For all of its Snidley Whiplash swagger, of late, the GOP seems to have forgotten that the internet exists.
More to the point: they haven’t realized that the kinds of bullshit they used to be able to pull in relative secret–during game 7 of the NBA finals, as in Texas; or at 8 o’clock at night on the eve of Independence Day, as in North Carolina this week–will no longer have the comfort of the shadows.
No. Because somebody’s always watching.
And, as Edward Snowden was helpful enough to remind us (in the douchiest possible way), each of us is caught in a very particular kind of governmental gaze. (Ah, bonjour Foucault.)
As a liberal, I know I should be furious about this, about data farms in Utah and metadata and the autonomy that’s been taken from me. I’ll admit: I feel a bit guilty at not going full-on Rage Cat on this issue; my dreams are full of Howard Zinn shaming me from afar.
But I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about what it means to have a life online, to be leaving a digital trail all over the freaking place, and I’ve made my peace, mostly, with having little control over data that once was “mine” and that’s now free range on the Internet.
Do I like the notion of the Justice Department scanning my email and making note of my internet searches? Fuck no. I mean, I don’t think we share the same taste in porn. But much of this is info that Google and Apple and random internet creepers have a hold of, anyway; which is not to say that it makes it ok, what the government’s been doing under the cover of “justice” and “homeland security.” Certainly the Church Committee of the 1970s illustrated some of the crazy shit that the feds will get up to when they know no one’s watching them.
But what’s almost Oedipus-level ironic, I think, is that much of the same technology that makes the NSA’s Blackwatch Plaid surveillance possible is the same that we use to keep would-be theocrats like Rick Perry and Scott Walker from spinning their anti-choice mojo in darkness.
What the last few weeks have illustrated, even more starkly than the 2012 campaigns, is how flumoxxed the GOP seems to be by social media. What started with George Allen and “macaca” in 2006 and continued with Todd Akin’s cartoonish understanding of female anatomy in 2012 has rolled on to included a whole new train of the Abortion Shame Parade, one that the internet has made sure everybody can see.
Through the use of live streams, Twitter, Facebook, and the good ol’ fashioned internet, Wendy Davis’ filibuster, her opponents’ attempts to stop it, and the amazing people power of the pro-choice forces in the Senate gallery were fed to the world as raw data, as they happened–even as the mainstream media for the most part paid it no mind.
Likewise, the clock-and-dagger actions of the North Carolina Senate this week were broadcast online as they happened and made available to anyone who had the stomach to watch.
Further, the internet and some of its super-smart denizens uncovered childish attempts of the GOP in the Texas Senate to alter the voting logs to make it appear as though the vote on SB5 was called before the 12 AM deadline–something that would have been almost impossible to do in real time had the voting logs not been posted on the Senate’s website.
If you say it, GOP, even to what you think is a friendly audience, people that don’t agree with you–that think you’re fucking insane–are gonna hear about it. As a politician, you have to assume that you’re always being recorded.
I can see some readers pointing to this as a key point of distinction: politicians are public figures. They’ve signed on to be seen–hell, they WANT people to listen to them. So any surveillance under which they fall is one to which they’ve ipso facto consented. And the kind of daylight provisions I’m trumpeting here most definitely do not apply to pseudo-secret agencies like the NSA; at least, not usually.
As much of an idiot as I think Snowden’s made of himself–taking refuge in China, going Nuns on the Run and getting stuck in freaking Russia, thus neatly providing his detractors with plenty of shit to talk about besides the governmental skullduggery he exposed–he has flipped the switch and shot a lightbulb into the subbasement of governmental surveillance. As a country, we’re looking now in a way we weren’t six weeks ago; we don’t have a livestream into the NSA, no. But now they know we’re watching them, too.
In the Panopticon, after all, the guard tower’s visible from every cell. Maybe that’ll keep the guard from picking his nose.