from the truth-and-fiction dept
Selecting my favorite Techdirt stories of the week has been an interesting challenge, primarily because the site’s coverage is so damn good. In the end, I managed to narrow things down by choosing the stories that best resonated with the themes I find most important and fascinating. Probably this is a narcissistic approach, but what the hell, Techdirt is awesome and I had to use some kind of filter.
I loved the coverage of the NSA’s latest crimes against the English language—Snowden’s leaks were “masked by his job duties” — because propaganda doesn’t work without euphemisms, meaning there’s no such thing as too much coverage of governmental linguistic bullshit. The ur text on government euphemisms, of course, is Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, which should be required reading in every high school throughout the land. For a take on more contemporary such manipulations, I shamelessly recommend my short piece, It’s Just a Leak. Because how did an undersea oil eruption become a “leak,” anyway? Not by accident, I assure you…
On a related note, I loved this fisk of the NSA’s stale talking points. It so elegantly exposes so many elements of government obfuscation: euphemisms, straw men, illogic, etc. Blogs that blow up bullshit (hmm, that sounds like a title for something potentially really fun) do a great public service, and this post is a premier example.
This post on Verizon whining about why it never even attempted to challenge government Patriot Act bulk collection demands struck me particularly because of the way Verizon’s representative Joe Stratton attempted to justify Verizon’s cowardly collaboration on “national security” grounds. The very notion of “national security” in America has metastasized into a pseudo-religion and we citizens need to be much more critical of anything the government seeks to arrogate to itself based on these quasi-religious grounds. By definition, “national security” should only refer to matters that threaten the security of the nation itself, and if you think about it, there really aren’t many events that can fit such an existential bill. As but one example: we lose something like 30,000 people a year to firearms deaths and another 30,000 a year or so to automobile deaths, and close to half a million from tobacco-related deaths, and somehow the nation manages to take the whole thing in stride. If we can lose hundreds of thousands of people a year to guns and cars and cigarettes with no impact at all on national security, how can it be that something like the Boston Marathon bombing, as tragic as it was, was a national security event? I haven’t seen much discussion of the propagandistic way the government and its proxies have deliberately metastasized “national security” for their own parasitic ends, and would like to see more of it.
Michael Hayden’s prediction that Snowden would become an alcoholic struck me as a nice example of the way establishment figures reflexively (and often successfully) brand their critics as fringe, pathetic losers. Like many techniques of propaganda, though, this one loses most of its power once you recognize it for what it is.
And I liked this piece on how the NSA is more focused on protecting its own sources and methods than it is on protecting against the next terrorist attack because... well, because it relates to the plot of my next novel. But with blockbuster revelation following blockbuster revelation, I’m not sure even the most ambitious thrillers will be able to keep up with what the government really is up to in the dark.
Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler’s bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous “Best Of” lists, have been translated into nearly twenty languages, and include the #1 bestseller The Detachment. Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and, when he’s not writing novels, blogs about torture, civil liberties, and the rule of law. www.barryeisler.com