In the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time researching developments relating to an earlier series of posts on the massive growth of the American surveillance state that I published here (for the most part) in 2012. (That short list of posts and related links is available, down below.) I’ll be revisiting this topic in at least one new post over the next few days; and, I’ll provide action links/items in that piece which relate to this story. For now, however, I just wanted to bring some attention to a stunning, must read, MSM article that I stumbled across in the process of doing this new research. It’s in the February 11th edition of Time Magazine: “Drone Home...‘What Happens When Drones Return to America?’” by Lev Grossman.
A few paragraphs down, I’m providing an excerpt from the Time cover story, but I wanted to add a little food for thought with regard to community commentary on this subject, with a lot of help from Rutgers University Professor of Philosophy Jason Stanley, who mentions the fiscal cliff; but, at least in part, his words are just as applicable to the current state of dramatically increased domestic surveillance in our country, IMHO.
Philosopher Kings and Fiscal Cliffs(And with Professor Stanley’s thoughts in mind, here are the links to the definitions of the words, totalitarianism and tyranny, courtesy of Merriam-Webster.)
Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University
The Stone (NY Times’ Opinionator blog)
January 31, 2013, 8:15 pm
Plato had a famously dim view of democracy. He regarded politics as a craft, and thought that understanding the essence of a craft is to have expertise. Plato argues that we cannot hope the multitude to achieve expertise in the craft of governing. They are too easily misled by sophists. It followed, for Plato, that democracy must be rejected as a just system of governance. It is “probable that the origins of tyranny are found nowhere else than in the democratic regime.” (“The Republic”). A just system of government must have a philosopher king, who understands the essences of things. Translated into the modern context, Plato’s view is that the only just system of government is one that is run by one or several experts in economics and public policy. The multitude is too easily swayed by propaganda.
Plato was right to regard his views as inconsistent with democracy. His view that citizens are not competent to make judgments about public policy, that economics and policy are areas of expertise like the physician’s, is profoundly undemocratic.
So what is required for a democracy to avoid the threat of “ending in tyranny”? Many theorists have argued that democracy requires an informed citizenry that can engage in reasoned public debate about policy issues. That’s a high standard. A weaker view of the requirements of democracy is defensible, namely that citizens must have a reasonable expectation to recognize when a policy is in their own interests. Plato’s view is undemocratic, because he thinks that even this bar is too high. The multitude will always be tricked by propaganda and false rhetoric into voting against their interests.
In previous columns, I have explored how language is used to sway public opinion and evade reasoned debate.
Naming a bill “The Patriot Act” is a simple example, the thought being that voters would want to re-elect politicians who supported a bill called “The Patriot Act,” even if it went against the public’s actual interests. This is a clear example in which we are confronted with Plato’s problem with democracy. Such uses of rhetoric pose clear dangers to our democracy that are not justified by the situation…
Now, onto Time Magazine....
“Drone Home, ‘What Happens When Drones Return to America?’”In a related story this past Thursday, The Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out that….
February 11, 2013
A few months ago I borrowed a drone from a company called Parrot. Officially the drone is called an AR.Drone 2.0, but for simplicity's sake, we're just going to call it the Parrot. The Parrot went on sale last May and retails for about $300…
…It's a toy, the robotic equivalent of a house pet. But just as cats and dogs are related to tigers and wolves, the Parrot is recognizably genetically related to some very efficient killers.
Flying a drone, even just a Parrot, makes you realize what a radically new and deeply strange technology drones are. A drone isn't just a tool; when you use it you see and act through it — you inhabit it. It expands the reach of your body and senses in much the same way that the Internet expands your mind. The Net extends our virtual presence; drones extend our physical presence. They are, along with smart phones and 3-D printing, one of a handful of genuinely transformative technologies to emerge in the past 10 years.
They've certainly transformed the U.S. military: of late the American government has gotten very good at extending its physical presence for the purpose of killing people…
…Having transformed war, drones are getting ready to transform peace. A year ago Obama ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite the process of integrating "unmanned aerial vehicles," as drones are primly referred to within the trade, into civilian airspace. Police departments will use them to study crime scenes. Farmers will use them to watch their fields. Builders will use them to survey construction sites. Hollywood will use them to make movies. Hobbyists will use them just because they feel like it. Drones are an enormously powerful, disruptive technology that rewrites rules wherever it goes. Now the drones are coming home to roost…
… The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and—for the first time—an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA’s original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012…The reality--as I’ve learned in my latest, basic research and collection of readily available reports, both online and via the MSM--is that there is a widely anticipated/planned, dramatic increase with regard to the use of drones by our government (at all levels: federal, state and municipal) in our society over the next few years. But, as even the cover article in the latest edition of Time, linked above, acknowledges it, while many of these new uses for drone technology are certainly expected (at some future point) to improve the day-to-day lives of those of us on Main Street, those efforts represent a clearly secondary aspect of the many taxpayer-funded implementations of advanced technologies (drones and otherwise) that are already in use and/or now being implemented throughout our surveillance state.
# # #
As promised, here are links to some of my posts from the past year on this subject (with one more to follow over the next few days)…