Thursday, June 13, 2013

Individualism is a Threat to our Society?

I'm really stunned by the David Brooks op-ed from a couple of days ago.  I just can't imagine people, especially someone who has called himself a conservative in the past, would think this way.  I'm also stunned by the complete lack of any logic in parts.  Anyway, here are the excerpts I found particularly egregious along with some commentary from your humble narrator:

But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good.

People going their own way is a bigger danger than pretty much the entire population of the United States being monitored by the government without a warrant or probably cause or anything even close?  And who is to blame for our cynicism?  Brooks seems to think its individualism or libertarianism or something.  I think the big culprit is the fact that the government pretty much just lies to us.  Senior government officials just outright lie to Congress.  And I'm not talking about withholding the truth, I'm talking about lying blatantly when asked a direct question.  The IRS Director lied when asked about giving special attention to conservative groups.  James Clapper lied to Ron Wyden when asked about the NSA snooping into innocent private citizens.  And remember when White House Press Secretary Carney said that only one word was changed in the Benghazi talking points?  Remember when Obama said his would be the most transparent administration in history?  What happened with that?  Or his promise to close Gitmo (not that I am for it but he was elected by people who believed him when he said he would close it).  And Republican Presidents have been little better.  W outright betrayed Republicans through his non-stop spending, enacting the Medicare Part D entitlement and programs like No Child Left Behind.  He even appeased North Korea near the end. The only way someone could not be cynical if they are paying attention is to have a lobotomy and/or be on happy pills.

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

"Common procedures"?  What a load of conformist crap is that?  What is the procedure if you find out about a massive government program that invades the privacy of hundreds of millions?  Send a memo to some undersecretary?  Have the Inspector General start an investigation?  That doesn't sound particularly effective given the current scandal about higher ups at the State Department squashing investigations to protect their friends.  Anyway, in the end all the higher-ups would have told Snowden was that "this program has been fully reviewed and is in accordance with the law".  We all know that.  What's the point of following procedure if you know nothing will come of it?

He betrayed the cause of open government. Every time there is a leak like this, the powers that be close the circle of trust a little tighter. They limit debate a little more.

I'm sorry, how open was this government before the NSA leaks?  This is a government that uses secret email accounts to get around Freedom of Information Act requests.  If nobody exposes all the crap about what is going on in government people will assume everything is fine and not ask for a more open government.  It's only be exposing it do you get public support for major changes in government disclosure.

He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can't do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.

Those more "intrusive" eavesdropping methods are more likely to require a warrant so at least there is judicial oversight and likely some probably cause in picking required to actually eavesdrop.  That is preferable to sending a subpoena to Verizon and then forbidding anyone to ever even acknowledge the existence of the subpoena.

He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else.

He betrayed the Constitution?  The Constitution and Bill of Rights exist to enumerate the powers of the Federal government and to protect individuals and states from it.  It does not protect the government from individuals.  And what's up with his issue with the word "unilaterally".  Someone has to stand up and fight tyranny.  If everyone agrees that we should have a totalitarian dictatorship, does that make any unilateral action from a dissenter wrong?  There is right and there is wrong, it doesn't matter if your action is unilateral or not.

Judging by his comments reported in the news media so far, Snowden was obsessed with the danger of data mining but completely oblivious to his betrayals and toward the damage he has done to social arrangements and the invisible bonds that hold them together.

Social arrangements?  It seems that David Brooks' piece comes down to "this is just not done in polite society."  Polite society being those people who never rock the boat, allow evil to take hold and do nothing.  It is about conformity and going along to get along.  Where has that left us?  With an insolvent government that has brought George Orwell's 1984 much closer to reality than any of us thought possible.

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