Choose Your Tyranny

By

Colin here.

In China, the government makes no defense against their blocking of undesirable Internet sites. If you search on certain topics the search will be blocked. And, if you search repeatedly your IP will be disabled for a period of time. It’s censorship clean and obvious.

In the United States there is no such overtness. Your searches and activities are all monitored and recorded. Everything you do is collected and archived—to a far greater extent than in any other country. You are not suppressed…in fact the spy agencies want you to express every worry, every secret emotion, every clandestine curiosity.

I keep trying to figure out which system is better for humanity.

The Chinese system just nudges you back on track and keeps most in-line as they veer off the party line. It’s sort of like herding sheep where a collie keeps bringing the sheep that tray back into the fold.

The American system is about blackmail, extortion, and the darkness of the night. You can’t talk about it. When it comes for you—armed with evidence or possibly only innuendos—you are expected to comply quietly and without letting anybody else know. It’s much more reminiscent of the German Stasi.

What I find troubling is that while the American system may today be in good hands, dutifully sifting through your digital garbage to identify major terrorist threats, there is an enormous possibility for abuse and coercion. This is not a theoretical problem. Our own history wonderfully illustrates it through J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI.

“Hoover amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents.”  –Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Edgar_Hoover)

According to President Harry S. Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

The issue is that today’s intelligence gathering is done in secret, without any practical oversight. History shows us through the Stasi and J. Edgar Hoover that this can evolve in an evil way. Already there are signs of this, such as the US dragnet programs being found illegal and the US-UK data collection schema being found as having operated illegally for seven years. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/06/gchq-mass-internet-surveillance-unlawful-court-nsa)

I’m increasingly worried that our secret data gathering system is inherently subject to abuse, and that it will eventually be appropriated by a dictatorial type for their personal political goals. Once in their hands (“for the public benefit”) it seems that they could not be defeated. How could they be?

There is scant evidence (i.e. none) that all of this data gathering has had any terrorist capturing benefit. Considering that it is a system that is so able to be secretly captured by some political group you have to believe that such an outcome is utterly inevitable.

At the outset of this article I mentioned how the data could be used for extortion. Trust me on this, this is no theoretical possibility. A very powerful, highly connected individual has confided things with me about their own life that I cannot write about.
This is why I wonder if the Chinese system isn’t perhaps better for the people.

Colin Berkshire