looking up from the page, and not getting through an entire blog post without opening up another tab to scan a Wikipedia entry, following a link in that entry, checking your email in another tab, looking up details on a map, and then maybe finishing the blog entry if you haven’t already forgotten, which you could have read more than once in that time…
…that is the evolution of the network. Neuroplasticity, ie. the malleability of the mind works both ways, ie. your brain pudding can be digested into functionally formed fecal matter, or regurgitated onto the sidewalk before any of the nutrients sink in.
These are not deep grooves we’re forming with each other, here, on the Internet. Some are deeper than others, but most are indistinct shapes of once seen details. Either way, the relationships are between your information and my information. That was already the case before neuro- or computer science. Now, whew!
The amount of data flowing through the infrastructure in the dirt & ether around the globe pales yet in comparison to the amount of info processed by one human brain in any given amount of time, and the emergent network isn’t anywhere near neurological.
Nevertheless, the most distinctly developing path, which might eventually eclipse that of the older order of mind, incorporates at once both our newer network, and our earlier embedded grey matter habitat:
It’s a deep-seated groove forming between the area somewhere around your forehead – and the monitor gleaming back at it.
Whether or not it’s anywhere near the tip of your tongue, all information is available to anyone who wants it bad enough.