Government invasion of privacy is nothing new, and I’ve always held the viewpoint that if I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to be worried about. After all, they’d only use this information to “protect our national security.” In fact, I think that the biggest reason why governments have been able to get away with so much is because of people like me; after the endless sensationalization of terrorist threats and mass shootings, it’s easy to argue for increased government surveillance and data collection. If you make a person feel insecure, he/she is bound to flock to your promise of security, even if it means giving up a personal freedom that “doesn’t matter because I’m not anything wrong.”
First, let’s dispel the myth that the government only cares about protecting our national security. The government only cares about protecting its own interests. I’m obviously not certain what these interests are, but it seems to be about maintaining money, connections, and power. I think this is pretty apparent from the disconnect between the promises made by lawmakers and the actions that they actually take. Granted, if anyone would like to refute this point, I’m definitely willing to listen and I’m willing to offer some more concrete evidence of this belief.
Next, let’s talk about what the government is willing to do to actually protect its interests. The first thing that came to mind is the coordination of the private sector and the FBI in the suppression of the Occupy movement (article link posted at the end). Here we see how the FBI and DHS worked with big banks themselves to “target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.” This whole movement was essentially a case study in how the top class uses government institutions as a tool to squash opposition. The government doesn’t serve its citizens, it serves the top class.
So, where does government surveillance come into all this? True, on the individual level, maybe none of this matters – if you’re a regular, hard-working person who’s just trying to pay the bills without getting shot at work by some crazed maniac, this doesn’t affect you directly. But let’s say you’re someone who wants to start a movement. Let’s say you find out something about a top-rank official and want to spread the word. Or, let’s say that you’re just someone who’s tired of the status quo and want to start finding and uniting other people who agree with your message. And it doesn’t just have to be about the corruption of the top class. It can be about something much simpler, like the effect that oil companies are having on climate change. If your message doesn’t match the narrative that the government wants you to tell, surveillance makes it much easier to find you and put you down before you even take your first breath to blow the whistle. And if you’re the hard-working, carefree person that I mentioned before, this affects you too like it affects me; do you really want to live in a society where everything that you think about the way the world works is manipulated by carefully constructed propaganda (although too late for that I suppose) and any alternative narrative is put down and discredited?
(TLDR) It’s not just about privacy. It’s about having the means and ability to efficiently identify and suppress any possible threat to the power and control of the government (and the private citizens/organizations that control it).
As an aside, I know I mentioned earlier that it’s not just about opposition to the top class, but I think at the end of the day that’s what it all boils down to. The top class controls the narrative via control of the government and the media. They don’t care about issues like abortion or race conflicts. And I don’t mean to say that abortion and race conflicts aren’t extremely important issues – they are, but at the end of the day their power isn’t lost if poor black people and poor white people are arguing about the validity of microaggressions and systemic racism. The only threat to their power is when these groups realize that they should unify against those who are keeping them down. Just look at how much media attention Black Lives Matter gets while I can’t remember the last time I heard of Occupy Wall Street from the mainstream media.
But of course, all of this is just pure speculation, and I’m far, far from an expert on these topics. Definitely interested in what you all have to say. Also, I know that this is not a new discussion by any means, but it was the first time that I really came to this conclusion on my own and am curious about how others feel.