John Whitehead’s Commentary
Empire of Lies: Are ‘We the People’ Useful Idiots in the Digital Age?
September 25, 2018
“Back in the heyday of the old Soviet Union, a phrase evolved to describe gullible western intellectuals who came to visit Russia and failed to notice the human and other costs of building a communist utopia. The phrase was “useful idiots” and it applied to a good many people who should have known better. I now propose a new, analogous term more appropriate for the age in which we live: useful hypocrites. That’s you and me, folks, and it’s how the masters of the digital universe see us. And they have pretty good reasons for seeing us that way. They hear us whingeing about privacy, security, surveillance, etc., but notice that despite our complaints and suspicions, we appear to do nothing about it. In other words, we say one thing and do another, which is as good a working definition of hypocrisy as one could hope for.”—John Naughton, The Guardian
“Who needs direct repression,” asked philosopher Slavoj Zizek, “when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse?”
In an Orwellian age where war equals peace, surveillance equals safety, and tolerance equals intolerance of uncomfortable truths and politically incorrect ideas, “we the people” have gotten very good at walking freely into the slaughterhouse, all the while convincing ourselves that the prison walls enclosing us within the American police state are there for our protection.
Call it doublespeak, call it hypocrisy, call it delusion, call it whatever you like, but the fact remains that while we claim to value freedom, privacy, individuality, equality, diversity, accountability, and government transparency, our actions and those of our government rulers contradict these much-vaunted principles at every turn.
For instance, we claim to disdain the jaded mindset of the Washington elite, and yet we continue to re-elect politicians who lie, cheat and steal.
We claim to disapprove of the endless wars that drain our resources and spread thin our military, and yet we repeatedly buy into the idea that patriotism equals supporting the military.
We claim to chafe at taxpayer-funded pork barrel legislation for roads to nowhere, documentaries on food fights, and studies of mountain lions running on treadmills, and yet we pay our taxes meekly and without raising a fuss of any kind.
We claim to object to the militarization of our local police forces and their increasingly battlefield mindset, and yet we do little more than shrug our shoulders over SWAT team raids and police shootings of unarmed citizens.
And then there’s our supposed love-hate affair with technology, which sees us bristling at the government’s efforts to monitor our internet activities, listen in on our phone calls, read our emails, track our every movement, and punish us for what we say on social media, and yet we keep using these very same technologies all the while doing nothing about the government’s encroachments on our rights.
This contradiction is backed up by a Pew Research Center study, which finds that “Americans say they are deeply concerned about privacy on the web and their cellphones. They say they do not trust Internet companies or the government to protect it. Yet they keep using the services and handing over their personal information.”
Let me get this straight: the government continues to betray our trust, invade our privacy, and abuse our rights, and we keep going back for more?
Sure we do…. Read More