Paranoia doesn’t seem so crazy

Published 9:51am Thursday, July 11, 2013

I’ve been trying to remember the best way to fold a tinfoil hat. Do you fold it up like a sailboat, or will a beanie style wad keep the mind waves out, like Goober or Jughead?
I’ve always tried to avoid the paranoid style in politics and life in general. But now? A lack of paranoia seems unwise.
It is willful blindness. On numerous fronts exposed this crazy summer, it seems they really are out to get us, or at least to be way nosier than what I’m comfortable with.
You ever have a thought run through your head that makes you think, “jeez, I’ve gotta quit being so paranoid?”
In the past, it would cause a chuckle. Government takeovers? Big Brother-style machines that Hoover up ever detail about you? The rise of the machines, Terminator-style?
Seriously?
Unfortunately, those thoughts don’t make me chuckle anymore. The kooky, tinfoil-hat stuff feels frighteningly rational these days. The last couple months’ revelations — from the extent of the U.S. government’s spying on its citizens phone and Internet activities, to the IRS’s ideological targeting of the president’s political enemies in the leadup to his reelection — have shredded all the firewalls in my brain between rational assumptions and late night talk radio lunacy.
The government of China, and many other authoritarian regimes, have the computing power to filter out words they consider threatening and erase them from that nation’s Internet. In China, they call it The Great Firewall.
Do you think for a second that our government couldn’t do that at the click of an icon?
One aid to the NSA’s online spying program was the volume of the world’s Internet data that flows through servers in the continental U.S.
Pretty much everything floating around the Internet goes through the U.S., whether it’s in Cupertino (Apple), Mountain View (Google), or some server farm in South Carolina or elsewhere.
All they needed was for the companies that own and operate those servers to allow the NSA access.
So Google, Facebook, Verizon and the rest handed over the keys like an eager-to-please father to his teenage little princess.
There’s a principle in the world of computer nerds called Moore’s Law. It says that how quickly a computer can handle information and how much data it can store will double every two years. It’s a good shorthand for the way things have changed. In barely a decade, we’ve gone from slow-motion dial-up service to loading up any movie you’ve ever wanted to see in the blink of an eye. As impressive as computers and even phones are now, imagine that doubling by 2015.
Because Moore’s Law says it will. There was a time when you could relax about Giant Corporations and Big Government getting into your business. Because really, how would the government even store all those records, much less review them to keep tabs. But innovations in data storage and the ever-growing computing powers at every American’s fingertips make it almost manageable, if not increasingly simple.
Before, when I started feeling paranoid, or ran across the hare-brained ravings of a confirmed paranoiac, I would comfort myself in the knowledge that any sustained effort against the interests of the citizenry would travel through layers and layers of civil servants, regular bureucrats and low level worker bees. Somewhere in that chain of access, naturally, any ominous proposal would cross the wrong desk, and its occupant would blow the whistle for the good of his or her fellow Americans.
But the IRS scandal, in which the nation’s tax collectors unilaterally stymied applications for non-profit status by groups who opposed the current chief executive, sounded a warning. Most of the bureaucrats and civil service picked a side long ago. They didn’t pick the side in favor of smaller government, the half of the population that would prefer to fund so many worker-bees and middle managers.
In the IRS, employees gave campaign donations to Democrats by a 4-to-1 margin. The taxman’s attorneys donated to Obama by a 20-to-1 margin.
So, we know they have the tools and capabilities to oppress or target regular folks whenever they feel like it.
And we know they’re willing to do so, if they think they can get away with it. And it’s becoming clear that there aren’t many whistleblowers out there to alert the public, since speaking up could have disastrous ramifications on a federal fuctionary’s relatively cushy livelihood.
Paranoia doesn’t seem that crazy anymore. And that’s insane.
Trusting our government, at this stage, seems like a much less rational position. That’s a competely irrational turn of events
From my informal surveys, it’s becoming increasingly common. The number of people stockpiling food and water, buying their first firearms or learning how to encrypt their personal data does not indicate a society confident in the benevolence of its leadership.

David D. Goodwin is political editor of The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at david.goodwin@thewetumpkaherald.com.

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