13 December 2013

ACLU: NSA Christmas Video

This video is silly, but it speaks to something that I'm grappling with as I work on this “Codewords of the NSA Primer,” which is tone. I find myself vacillating between wanting to villify the NSA and alternately wanting to lampoon it. I think there are good reasons to do both.

Whatever you think about Edward Snowden and his motives, he has revealed to us a huge complex that involves the government, private intelligence contractors, digital firms and Wall Street. These revelations should shock us all, yet our shock is muted. Is that because we're already burdened with more than we can handle -- wars based on lies, powerlessness in the face of Wall Street's trickery, a political system that seems broken -- or is it that we really don't care?

So, the tone thing. As I develop these images, I find myself leaning more toward lampooning and ridiculing the agency than portraying it as evil. This isn't because I don't think it's evil for our own government to spy on us. I do. But consider if you will what a half-assed job they've been doing in their spying: the NSA estimates that Edward Snowden has as many as 1.5 million documents, yet nobody was on to him. The Washington Post reports that there are over 854,000 private employees with security clearances like Snowden's. I doubt that the NSA has firm control over any of them, so I think of the agency as inept. But maybe that makes them even more dangerous.

I think we care about this. I think we care deeply. But in addition to being burned out, I think it's also possible that we don't quite believe it yet. I read a news story today about a Scottish sci-fi author who had to scrap his latest book because he accidentally wrote about things that the NSA is actually doing. If this were a movie, we might laugh because of how far-fetched it is. But it's no movie.

The code words, at any rate, are pretty ridiculous in their own right, so I'll continue to let the words themselves be my muse and my guide.

Next up: dishfire. You can see that one already, right?


Andrew Stone said...

Nixon eavesdropping on the Democratic National convention was Watergate and resulted in the fall of his presidency. Keeping track of ALL internet and cell phone conversations can not be in the best interest of a free society. I think the NSA surveillance program and the mixing of a "security" agenda with a "marketing profiling agenda" is creepy and dangerous to our civil liberties and democracy.
Take a look at Cory Doctorow's 2008 book, "Little Brother" as it discusses the inherent risks of a surveillance state.

Annie B said...

I think it's creepy, too. Thanks for the book suggestion, Andrew. I'll check it out.

Sharri said...

As far as I'm concerned, this whole security thing is a farce. We may as well have the Keystone Cops watching out for us. I don't believe it has kept us one iota safer and the money could be better spent on education and infrastructure - both things that create jobs, as opposed to waiting for the Elite to do that. Keep on printing Annie, you are on the right track - no, maybe that's left track!

Annie B said...

Keystone cops. There you go. Exactly. And so sad about all that money.

Anita Thomhave Simonsen said...

funny but as you say, creepy......

good thoughts from