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Yes, I know we face many dangers these days: economic inequality, climate change, an unjustly prosecuted war on drugs. Not to mention an increasingly tainted food and water supply, a dysfunctional education system, blowback from our imperialistic foreign policy and other seriously important issues. But the free flow of information -- both public and private -- via the internet shared without fear of government reprisal enables more effective advocacy for all the aforementioned issues.

That said...

In the book, "Discipline and Punish" French social theorist Michel Foucault (1926–1984) introduced us to what he called the "Panopticon," a hypothetical, state-of-the-art prison.

The Panopticon is a prison where all cells can be seen from a central tower shielded such that the guards can see out but the prisoners can’t see in. The prisoners in the Panopticon could thus never know whether they were being surveilled, meaning that they have to, if they want to avoid running the risk of severe punishment, assume that they were being watched at all times. Thus, the Panopticon functioned as an effective tool of social control even when it wasn’t being staffed by a single guard.
Using the Panopticon as metaphor, Foucault seemed to envision this 21st Century world in which we live. He posits that countries choosing to control society like the hypothetical guards at Panopticon, are doing so using a form of mind control. You could call it a form of indirect mind control. Foucault calls it “disciplinary power.” Basically an insidious, "trust us" approach; like a "build it and they will come" path. After all, the internet was a joint project between the government and corporations. If you really think about it, what better way to monitor the citizenry than to have them all communicating in easily-monitored online forums, emails services, and text messages on the latest smartphone?

If a government can monitor what information is sent, received and disseminated throughout the country using programs like Prism -- and can virtually peer at will into what a person is doing at any given time -- it can control the very behavior of that person. That kind of power instills fear, and over time, people become conformists, even if they don't intend to. In other words, unless you're totally fearless and endowed with an alpha-type rebellious nature -- when you think someone's watching -- you tend to do what's expected of you. Kinda like a kid playing with a friend in the front yard and a parent sitting on the porch or in front of the picture window inside the house staring. The urge to show off in front of your friends and neighbors and perhaps deviate from your normal behavior is strong. But you inherently avoid screwing off, knowing your parents are watching and you fear castigation.

In essence, you become your own best behaved self; a self-regulator, if you will.

From ThinkProgress:

Online privacy advocates have long worried that government surveillance programs could end up disciplining internet users in precisely this fashion. In 1997, the FBI began using something called Project Carnivore, an online surveillance data tool designed to mimic traditional wiretaps, but for email. However, because online information is not like a phone number in several basic senses, Carnivore ended up capturing far more information than it was intended to. It also had virtually no oversight outside of the FBI.

As the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) told Congress in 2000, “Systems like Carnivore have the potential to turn into mass surveillance systems that will harm our free and open society…Once individuals realize that they have a lowered expectation of privacy on the Net, they may not visit particular web sites that they may otherwise have visited.” Writing in 2004, a group of scholars drew a straight line from this analysis to Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power. “Resembling the ever-present powers of the central watchtower in a prison modeled after the Panopticon,” they wrote “the very fact that the FBI has the potential to monitor communications on a website may lead Internet users to believe that they are constantly being watched.”

Ya think?

I have to admit, long before this latest revelation regarding blanket surveillance, when communicating online, I've often tempered my views and opinions about our government, and even hesitated to visit certain websites -- probably more so during the Bush years -- but generally throughout the length of my seven years here at Daily Kos, and other progressive internet forums across the web. I still spoke out, and continue to do so. But I force myself to choose my words carefully. The thought of being closely monitored has always instilled a chilling effect both on my way of thinking, and the words I choose to convey it. That effect has become even more intense and foreboding now. But the existential sense of dread is building inside of me. I've never embraced an affinity to conform. I don't much like being controlled. And I like even less being intimidated... by anyone or anything.  

We know now that this hypothetical fear about Carnivore has become a reality, courtesy of the NSA. The more people come to see mass online surveillance as a norm, rather than something used only on specific subjects of investigation, the more they’ll tailor their online habits to it. Since people understandably don’t want the government looking at their private information, that’ll mean the internet will over time slowly become less of a place for vibrant self-expression. That should trouble anyone who believes that the best society is one in which people are most free to be themselves in whatever way they find most meaningful. In essence, that should trouble anyone committed to the basic liberal project.
Damn right it does. We cannot ignore that commitment.

In order to push back, we must pressure Congress and the POTUS. And also revive OWS. Along with a vibrant social media, a strong, diverse Occupy movement has to once again become primary tool we can use to change America to reflect the ideals of the Constitution; ideals to which we've always been told our country espouses. In order for an equitable representative democracy to flourish, liberal policies, both economic and social, must prevail. We know through history... those types of policies work for all citizens. And if we're to continue this capitalistic/socialistic experimental society... conservative ideology must be marginalized.

And so should institutionalized governmental policies like Prism.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "Anyone with an aquarium knows that if you change the temperature and chemistry of the water, you're asking for trouble... big trouble." -- Oceanographer David Gallo

    by markthshark on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 04:32:31 AM PDT

  •  Our Constitution does not say anything (4+ / 0-)

    about economic inequality, about what kind of economic system we should have, about our government's obligation to protect us from climate change, about drugs. It really doesn't promise us an education, health care, or prosperity.  But it does say this:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.

    And if you want to change this, you need to change the Constitution through the legally prescribed process for doing that.  

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 04:50:46 AM PDT

    •  And the worst part is: our learned POTUS.... (2+ / 0-)

      can no doubt recite the Fourth Amendment in his sleep... backwards.

      "Anyone with an aquarium knows that if you change the temperature and chemistry of the water, you're asking for trouble... big trouble." -- Oceanographer David Gallo

      by markthshark on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 05:01:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obama's involved, but I don't think it's quite (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        markthshark, historys mysteries

        fair to blame Obama only.  The Patriot Act, which they all seem to think justifies this conduct, was passed and re-authorized by Congress and I'll bet lot sof Dems voted for it as well as most Repubs.  It started when Bush was pres.  I would say that with very few exceptions, this is the product of lots of our political reps, e.g. Diane Feinstein, whose just fine with it, voted for it, supports it, enables it.  We need to get real with ourselves about this.

        The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

        by helfenburg on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 06:14:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's plenty of blame to go around... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aliasalias

          But not very many of the congress critters you speak of are constitutional scholars.

          Hell, I wonder if many of them have even read it at all.

          "Anyone with an aquarium knows that if you change the temperature and chemistry of the water, you're asking for trouble... big trouble." -- Oceanographer David Gallo

          by markthshark on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 06:23:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They are pretty much all lawyers and in law school (0+ / 0-)

            actually, constitutional law is a required course.  So, that's not an excuse for them, you know.  They do know better and so does Obama.  But from the comments of much of the voting public - they've made the right call.  They are afraid of the terrorists who killed 1500 people in NYC 12 years ago and they are ready to have the constitution shredded in front of them if it eases their anxiety.  There's no proof that it's making them actually safer and there cannot be since it's all strictly confidential and top secret, but hey, you can trust Mitch McConnell and his buddies to do the right thing, can't you?  

            The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

            by helfenburg on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:43:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  the bigger problem is that we don't know WHAT (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          markthshark

          kind of interpretation of the Patriot Act the administration is using to claim what they are doing is legal.

           Sen. Wyden has read it and says people would be "stunned" to read how Obama's administration has 'interpreted' it. If it was legal I'm not sure as many people would be upset and maybe lawmakers could/would change it but very few are even allowed to know what is in that memo.
          This all amounts to the oxymoron of 'secret law'.

          I guess it isn't something to tout.

          Imo it couldn't/wouldn't stand up in Court were it available for challenge, provided of course that it was measured against that 'quaint document' aka Constitution.

          without the ants the rainforest dies

          by aliasalias on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 10:19:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Of course, you can't challenge it because you (0+ / 0-)

            can't know what their doing.  Convenient how that works, isn't it.  And Obama says he welcomes the debate.  What baloney.

            The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

            by helfenburg on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:44:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  That amendment is effectively dead. (0+ / 0-)

      In fact, one could almost call it quaint. A bit like the amendment that forbids the government from billeting soldiers in your house.

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 11:14:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Apparently it is dead. The American public for (0+ / 0-)

        the most part never knew it was there and can't be bothered to really think about it.

        This was the death of our great nation.  Most people preferred to watch the NBA playoffs and that's how it died.

        The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

        by helfenburg on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:50:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If it isn't the main course (2+ / 0-)
    He posits that countries choosing to control society like the hypothetical guards at Panopticon, are doing so using a form of mind control. You could call it a form of indirect mind control.
    It's a nice side order of old school McD's fries that even my rabidly anti McDs mom found simply irresistable.

    And because music...
    Lyrics are intertainingly apt.

  •  Once Again? Occupy Never Did Shit (0+ / 0-)

    except to restore the concept of economic injustice to popular discourse.

    That's a hell of an accomplishment, but it has not stopped government from advancing economic injustice in the full light of day.

    If you're thinking Occupy is an answer, you're a generation behind Rosa Parks.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 06:51:40 AM PDT

    •  occupy wasn't identical in all places and it is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, markthshark

      still working in various places, some in this region on protecting homeowners from foreclosure, debt buying/forgiving, involvement against the proposed massive coal terminal, and local elections,... among other actions.

      Also many many pro bono lawyers are still engaged in lawsuits and defense actions related to events from the occupy movement, across the Country.

      It also got a lot of young people's feet wet (some older people as well) for the first time in political engagement and many saw for the first time that the 99% really do have more power, provided it is in masses.

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 10:31:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The next iteration of Occupy must be more... (0+ / 0-)

      dynamic and diverse.

      No more taking over public lands for extended periods of time. Instead, more mobility, perhaps using social media to facilitate a nationwide "flash mob" mentality. A roaming protest, if you will. That makes it more difficult for cops to organize against them.

      And the OWS legal team must operate behind the scenes, creatively suing corporations and government entities alike in court; helping home owners and workers. OWS actually had some success behind the scenes. Of course, the corporate media didn't report on those successes.

      Face it, taking over Zuccotti and other parks around the country failed because public opinion turned against it. Bad publicity and heavy-handed law enforcement combined contributed to that failure.

      "Anyone with an aquarium knows that if you change the temperature and chemistry of the water, you're asking for trouble... big trouble." -- Oceanographer David Gallo

      by markthshark on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 02:49:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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