Foreign Policy has a very good article about the fuss over “spying” and why most people simply don’t care.
For most people, privacy, too, has become the “shining artifact of the past” that Leonard Cohen onceÂ sangÂ about. Indeed, anyone with a mobile phone understands that everything from their bank records to the products they buy online to the telephone numbers they dial and the addresses to which they send emails are recorded somewhere — whether by a private business, their own employers, or, of course, the government.
We are being spied on all the time, and usually by private enterprise…and the media.
Viewed from this perspective, is it the general public’s comparative lack of indignation over the NSA surveillance scandal that is surprising, or is the real shocker that journalists, activists, and politicians feel so outraged? Yes, the U.S. government is indeed the Biggest Brother of them all, but most people go about their daily business being spied on and having their data mined by any number of small- and medium-sized brothers. Of course, someone who is outraged by the attempts to jail the leakers and prosecute and intimidate their journalist and activist colleagues would insist, and rightly so, that these sorts of things should not be permitted in a democracy. But the gap between the outrage of the chattering classes and the public’s apathy — or, more likely, resignation — illuminates the essential difference between the elite’s understanding of the world and everyone else’s. To put it starkly, members of an elite tend to believe they can change things; most everyone else knows that, except in a few rare instances, they cannot. In an essential sense, the real question for members of the elite is not, why isn’t the public outraged, but why are we?Â Read more »